Four days; the people of England who experience mental health difficulties; a snapshot never seen before
The everyday life of people with mental health difficulties has tended to remain hidden. There’s been combination of prejudice, shame, stigma and sometimes, most damagingly, a lack of interest on the part of professionals and policy makers. We have a large literature around clinical interactions with people who have or do experience mental health difficulties but very little around what it actually means to live with a mental health difficulty.
Professionals see people with mental health difficulties for an hour a week, if at all. Most of life with a mental health difficulty is lived outside of services; away from the gaze of researchers. Policy is made based on the tiny bit of people’s lives that is seen by professionals. When it comes to treatment and support, evidence is all about services; not the bigger or smaller things in people’s lives.
That’s why Social Spider, the creators of One in Four magazine, with support of Public Health England are launching on Friday 31st October ‘A Day in the Life’: a year long project to collect the everyday experiences of people who experience mental health difficulties in England.
All we’re doing is something very simple: we’re asking people with mental health difficulties in England to share four days in the life via a website. If you experience a mental health difficulty you’ll be able to sign up to share with the world what your day was like on four calendar dates across the length of the project, the first one in November. So that’ll be lots of people with mental health difficulties across England all blogging about the same day: once in November, once in February, once in May, once in August.
Everyone will be asked to share up to 700 words about the same four days in the year, one each season; building a library of personal stories that answer the question: what things make life with a mental health difficulty worth living and what things make it more difficult? Together the four days in the lives of people with mental health difficulties will give a snapshot of what it’s like to be be a person with mental health difficulties in England in the 21st Century.
Once uploaded, the stories will be available to view and search; giving a window into the everyday lives of people who experience mental health difficulty in England previously not attempted.
A Day in the Life isn’t a scientific research study but will show what can be discovered by the simple act of simply asking people with mental health difficulties what they think and what they experience. We’ll use the stories submitted to tell very simple stories like: ‘of the people who submitted blogs in November, 35 percent said that their neighbours had a positive impact on their wellbeing’. A Day in the Life isn’t a research project but it is a bit of an experiment. As far as we know, no one else has taken the time to ask people with mental health difficulties to share days like this.
We won’t be asking for loads of personal details and we’ll be encouraging you to remain anonymous. There’ll be lots of guidance on the site to help you. We also want you to be honest about what your day was like. What made it better and what made it worse? Which are the important things that negatively and positively affect your wellbeing?
Anyone who cares about people with mental health difficulties and their everyday lives will be able read what people have been sharing.
A Day in the Life will help to set a challenge for policy makers, health professionals and decision makers to consider people with mental health difficulties as just that: people.
If you’re interested in taking part (one blog four times a year) go to the A Day in the Life website and sign up: http://dayinthelifemh.org.uk/
The first day to share will be 7th November 2014.
We’re hoping this will be the start of a new debate about mental health.
Mark Brown is the development director of Social Spider CIC and originator of One in Four magazine. Mark experiences mental health difficulties. He is one of Health Service Journal and Nursing Times Social Media Pioneers 2014. His work in mental health was recognised by The Independent on Sunday’s Happy List 2014. Contact: mark [at] socialspider.com.