Transforming public welfare and attitudes through narrative
Research at the University of Sheffield focusing on the links between memory, trauma and narrative has improved the mental health and well-being of patients in secure hospitals.
The ‘Storying Sheffield’ project, in which students collaborate with local people to produce, collect and record stories about their everyday lives, gives a voice to a diverse range of people including long-term users of mental health services, people with physical disabilities, older people with degenerative conditions, migrants, and people in areas of socioeconomic disadvantage.
The project, which draws on the methodology and findings of a 12-year research cluster in the English department at the university, has influenced therapeutic practice through collaborations with
Rampton High Secure Psychiatric Hospital, and with Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Trust.
Evaluation of the Storying Sheffield course has shown improvements in participants’ health, well-being and employability. Some 70% of participants with mental health issues make a measurable and significant change in their lives as a direct result, from being able to leave their house alone to enrolling in further study, getting a job or starting voluntary work.
Benefits to the wider community include increasing understanding between, and changing attitudes to, socially marginalised groups. The Storying Sheffield project has also influenced policy-making,
informing City Council practices for developing sustainable community policies.