Sussex participants wanted for trial exploring benefits of sharing mental health recovery stories

Could reading, watching or listening to the recovery stories of others help people who are affected by mental health difficulties?

Sunday, 31st January 2021, 1:09 pm
Dr Mark Hayward, director of research

That is what a new national trial, led by a team at Nottingham University and supported by researchers at Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, is hoping to find out.

Sussex residents who experience mental health issues, including people living with psychosis, depression and anxiety, are being invited to take part and support the study.

They will be given access to an online library featuring the world’s largest collection of recovery stories, which is part of a research project called NEON.

The first person accounts describe struggles people have had with mental health and their strength, survival and recovery experiences.

Dr Mark Hayward, Director of Research, Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust said: “At a time when our mental health is being affected by the pandemic, it’s important to have some hope.

“The narratives available within the NEON study offer this hope, as they bring to life the resilience, courage and creativity demonstrated by so many people when they are recovering from mental health problems.”

The library includes more than 500 stories – which have been vetted but not edited or sanitised – from people around the world of different ages, genders and ethnicities.

Dr Hayward said: “We are interested in if people who are struggling with mental health problems can access this library of stories, will it be useful for them? Will it have a positive impact on their lives?

“Can our patients access these stories in a way that is convenient and maybe empowering for them?”

If people were found to benefit from the library, he said it would be a ‘win-win situation’.

For mental health services, which are particularly stretched at the moment, it would be a valuable intervention which does not rely on practitioner support.

And patients would have a resource available to them at any time or place, for them to use as much or as little as they wanted. “It’s somewhere they can go and have maximum control over what they have exposure to, not relying on a practitioner to be available to them,” Dr Hayward said.

He encouraged anyone who might be eligible to consider sign up for the trial.

“We can’t learn without these individuals volunteering,” he said. “We are very keen for as many people in Sussex to be part of this learning process.”

Participant Sam Fox from East Grinstead has been involved with the trial for about a year.

She has been battling mental health issues since the age of 10 and spent a decade of her life in an institution.

Sam said she had found writing about her own experiences and writing poems to be ‘helpful and inspiring’, so when she heard about the NEON trial, she was keen to take part.

She described the library of stories as ‘fantastic’ and has been reading one each day.

“I started reading people’s stories and found it overwhelmingly helpful,” she said. “All the stories are written from the depth of experience and emotion, you can really feel what that person’s feeling.

“It’s not only about your achievements, it’s about your struggles and where you are in your journey.

“It makes you realise, I’m not alone in this.”

Recruitment for the trials are ongoing until April.

Anyone interested in taking part, contact [email protected] or visit