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My Story, Our Future: a storytelling project about living with psychosis

What is this research?

This work was commissioned by the Office of London Clinical Commissioning Groups, the mental health support charity Certitude and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust to better understand the experiences of people who have psychosis.

Why is this work important?

Few in-depth qualitative studies have looked at the experiences of people with psychosis, particularly exploring the broader context of people’s lives and the situations that may have contributed to people needing to use services.

In clinical practice, people are constantly asked to tell their stories to psychiatric professionals. However, this is usually within the restrictions of a psychiatric assessment. They are rarely given the space to tell their story on their own terms.

With this in mind, My Story: Our Future adopted an approach that deliberately sought to look beyond people’s experiences as a ‘service user’ or ‘carer’. We set out to hear people’s life stories to see if they could help us identify and understand important events or experiences which have had an impact on their mental health.

How are McPin and people with lived experience of mental health problems involved in the project?

The McPin Foundation were commissioned to conduct an in-depth qualitative study exploring the experiences of people who have used Early Intervention in Psychosis services in south London and the experiences of their carers. A team of researchers with lived experience of psychosis or of using mental health services worked on this study, along with a coordinator from the McPin Foundation.

The team spoke to 9 people with personal experience of psychosis and 5 carers, working with each person so they were in control of the storytelling process, sometimes using visual resources like the Tree of Life. The team drew on techniques used in oral history, their own experiences of mental health and using services, and used creative methods and narrative analysis to help them understand what they heard.

READ a blog from Gary Coyle, a survivor researcher on the project

What did we find?

There was not a single ‘typical’ story that emerged. Instead we found people navigating through their lives in a variety of ways. People talked about specific challenges, individual skills, abilities and strengths, and held different hopes and aspirations for the future. Through all the stories, we were able to identify 10 ‘themes’ or important recurring patterns.

This work shows just how connected a person’s social and economic environment is to their mental health. We know this from other research but this project gives a powerful voice to the numerical data, which we hope is harder to ignore.

For more information about My Story: Our Future, check out the project report (downloadable link in full screen mode) or the section you are interested in:

For the background to the project and our methods:

For the storytellers and the stories:

For our findings and recommendations:

For the individual chapters

To hear from the research team about why they wanted to get involved, which findings resonated with them and the implications of services, listen to our podcast.

Resources

From this work, we saw how a storytelling approach – giving people the space and time to explore what has happened – can improve communication and build trust. We think it could help establish effective relationships in mental health services. After workshops with practitioners and people who use services, we developed a resource pack for practitioners who want to use a storytelling approach in their work and a workbook for people who may want to tell their stories. 

Read and download the resource pack for practitioners, and let us know what you think on this Padlet.

Read and download the workbook for people interested in telling their stories, and let us know what you think on this Padlet.

Who do I contact for more information?

For more information about the project or to speak to a researcher, please email contact@mcpin.org.

Illustrations by Kathryn Watson, My Illustrated Mind

Design by White Halo