Service User Advisory Group

The Service User Advisory Group or SUAG is a group of 10 people with lived experience of a range of mental health conditions who advise both collectively and in smaller groups about aspects of the project. It is run in partnership with the McPin Foundation. It is co-chaired by Dr Thomas Kabir and Dr Tania Gergel.

How does the SUAG work?

We have 3 main meetings a year.  These begin with a summary and discussion of recent progress across each of the six work-streams.  Usually meetings are attended by researchers from the individual work streams. They bring their work to the group for comment and discussion.  Members of the group also take part in other activities within the project, such as attending Policy Labs or wider Mental Health and Justice meetings.  As well as this, members are consulted individually or in smaller groups on particular work stream-related tasks. Our aim is to ensure that the entire project reflects the needs and concerns of people with mental health problems, their families, and carers.

Measuring research impact from service user involvement – the impact log project 

One aim of the MHJ SUAG is to measure the concrete contributions of the SUAG to the individual workstreams via collection of data from individual researchers about how SUAG contributions have impacted on various stages of their work.  An example of the data collection forms can be found below.

A number of SUAG members are now working to analyse the data which has been collected.  A major output of this work will be an article written by SUAG members presenting this analysis and using both this and the work of the SUAG more broadly to provide evidence of substantive impact and to present ideas about how to work with service users during a research project in order to maximise their involvement and the impact that it has.

For more information and access to the impact log data, please see: https://www.researchgate.net/project/Measuring-research-impact-from-service-user-involvement

Some examples of data excerpts from the impact log:

‘I have thoroughly enjoyed presenting both updates and specific questions to the SUAG.  They have cross-examined with skill and polite passion, and have helped substantially both in terms of honing explanations of sometimes complex ideas, and also in thinking through the underpinning assumptions of those ideas.’

‘Things that various members of the group said also led me to modify and clarify a number of more detailed points within the overall argument.  I have also presented this paper to groups of academics and would like to point out that in addition to being the most engaged group I have discussed it with, and the group that tied it most directly to the real experiences of people with mental disabilities, the SUAG easily showed the most insightful analysis of weak points in the paper.’

‘With permission from SUAG members we shared the insights as well as zoom recording with our research teams in Ghana and Palestine. The Palestine team that I am co-leading felt that the insights were extraordinarily helpful. The discussion on “supporting participatory group members through crisis” led to a reflection on a difficult situation we had encountered in the previous year. At the time, we had felt quite helpless and were just hoping that we acted in an appropriate and supportive way. The advice by the SUAG members gave us a good sense of what we did right and what we could have handled differently. Since we continue to work with the participatory group, we will return to the reflections. With regards to “terminology”, the team in Palestine revised terminology used in a draft publication on the right to live in the community for persons with mental illness in war-affected settings. SUAG members helped us to decide on terminology that is respectful while also highlighting the serious implications mental ill health can have.’

Current aspirations and future directions

  • To continue to make substantive contributions to MHJ research.
  • To expand SUAG contribution by creating opportunities for extra participation outside of the 3 main meetings.
  • To collect and analyse data from the ‘impact log’, which contains concrete details of how SUAG contribution has directly affected research development within the workstreams. 
  • Ultimately, to create a publishable report, authored by SUAG members, demonstrating tangible SUAG impact and providing guidance on formation and running a successful SUAG.