Lived Experience

Who are the ‘Experts by Experience’ in Mental Health Research? – A personal reflection

By Laura Hemming.

This blog is about my journey and identity as a researcher in an organisation that emphasises the importance of placing lived experience at the heart of mental health research.

My journey as a researcher began a little over a year and a half ago when I was employed by the McPin Foundation as an ambitious albeit inexperienced graduate research assistant. My success in obtaining this role, I was told, stemmed primarily from my (I felt, limited) prior research experience, and was not related to any lived experience of mental health difficulties that I was able to bring to the role, although I briefly alluded to this when applying. When I began the role, my experience and understanding of peer / service user / collaborative / survivor research was extremely limited. Despite this, given the passion that the McPin Foundation’s staff share for public and patient involvement in research, I soon became familiar with terms such as ‘service user researcher’ and ‘expert by experience’ and what it meant to carry out ‘collaborative’ research. To begin with, it appeared to me that these terms can sometimes leave much to the imagination. However, I soon deduced that there were two research identities that a novice researcher could assume; that of a researcher with lived experience, and that of just ‘researcher’. At McPin this demarcation is frequently indicated by the use of the prefix ‘peer’ in job titles; the absence of this in my title of ‘Researcher’ led me to feel that my identity in the organisation was that of a researcher without lived experience. Indeed, lived experience was not a requirement for my role; the emphasis being my experience and interest in Psychology and social research.

Continue reading at >> McPin Foundation (original publication)


Laura Hemming (@LHemming123) is a PhD student at University of Manchester (UK) researching how a person’s understanding of their emotions can lead to risky behaviours such as suicide and aggression within a male prisoner population.

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