The benefits of peer research outweigh its challenges in the field of mental health research

CRISP Conference, 19 July 2019, New York University: Peer Research Panel

A blog by Gordon Johnston, Peer Researcher, Mental Health Foundation

I was delighted to be asked to join a panel on the merits of peer research at the CRISP Conference – and not just because of the location.

Peer research -  that is, research steered and conducted by people with lived experience – has emerged as a key theme in the CRISP work. Our session looked at the benefits and challenges of the approach and we gave some examples of successful projects undertaken.

The session, which packed a great deal into just 45 minutes, was led by Julie Cameron from Mental Health Foundation. Our panel comprised Sonya Ballentine from Illinois Institute of Technology, Jaquonna Hardy from NYU, MA Dennis from New York City and myself.

Our examples of projects we have personally undertaken illustrated the wide range of peer research work being carried out in mental health. We stressed the benefits that researchers themselves get from the process, the greater insight and positive relationships with participants we bring and discussed welcome moves from tokenistic involvement of people with lived experience towards real partnership work.

We acknowledged that there can be challenges too. The need for projects to take time to ensure everyone is on the same page and working well together, ensuring self care is highlighted and having honest conversations about payment for peer researchers were all highlighted.

But our conclusions were clear: the benefits of peer research when done well greatly outweigh the challenges. And our audience’s reaction seemed to me to show that the vast majority of those present agreed.

I’d like to thank everyone involved for giving me the opportunity to participate. Peer research is a growing field in the US and the UK, and I’m very pleased that CRISP allowed us to highlight what we as peer researchers can bring to the research table.


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