Service User interview: Sarah Markham writes about her experiences in research



An interview with Sarah Markham, an academic mathematician and researcher with a diagnosis of Autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) who is a member of the NIHR Maudsley BRC Service User Advisory Group (SUAG).

Check out Sarah's most recent paper on collaborative risk assessment in secure and forensic mental health settings in the UK.

Tell us a little about yourself, your mental health and how you spend your time

I suffer from major depressive disorder and anxiety. I try to spend my time being as active as possible; both mentally and physically as I find this keeps me well and mitigates the worse of my symptoms. As well as being a mental health service user and member of the BRC's SUAG, I am also an academic mathematician and researcher, so usually I have a lot to keep my mind busy. I also love to run every day, which keeps the rest of me busy!

How are you adapting to life in lockdown during the pandemic?

I miss not being able to go out with friends for a coffee or to the cinema. I also miss the face to face work and other related meetings. I definitely feel much lonelier and look forward to when the anti-social distancing is over.

I am grateful that the government now allows everyone to go outside to exercise an unlimited number of times every day. I love getting out and about, especially when it is sunny. Running is a great way to spend your time when social-distancing restrictions are in place, and I try and run during the quieter times of the day to ensure I don't run into too many people.

Have you taken part in any research as a participant?

Yes, I am a member of the ongoing RADAR-CNS: Remote Assessment of Disease and Relapse – Central Nervous System research study. I keep my Fitbit and mobile phone charged to ensure my data is collected and submitted to the study. I do far more than 10,000 steps per day, in fact, the number of steps I do daily has increased since the lockdown and I have had more time to exercise.

How did you first get involved with the SUAG?

I first got involved with the SUAG in 2012. It was my first patient involvement role and I was very excited. I remember being very nervous when interviewed for the role by Professor Diana Rose; she came across as terrifyingly academic and intelligent.

Why do you think mental health research, and involving service users in shaping this research, is important?

Mental health research is essential to developing more effective and reliable treatments for mental health conditions. Service users have a wealth of experience and experiential learning with regard to the phenomena of mental disorder and are often best placed to inform and direct the design and implementation of such research.

What areas of research are you most interested in?

I also have a diagnosis of Autistic spectrum disorders (ASD), and unsurprisingly am most interested in research into the aetiology of autism and why and how it presents differently in females as opposed to males.

What would you say to a service user considering getting involved?

Come and join us! We are an incredibly friendly, compassionate, empathetic and out-spoken bunch. You definitely won't regret joining in and contributing to the direction, content and design of research in the BRC.

If you are interested in presenting to the group or becoming a member

Please contact Jo Evans on

Tags: Patient and Carer Involvement and Engagement -

By NIHR Maudsley BRC at 20 May 2020, 09:00 AM

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