Katherine Greer is involved with Praxis Care on two levels: not only does she access mental health support, but she is also employed as a co-researcher, using her lived experiences to help inform research projects. But how did she get here?
In an interview with CEO Andy Mayhew, Katherine talked about her initial referral to Praxis Care, and how they supported her:
“I was referred to Praxis Care for support to reclaim my life back. Slowly with the medical professionals and Praxis Care I have achieved that, and more. Praxis gave me a vital one-to-one support without taking away my independence.”
One facet of Praxis support is a weekly group meeting, which Katherine was attending regularly on Thursday afternoons, and that led to her involvement in Research:
“One of the Support Workers was looking on the computer for things we could get involved with in the community. She came across the fact that Praxis was looking for Peer Researchers to get involved with them for research,” said Katherine. “I did not know what a Peer Researcher was. I asked and the Support Worker informed me, ‘That is a person with lived experience in the subject being studied.’
“I decided after much thought that I was in a good place mentally and physically. I applied for the job as Peer Researcher.” After interviews with Paul Webb, Praxis Care Head of Research, and Dr. Gavin Davidson, Professor of Social Care and Praxis Chair of Social Care at Queen’s University Belfast, she was successful with her application and began work as a Peer Researcher.
Praxis Care co-researchers develop skills and self-confidence and get a supportive form of employment. Paul Webb said, “We are continuing to develop the support, which we provide to people who use services, by working with colleagues from Queen’s, Ulster University, HSCB and current co-researchers, and have developed an accredited training programme in basic research methods.”
After becoming a co-researcher for Praxis Care two years ago, Katherine embarked on an academic challenge. With support from Paul Webb, she joined a prestigious list of people securing a post graduate Ulster University certificate in Development and Co-Production in Social Care Research, which will lead her towards a career devising care programmes for other service users.
“The only type of work I have done since my mental health illness is Peer or Co-Researcher…Having walked the walk of having a mental illness and devised positive coping strategies, I am able to maintain a productive lifestyle again, empathise subjectively with the clients of Praxis Care and understand their struggles…the clients open up more about how they are feeling, the real nitty-gritty. They feel on an equal level with the Peer Researcher.”
The benefits of this work are immense. Katherine said, “I have found that working as a Peer Researcher has drastically improved my self-worth, confidence, and esteem. It gives your ego a boost when your opinions are listened to and acted upon. I do not feel stigmatised as being different, a mental case. I am a human being that deserves being treated with equality, respect and knowing that my opinion counts.”
Katherine has recommended that co-production is used more at Praxis, and suggested recruitment panels and staff training involve more people with lived experience. She is well on her way to fulfilling her dream: “I want to complete further studies in social care and my ambition is to work for Praxis Care as a service user consultant who can help design individual care programmes to help staff better understand the needs of those they are supporting.”