Open Minds recently participated in a research project called The Blue Portraits Project. This project proved to be a fantastic opportunity for the organisation to not only increase its understanding of narrative based research but also to recognise the valuable contribution that research can bring to the non government sector. There is little doubt that research will continue to shape the landscape of mental health, and evidence based practice will continue to establish best practice standards.
In the context of Open Minds, best practice means being person centred and understanding the value of recovery within the lives of those affected by mental illness. Further, the Blue Portraits Project reflected both these concepts via drawing on the narratives of individuals with a lived experience of depression. Rather than apply current understandings of depression to these experiences and confirming what we already know, the project has committed itself to understanding the unknown or undiscussable, therefore generating data that may confirm or conflict with dominant discourses of mental health.
The innovative technology that drives a project like Blue Portraits is called Sense Maker, this software has been extensively used in research, providing a quantitative approach to what has traditionally been a qualitative domain. From a personal perspective, the accessibility of this software and speed at which data is generated demonstrates that Open Minds could address a number of current consumer, family and staff needs within a matter of weeks and months rather than years.
Considering that the majority of work undertaken by Open Minds and other non government organisations is regarded as complex, having the ability to harness this complexity by channelling qualitative data from personal narratives into quantitative data indicating organisational or sector trends could be considered a victory in itself. Overall, the field of mental health is dynamic and as a result the need for non government organisations to remain current with evidence based knowledge and practice means making a commitment to research now and in the future.