Mark Brown2Understanding everyday experiences of life with a mental health difficulty can help policymakers, commissioners and providers of mental health care and support to make better decisions about the use of scarce resources, according to a report. 

The report, A Day in the Life, by Mark Brown (pictured) and Geena Saini – published jointly by Centre for Mental Health and Social Spider CIC – analysed hundreds of blogs about the lives of people with mental health difficulties from across the country.

Funded by Public Health England, A Day in the Life explores the key themes from almost 800 accounts of life with a mental health difficulty on four separate days in 2014 and 2015. The analysis finds a range of influences on the wellbeing of the writers, from their interactions with mental health services to their work and home life.

The report concludes that crowdsourcing evidence about the lives of people with a mental health difficulty, using the power of the internet, can help researchers, policymakers and those responsible for planning services to have a better understanding of the priorities of the people they serve. Similar approaches could be taken to explore specific issues facing people with mental health difficulties or to understand people’s lives in a particular local area or community.

The project was conceived and carried out by small social enterprise Social Spider CIC.  Mark Brown, development director of Social Spider CIC, said: “We asked people with mental health difficulties to write about what their day was like; what made their mental health better and what made it worse. All of the days submitted are published online, creating a snapshot of what life is really like with a mental health difficulty. 

“Everyone who took part did so anonymously and gave so much. Without them trusting us with their experiences, we wouldn't have a project – they have helped to create something unique. The analysis shows that it is possible to create insights that might guide better policy making by finding ways to capture what people are already doing: talking about their lives.” 

Public Health England director Professor Kevin Fenton added: “This innovative project is an essential part of learning about what really matters to the everyday lives of people living with and recovering from mental health difficulties. The insights gained will be instrumental in enabling local and national actions to be developed. PHE is pleased to have been able to support this work and its findings will be an invaluable source for helping to make a real difference.”