Being diagnosed with ADHD at 30 opened so many doors for me. Prior to this, I was a restaurant manager and genuinely believed that education was out of reach for me as I struggled so much at school. Receiving my ADHD diagnosis allowed me to understand that it wasn’t so much that I couldn’t study or concentrate but more that I had to do it differently. This was eye-opening and allowed me to consider maybe getting a degree and changing my dead-end career.
After spending some time understanding how ADHD affected me and what needed to be put in place to allow me to succeed, I did a BSc degree in child psychology at the University of Reading. While it wasn’t easy, I loved learning about childhood psychology and mental wellbeing. This led to a PhD at the University of Nottingham. My lived experience of gaining a diagnosis in adulthood led me to establish research priorities for neurodevelopmental disorders.
I wondered, for instance, why my consistent mental health issues in teens and my 20s were never picked up as ADHD by GPs. This drove me to do a PhD on GPs’ understanding of this condition.
During this project I collaborated with GPs throughout the research process. GPs views of what they wanted to know about ADHD was very different to what I thought they should know!
My experience as a service user strongly impacted what I thought was important but their own experiences as healthcare professionals were also needed to inform the development of the training program to ensure their engagement.
Both important points of view were integrated to ensure the creation of a comprehensive training. The collaboration process of bringing the two types of expertise allowed for a really engaging training program to be developed and we learnt so much from this collaboration.
This project really highlighted the benefits of collaborating with lived-experience researchers, and all stakeholders. My unique expertise as a service user allowed for the research project to be focused on real-world issues experienced by patients. And the GPs’ collaboration allowed for the project to be useful and tailored to their specific needs. Both inputs were invaluable and anchored the importance of always including all stakeholders into all aspects of the research cycle, from development to dissemination.