My Story: Our Future 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.
It deliberately wanted to look beyond people’s experiences as a ‘service user’ or ‘carer’ to give people a voice to tell their own stories and give their own accounts of psychosis within the context of their lives.
The project 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.
Few in-depth qualitative studies have looked at the experiences of people with psychosis, particularly exploring the broader context of their lives and the situations that may have contributed to their need 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.
The project aimed to change that, providing practical resources and a framework to share and hear stories.
McPin was commissioned to conduct an in-depth qualitative study exploring the experiences of people who have used Early Intervention in Psychosis services in south London, as well as that of their carers.
A team of researchers with lived experience of psychosis or of using mental health services worked on the study, along with a coordinator from McPin.
The team spoke to nine people with personal experience of psychosis and five 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.
There was no 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 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.
We also saw how a storytelling approach – giving people the space and time to explore what has happened – can improve communication and build trust, helping to 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.
For more information about My Story: Our Future, read the project report.
Illustrations by Kathryn Watson, My Illustrated Mind
Design by White Halo
My Story Our Future: A storytelling project about psychosis
My Story Our Future: A storytelling project about psychosis podcast
My Story Our Future: Resource pack for practitioners
My Story Our Future: Storytelling workbook
Inequality • Stigma
The importance of the storyteller’s identity in mental health narratives
User-testing VR for psychosis: Making a safe space for people to gain confidence
Digital mental health • Psychosis
10 things we learnt working at the interface between VR, involvement & mental health research
Inequality • Psychosis • Storytelling