I came to research through the experience of using mental health services. This eventually brought me into contact with the survivor movement, user involvement, then user-led and collaborative health and social care research. For a long time, my research interests focused on the psychosocial and political aspects of health and social care, specifically issues related to human rights, ethics (including philosophical dimensions and research ethics), and good practice in public and patient involvement (PPI) in general and in research and evaluation in particular. I have not only been involved in research as a patient by experience or as a user researcher, I have also ‘done’ PPI in research activities as the coordinator of a user-led research and evaluation project, and I have published papers and authored or co-authored book chapters on the topic. All of this combined formed the basis of my activism at local, national and European levels.
Then came the EU referendum in 2016 which, as an EU citizen, radically refocused my attention onto the rights of EU citizens in a post Brexit UK. In July 2016, I initiated the grassroots organisation the3million (www.the3million.org.uk) which I co-chaired until I left the organisation in 2019. I was part of the team which worked with both the Article 50 Taskforce at the EU Commission under Michel Barnier, and the UK side. There were regular meetings in Brussels and London which also opened my eyes a great deal more about the workings of the EU, in a positive but realistic way too. As part of that activism, I became intrigued about the very strong presence of women at grassroots level, EU and UK citizens alike, who were politically active and engaged with Brexit (either side). The hows, whys and wherefores of this activation came to form the basis of my PhD proposal, and now work under Professor Roberta Guerrina (SPAIS) and Julie MacLeavy (Geography).
I am however still invested in continuing to support public and patient involvement in health and care research at development and policy levels, and am keen to apply many of its principles as part of my PhD journey.