NEWS18 March 2015

Research as recovery: stories of change

News UK

UK — Researchers from Rethink Mental Illness, Marie Stopes International and the BBC have spoken at the MRS Annual Conference on how not only the findings, but the act of conducting research, can make a difference.


Speaking at the MRS Annual Conference: Impact 2015 in London, Jennie Abelman of the charity Rethink Mental Illness described an evaluation project delivered alongside SPA Future Thinking in which champions with “lived experience” of mental illness worked as interviewers. Speaking about his experience working on the project, one of the champions described how the interviewing had helped his recovery: “The interviewees really opened up to me. It gave me a sense of purpose.” The champions are also heavily involved in the feedback process, so they can see the impact of their contribution to the work, Abelman explained.

Ali Barnes of Incite Strategic Research (pictured left), speaking alongside Claire Pascual from Marie Stopes International (pictured right) — the sexual and reproductive health charity — also has experience of the research process itself driving change. The project they worked on sought to understand the pressures and influences on young women in countries like Nigeria, Bangladesh and Pakistan with regard to contraception, unwanted sexual contact and reproductive health. “The scarcity of knowledge in those countries meant that talking to these woman about different types of contraception awakened a desire for more information,” Barnes explained.

David Bunker, head of research at BBC Audiences and James Bryson, director at MTM, then described how their work on contemporary attitudes to gender portrayal in the media had driven people taking part in the research to realise that it was more of an issue than they had realised. “Gender was not a top of mind issue,” Bryson explained. “People had a distorted view of gender representation and, when they realised that it was skewed, dissatisfaction began to emerge.”