Survivor-Controlled Research: A New Foundation for Thinking About Psychiatry and Mental Health

Survivor-controlled research shares the core principles of the user/survivor movement (p.23). Above all, it values first-person experience which it considers a true and legitimate source of evidence. The service user/survivor movement and survivor research both aim at restoring credibility and authority to those who have been historically deprived of it through psychiatric labeling. Contemporary survivor research challenges such continued deprivation in a particularly powerful way. The Australian survivor researcher David WEBB (2010, p.108) argues for the necessity of first-person knowledge:

“If we limit our inquiry to just third-person data and knowledge then we will only ever achieve at best a partial understanding of whatever we might be studying. […] In the postmodern era of first-person, subjective dimensions of all knowledge must at all times be part of the research agenda.” [4]

Survivor research is a way for those of us who have insider knowledge of living through severe mental crises and receiving psychiatric treatment voluntarily or against our will—for those of us “who have been there” (STASTNY, 1992, n.p.) and back—to take part in knowledge production and to contribute to the creation of different responses to human crises. [7]