Storying Sheffield



This is a course for University of Sheffield medical students considering working in psychiatry. It is led by people with lived experience of mental illness, and based on the work of the Storying Sheffield project.  Alongside medical students, people living with mental health issues also take the course.


Details, by Chrissy Bonham

The Narratives Masterclass is based around the work of Professor Brendan Stone from the University of Sheffield who developed the Storying Sheffield project. The ideas behind this project focus upon the concept of narrative inquiry being an important tool in recovery from mental illness, and have been successfully used in ‘storying’ sessions delivered in Recovery Education programmes by Sheffield Health and Social care NHS Foundation Trust (SHSC) for the past two years.

As part of your training in medicine and psychiatry you will have learnt how to take a ‘history’ of a patient but narrative inquiry goes far beyond this. Narrative inquiry is based firmly in the premise that, as human beings, we come to understand and give meaning to our lives through story (Andrews, Squire & Tambokou, 2008). By using storying techniques to investigate the narratives that surround patients lives we are better able to understand how their mental health condition affects them, as every experience is subjective and understanding how a person makes sense of the world through stories will help in understanding how they make sense and give meaning to their own particular diagnosis.

Another important element of narrative inquiry is that when a person becomes mentally unwell their identity can become overtaken by the diagnosis and a new narrative can be very quickly constructed for that person. The way they perceive the world, themselves and their own story will often become a deficit based story. In this class we will look at ‘re-storying’ techniques where we focus upon using the power of story to draw out a more positive identity and recreate a new asset based story.

In the Narrative Masterclass you will work equally alongside several long term mental health service users and all take part in a five week storying course. You will explore your own personal narrative using a variety of storying methods which will give you the experience in how to support someone who is suffering from mental distress find their voice and tell their story.

Throughout the course you will explore the idea of recovery/discovery and will receive a speech from Professor Brendan Stone upon the importance of Storying in mental health recovery, and a speech from Professor Tim Kendall, Medical Director of SHSC, upon the emergence of the recovery model within the NHS.

A variety of methods are facilitated during Storying workshops and often creative activities are used to aid access to the stories and narratives we intend to explore. By the end of the five weeks we will have worked towards creating a presentation based upon the particular narrative you have chosen to share. This may take any form for example an audio presentation, a short film, a piece of creative writing, a storyboard, a photographic presentation or a piece of artwork. There are no limitations in how you choose to present your own story.

The final pieces created in the Masterclass will be uploaded to a website to inspire others and aid further research into this area of psychiatric enquiry.

This course has been developed and will be led by Chrissy Bonham and Kay Aitch who both have experience of living with long term mental health conditions. They both work closely with the Storying Sheffield project and regularly deliver recovery workshops on behalf of SHSC.