Rita Long's Story
Rita Long spent time in the USA and Canada exploring innovative ways of enabling people with bipolar disorder to access research and services.
Rita is a service user researcher at Lancaster University. She visited projects across North America, with the aim of identifying practical ways of reducing stigma surrounding bipolar disorder, as well as ways to engage service users to participate and contribute to research and service development.
What she saw convinced her that, while there is still a way to go, the UK is leading the way in including service users in research and service development.
On her return, Rita shared her experiences with her colleagues and with other service user researchers, including the support group she runs in Stockport. She was invited to join the International Service Researcher Network, and in 2014 was awarded Bipolar UK Volunteer of the year.
Rita was surprised at how inspirational her Fellowship was to other service users and how it motivated them to work toward their personal goals. She says, “The fact that I was awarded a Fellowship, as a person with bipolar disorder, has been a real encouragement to others with mental health issues.”
Rita is now working with service user networks to capture her learning and encourage others to utilise lived experience in research.