We are publishing this blog article by Dina Poursanidou introducing her presentation:
Back in 2021 I was invited to lead a symposium session at the 6th Authenticity to Action Conference which sought to celebrate Public and Patient Involvement in health and social care education The conference was a virtual free event on 29-31 March 2021, hosted by the Comensus service user and carer involvement group at the University of Central Lancashire. The idea was for me to do a presentation followed by a discussion with the audience. The symposium session took place on 29th March and I did a presentation entitled ‘Service User Researcher/Academic: A lived contradiction?’.
During my presentation, drawing on my personal experiences as a service user researcher in England and through a series of poems/personal narratives, I sought to throw light on the unremitting identity and other struggles implicated in the task of constructing and negotiating my liminal identity as an academic researcher and a mental health service user; a task involving immense complexities, challenges, paradoxes, contradictions and ambivalence. In the context of the symposium discussion with the audience, my aim was to interrogate crucial concerns that have dominated my conversations with other service user researchers in academia over the years through questions such as:
a) How to manage the demand to incessantly disclose details of our histories of mental ill health in order to be deemed ‘authentic’ service user researchers in academia, when such disclosures are irreversible and carry significant emotional and professional costs that stand in stark contrast to the often prevailing narrative of ‘over-privileged service user academics’?
b) How to survive as service user researchers in the neoliberal University, when faced with a ruthlessly competitive labour market, temporary and very short-term contracts, lack of clear career pathways and obstacles to career progression even for the most qualified and experienced service user researchers?
c) How to survive as service user researchers in the neoliberal University when we are acutely aware that our ‘valuable lived experience of mental distress/service use’ aside, we are actually a liability when our academic worth is measured on the basis of productivity and publications in high impact factor journals?
The recording of my presentation can be accessed here.