In June this year I went to visit Cochrane CCMD situated in the University of York’s Centre for Reviews and Dissemination. I was in fact only there for nine days but I enjoyed the reflection of Nellie Bly’s 10 Days in a Mad House for the title of this blog (if you haven’t read it then do). I felt this was apt for two reasons. First because I am writing about the experience and the second is in a way I felt like I was undercover. A person with lived experience of mental distress wandering the corridor of an internationally recognised mental health knowledge machine. However, I am also a research student and have a never ending interest in knowledge communication, especially when it comes to mental health research, so I was exceptionally excited to be there. When the opportunity to go to York and work with the group emerged, I jumped at it immediately and there I was, sat at my desk ploughing through the variety of things I was tasked to do.
It’s not a secret that we all use the internet to find out things we don’t know. Increasingly people are turning to online sources to find out health information so Cochrane has partnered up with Wikipedia to help improve the reliability of this freely available information. I was tasked with setting up an account and starting to update Wikipedia with CCMD reviews as well as put together a guide for anyone who followed me to be able to pick it up in minutes. The great thing about this work is that it can be done anywhere by anyone. After this placement is over I can spent half an hour when I have it to spare updating wikipedia with a few conclusions from Cochrane reviews and know that it is making a difference.
The ‘Voice of Experience’ College
CCMD’s new Voice of Experience College will consist of three interactive workshops and online modules designed to enable people to develop skills focussed around identifying, understanding and using the evidence produced by Cochrane and other sources. It is hoped that the College will also encourage people to become members of Cochrane and contribute to the work of the Group. During the week I created a news piece and graphics for the college, I put together some interactive group tasks for the volunteers to do during the workshops (saved you from a two-hour-lecture-style session, you are welcome). I met the first person who signed up to be a part of the College and I met with Jess and Chris, two of the people behind it all. They took me in like one of their own and discussed the project with me as an equal. I got to see the hopes that this is a mutually beneficial experience for both Cochrane and the people taking part in the college, but also that Cochrane wants to push to bring real lived experience into the review process. I was so pleased to be a part of this project and I can’t wait to see what happens.
I love blogging so being asked to write for the Common Mental Disorders Group blog was brilliant. When you love your work you will never work a day in your life, or something to that effect. The best thing about writing for Cochrane is that whatever I write gets passed through editors before it makes its way to being published online. This means I get feedback on my writing style and assistance in creating work that will make sense for as many audiences as possible. The ability to communicate knowledge is an important skill for researchers to develop so this has given me something that is useful to my career development as well as beneficial for the Group. Win-win.
The experience over all
I was a little nervous coming in to this and I wasn’t sure what to expect but the people I met at CCMD were all friendly and welcoming, I felt at home very quickly. I got my own desk and computer, a key to get into the office, I had an apartment with a dishwasher, I was free to come and go as I pleased and I was an active participant in the building of the placement. I was asked what I was interested in and how I wanted to use the time in York. This resulted in me loving all the things I was doing as well as being able to help out the Group. I went to a seminar mid-week where I discovered the Born in Bradford Project, all I can say about that is #researchgoals. In my off time there was no shortage of things to do. The City of York is steeped in history and glorious on sunny June days. I recommend the York Museum Gardens, York Castle Museum and generally wandering around the old streets stuffing your face with fresh bread and good coffee (I found a lot of bakeries and coffee stands). I think Nellie would have been proud.
If this sounds like something you want to be a part of, drop them an e-mail. It’s that easy.
Sophia Fedorowicz, June 2019
Sophia is studying MSc Applied Research at Staffordshire University and her background is in psychology.
Pictures Clifford's Tower York and York Minster.