Survivor Research is a virtual collective of independent researchers and trainers, community developers and activists interested in foregrounding the voices of mental health service users/survivors, especially from marginalised and minority ethnic communities. Our combined expertise is based on:
- training as researchers, with excellent knowledge of research methodologies in social sciences, critical theory and literary/cultural studies
- several years of experience as activists, critical theorists and development workers
- strong identities as users/survivors of the psychiatric system and advocates of social change
- political understanding of issues of marginalisation and minoritisation (especially around 'race', culture, ethnicity, gender and sexuality) and how that impacts on mental health and well being
We offer consultancy services in
- policy and organisational development
- workshop and focus group facilitation
- service audits
- public speaking and writing
There is a major side effect to a psychiatric diagnosis – the loss of voice and agency. Most of us who have received a label of 'mental illness' have the experience of being silenced and marginalised. Over the last three decades, service users have argued that we are "experts by experience" and that our views need to be central in mental health service planning, development, research and training. Service user involvement has now become a part of government policies in the UK.
But what does this involvement mean? Many service users are cynical about the value of policy-driven involvement. Why would we expect services to take our views seriously when even our experiences of what a certain medication does to our bodies and minds are ignored?
In research, there is still a hierarchy in what is considered evidence, with randomised controlled trials and other positivist ways of doing research occupying top positions. Research, undertaken by service users/survivors, reflexive of the experience of distress and of using services, is generally regarded as having less value or biased. Many service users feel that “involvement” is still just a nice catch phrase and not a meaningful reality. And for people from Black and Minority Ethnic communities, still at the receiving end of a coercive system of care, user involvement remains a tick-box exercise.
Within the field of user-led research (and not just within research, but within the broader user involvement activities as well), the voices of service users/survivors from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds are few and far between. More often than not, we are involved only as research subjects. We believe that there is a need for us to be actively involved in designing, conducting and delivering research, evaluation and training initiatives that inform service and policy changes.
Survivor Research hopes to make a small intervention in this area by working in ways that are reflexive of our experiences, and in partnership with other service users/survivors, communities, and advocates for change.