Storying Sheffield

Helen Crimlisk on medical education

photo Helen Crimlisk 001

I am a Consultant in Adult Psychiatry working in a community mental health team in the South East of Sheffield. I also work with the University of Sheffield Medial School as Director of Undergraduate Psychiatry to ensure that medical undergraduates (student doctors) have a good understanding of the mental health needs of all their patients, whether or not they are under mental health services. As part of that it is important that they have an understanding of the social determinants of health and recognise that in order to best help people improve or maintain their health, an understanding of the social and the psychological components or impacts is crucial. Given the prevalence of mental health difficulties in the population at large and the major relevance has to people who seek the help of the medical profession, this understanding is important whether or not they have “recognised” mental health needs.

All medical students at the University of Sheffield get a range of learning experiences to assist them in better understanding the mental health issues which will be part of their day to day experience, regardless of the speciality they later choose. During their clinical placements they will work in a variety of mental health, social care and third sector settings across a range of areas including experience in primary and secondary care, impatient and community settings and across a broad age range to help them develop their understanding of and ability to help those with mental health difficulties. They also have teaching sessions delivered by patients with lived experience (“Patients as Educators”)

Many students express enthusiasm and interest in the field of mental health or psychiatry and we offer a number of additional opportunities for them including a range of specialist placements and seminars in areas such as such as perinatal mental health, learning difficulties, forensic psychiatry, liaison psychiatry and child and adolescent psychiatry. There are also a number of active groups and societies in the Medical School to support students in these interests such as @EYMPsychaitry, @ShefPsychSoc and @PEEPSheff.

In line with the recent emphasis on partnership working with people with lived experience we also offer the opportunity for students to learn and work alongside people with lived experience of mental health difficulties in an innovative series of workshops in a five week storying course. This course is run by tutors with lived experience of mental health difficulties. The concept of narrative inquiry goes beyond a conventional medical history, seeing one another as human beings, who give meaning to our lives through story. When a person becomes mentally unwell, their identity can become overtaken by an external diagnosis and a new narrative can be very quickly be constructed which will often become a deficit based story. In this class, participants look together at ‘re¬storying’ techniques focussing on using the power of story to draw out a more positive identity and recreate a new asset¬-based story. They will explore together aspects of their own personal narrative to understand how to support people who are suffering find their voice and tell their story. Participants will use creative activities access the stories and narratives to be explored and will work towards creating a presentation based upon the particular narrative they have chosen to share for example an audio presentation, a short film, a piece of creative writing, a storyboard, a photographic presentation or a piece of artwork.