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Meet the team: #NarrativeMasterclasses


  • Chrissie Bonham – Peer Facilitator
  • Kay Aitch – Peer Facilitator
  • Brendan Stone – Professor of Public Engagment, University of Sheffield, Trustee of Sheffield Flourish
  • Lee Alexander – QI Coach at SHSC. Volunteer with Sheffield Flourish
  • Richard Fletcher – Lived Experience Quality Improvement Coach
  • Shirin Teifori – Honorary Research Fellow, Sheffield University
  • Gaelle Slater – Consultant Psychiatrist
  • Jane McKeown – Senior Nurse SHSC and University Teacher
  • Josie Soutar - Sheffield Flourish

The Narrative Masterclass was developed for medical students and people living with mental health difficulties is based on Storying Sheffield methodologies  The class focuses on the concept of narrative inquiry as a tool in “recovery” from/within mental ill-health.  The class is designed and led by people with lived experience of mental distress/illness.

Medical students learn how to take a ‘history’ of a patient, but narrative inquiry goes beyond this – seeing all of us as human beings who give meaning to our lives through stories – both those we tell about ourselves, and those which are told about us by others. When we experience mental ill-health our identity can become overwhelmed by an externally imposed diagnosis, along with negative representations of mental illness in society. We may then find ourselves inhabiting a new story about who we are, with this characterised by deficits and difficulties. In the class, participants look at ‘re­storying’ techniques focussing on using the power of story to understand the contexts in which our distress happens, resisting negative portrayals of the self, and creating a new story which is comfortable for us to live within.

In the class, medical students study alongside long term mental health service users. All participants explore aspects of their own personal narrative using storying methods. Sessions are led by Chrissy and Kay both of who have experience of living with long term mental health conditions. They both work closely with the Storying Sheffield project and regularly deliver recovery workshops. Professor Brendan Stone, Helen Crimlisk, Gaelle Slater and Jane McKeown also contribute to sessions, and expand on research work with Storying and Recovery. Participants work towards creating presentations based upon the narratives they have chosen to share (which do not have to be mental health related). These may take any form, for example: an audio presentation, a short film, a piece of creative writing, a storyboard, a photographic presentation, or a piece of artwork. The final pieces created in the Masterclass are uploaded and published.

We have been looking at ways of extending and scaling this project and believe we have the right team to undertake this.

Specifically, we have 3 aims:

1 Use coaching methodology to develop 5 new peer facilitators

2 Offer 5 additional courses with a wider remit of staff and students from a wide range of health professions

3 Broaden the range of peer/citizen  participants in the courses focussing particularly on more disenfranchised groups (mental health, learning disability, long term conditions) and people from more diverse backgrounds (ethnicity, culture, age, background)

Chrissy Bonham is a Peer Worker within the SHSC, working with the Community Recovery Team. has codesigned and codelivered the last 4 Narrative Masterclases. She has presented her work at a number of conferences and is part of a research team in association with Sheffield University looking at the added value of lived experience in teaching and training healthcare professionals.

Kay Aitch is a professional artist who is on the Autism Spectrum and has lived experience of mental ill health She has codesigned and codelivered the last 4 Narrative Masterclases. She is an experienced teacher and familiar with using engaging participatory methods to engage students actively in their learning.

Shirin Teifouri is Honorary research Fellow at the University of Sheffield. Her research has explored pedagogical engagement with the function of literature, specifically poetry, linked to cross-cultural narratives of exile, displacement, ‘statelessness’ and mental health. She runs worshops in association with Rotherham Flourish

Richard Fletcher is Chair of the local mental health support network, SUN:RISE  Run with Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust (SHSC). He is also a Peer Quality Improvement Coach embedded within SHSC Quality Team, which encompasses the Quality Improvement Team and the Engagement and Experience Team. He has participated in the Narrative Masterclasses.

Helen Crimlisk is Director of Undergraduate Psychiatry working with Sheffield Medical School, she has developed a number of initiatives to support students interested in developing their understanding of mental ill health.  She tries to encororate experiential learning methodology and champions coproduction as an integral part of coproduction. She is a Generation Q Fellow with the Health Foundation

Brendan Stone is Professor of Public Engagement, University of Sheffield, and co–founder of the Storying Sheffield Project.  He has lived experience  of mental ill health. He is also Trustee of Sheffield Flourish, . They organise fun and interesting monthly community events based on different themes and help people to realise their enterprising ideas. Many of the participants of the Masterclass have an association with Sheffield Flourish and we would look to work closely with them in developing the Masterclasses.

Gaelle Slater is a community psychiatrist at SHSC working in a Crisis and Home Treatment Team.  Helping people in distress is a key part of her role. She developed the Narrative Masterclass as part of an initiative to broaden the offer at Sheffield Medical School for those students interested in furthering their interest in Mental Health. She won a small grant from the Royal College of Psychiatrists to film the project.

