In the UK, mental health service users are asked to “tell their stories” within clinical settings as a tool for diagnosis, formulation and treatment plans. Retelling, reliving and reflecting on traumatic and distressing experiences is not a benign activity. Yet the process of reframing lived experience within a personal narrative could support the development of: a more positive identity; self-management skills and improved social connections (Slade, 2009) and therefore contribute to mental health recovery. This is an exploration of my process as a wounded researcher in the development of a version of my narrative as an autoethnography. I developed a series of 54 vignettes that described memories of my lived experience. To start, I used memorable quotes - the voices of others within my narrative. Developing and analyzing my autoethnography was visceral. It highlighted aspects of my process (and the likely process of others) and raised many unresolved dilemmas. For example: what was left out or left unsaid and the issue of “narrative truth” (Craib, 2004); reordering the vignettes for coherence; the role of relational ethics; and the impact on my identity of this difficult on-going process. It impacted on my mental health, but it has been a crucial part of my recovery.


Autoethnography, Personal Narrative Recovery, Mental Health, Service User Research and Relational Ethics

Author Bio(s)

Samantha J. Robertson is a doctoral candidate in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Southampton. She is a mental health service user, a psychiatric survivor and a mental health activist. She trains and consults (education, government and third sector) on mental health issues. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: sam.recovery@virginmedia.com.

Dr Diane Carpenter is a lecturer in Mental Health Nursing at The University of Plymouth. Diane has a clinical background in Mental Health Nursing and has taught mental health nurses and other health and social care professionals in academic and clinical environments since 1986. Her doctorate, gained in 2010, focused on an examination of mental health care and treatment in Hampshire from 1845-1914; she has since supervised several PhD students. She served as a PhD Supervisor on this research. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: diane.carpenter@plymouth.ac.uk.

Dr Maggie Donovan-Hall is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences as the University of Southampton. Maggie has a background in Health Psychology and has a mixed portfolio of teaching and researching within the field of psychosocial issues and healthcare. She has a particular interest in qualitative research methods and using flexible and creative methodological approaches. She served as a PhD Supervisor on this research. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: mh699@soton.ac.uk.


My PhD Supervisors: Dr Diane Carpenter - University of Plymouth Dr Margaret Donovan-Hall - University of Southampton

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