The Diary of Dr. Sharon McDonnell

Aged 53 and 3/4

21st June, 2020

Dear Diary

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to write a post for the National Institute for Health and Research (NIHR) Greater Manchester Patient Safety Translational Research Centre (PSTRC).  The purpose was to highlight how PSTRC support my organisation Suicide Bereavement UK to raise awareness of the needs of those bereaved by suicide and upscale the delivery of PABBS suicide bereavement training nationally within the NHS.

Initially, I was thrilled, as they asked me to write in a similar style as my own blog, were they stated, my ‘personality shines out’.  However, this proved to be more challenging than I imagined.  For those that are not aware, I am a researcher, and for the past 20 years I have written in an academic style that is deliberately objective, devoid of emotion and my personality/vulnerabilities NEVER shine through!  In addition to this, my peers who are used to this style of writing would probably read my revealing and informal post.

I cannot begin to tell you how long I stared at the blank piece of paper, uncertain what to write. On reflection, I suppose it was understandable, as I had agreed to write a post in a style, which potentially brings my two worlds (i.e. private and professional) together.

Allowing people into my ‘private’ world comes with potential risks.  Yet, as a researcher I ask this of those that take part in my research. This was my ‘Eureka’ moment.  It was then that I knew that my post needed to focus on a researcher’s perception of ‘lived experience’ and the important contribution it can make to research.  

I took a deep breath, put pen to paper and the words just flowed. It’s written it in a way that hopefully my knowledge, vulnerabilities and ‘personality shine out.’ It has now been uploaded, on to the NIHR GM PSTRC blog and can be read here.

Moral of the post

Sharing our ‘lived experience’ and engaging with people in different ways can sometimes help to advance understanding and reduce stigma, in aspects of our personal/professional lives.