Jane McKeown is a senior nurse and University teacher, with a particular interest in engagement, dementia and coproduction  She has developed innovative teaching and learning experiences for students which are now delivered in a multidisciplinary manner. She is interested in developing the Narrative Masterclass for other health professionals.

Josie Soutar is Managing Director of Sheffield Flourish. Routed in the community, Flourish’s role is “transforming mental health in our city”  The mental health charity focusses on three main areas: Coproduction, Digital and Supporting Community Enterprises.

Simon Wheatley and Lee Alexander are members of the Quality Team at SHSC They work as QI Coaches and teach and coach others in the team. Lee has a particular interest in coproduction. He volunteers with Sheffield Flourish. Simon has a background as a Mental Health Nurse and has an interest in health coaching.

How you can contribute

  • We would like to link with staff who are using story telling techniques.
  • We are interested in the limits of coproduction
  • We want to hear from others developing a bottom up approach to a recovery college style service.
  • We work within an educational not clinical governance approach and would like to hear from others about their experience with this .
  • We use creative means of expression and would like to hear from others about how these can be more widely shared.

Further information

Narrative Masterclass feedback (PPT, 342KB)


  1. Hi Helen, I really like this idea and support it. I am happy to share my thoughts if need be. On a side note, what are your thoughts on Schwartz Rounds for medical students?

    1. Thanks Oliver

      Would be interested in hearing your thoughts - have you experienced anything like this at your Medical School. I am always looking for new ways to engage students in the (sometimes difficult) area of psychiatry / mental health. Being taught by peer workers was a unique experience for the students. We offer this as a Student Selected Component after their psychiatry placement - the other psychiatry related SSCs comprise: Legal and Ethical dilemmas, Family Therapy, Systems thinking in Mental Health, 3 Balint Groups, Spirituality in Mental Health, Critique of Recovery (also Peer led) and Medically Unexplained Symptoms. They all run for 5 weeks for a 1/2 day a week concurrently with other placements.

      On placement , students are encouraged to attend a Schwarz round at out mental health trust, but they don't happen everywhere. I think Balint offers a safer space for students to consider the impact of the work on themselves and this is what I am choosing to focus on. A student of mine recently did a Masters on the project: and the RCPsych seems keen to promote it to undergrads

      What's your experience?



  2. This is really interesting and something we would be keen to explore further for our ongoing group clinics for young adults with diabetes, as a way of supporting peer relationships. There are also many synergies with our proposal to develop implementation guidance for peer support in group clinics – we’d value your thoughts on our idea:

    1. Thanks Dougal for your support. I really like the idea of "group clinics" Have you seen the work of Maren Batalden who has written about something similar  - linking peer support, coproduction and a "flipping" of the normal paradigm of health care.

      I have also done some work on transition, albeit in a mental health setting, & which explored this a few years ago. The Transition Group is still running and provides something as you describe and I particularly like the focus on 16 -25s.


  3. Fab idea to use stories (or ‘restorying’) and bringing medical students and people with lived-experience together. Great explanatory video too. I see that Helen is part of your team so you’re hopefully already aware of the work the Q Lab has been doing around the use of stories in peer support. I wish we’d known about your work too – we could have shared your approach and insights! Glad to see that ‘long-term conditions’ is a group you’re proposing to extend this to, which is aligned with the Q Lab’s brief for this year. Recovery College East’s work might be of interest to you; I believe that sharing stories is a feature in their Peer Education Programme, as well as in the dissemination of their work (

    1. Thanks Hawks, (what an unusual name, where is it from?)

      I really think there is added value for  bringing together people from different backgrounds. You might think that the medical students are less likely to have interesting stories, given that they tend to be younger and more “privileged” and perhaps homogeneous, but in fact out experience is that many of them have fascinating stories to tell, and quite a few have significant difficult issues which they talk about. Despite the obvious issues, we find the similarities and things which connect the group are more apparent than any differences. This in itself is empowering and highlights the assumptions we make about power.

      Yes, we’re lucky in having very powerful local expertise with regard to Storying (See and this has been a big influence on the work, but we recognise that the power of narrative whilst quite contemporary I some respects also has a long established history which is being increasingly rerecognised, especially within medicine.

      Thanks for for the comments about the video- film is such a good way of recording story, we have had a few experiences of this being used by our participants.

      We use film film and Storying in Sheffield Flourish, which is not a recovery college but functions in some way as a digital one. I have taken a look at the Recovery College in East - some lovely comments which come alive through film “makes you feel very much not alone & that’s a lovely thing in itself” & “To sit and listening to people’s stories, I got so much confidence!” &” feel that tiny spark of hope that things can be different”


      thanks for taking the time to comment and for the suggestions



  4. A really interesting project.

    1. Thanks Deborah. It sounds like you have a good set up of peer support in Wales ? Is this a group focussing on one disorder or on many? We often debate this, for some a single problem means that people feel really understood, but of course even with this, everyone s experiences are different and in the courses we run we also find that having. People with a variety of view and experiences can be useful too...

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