Illustration showing a psychiatrist and their patient discussing stories

The Power of Stories

Lisa Bortolotti, University of Birmingham.                


Anneli Jefferson, Cardiff University


Personal experiences of mental health give insights into that individual’s experience and are also often used as evidence or arguments in public debates about mental health.

These personal experiences are so vivid that they are likely to heavily influence the views of debate participants. This article explores whether there are moral and epistemic issues associated with using personal accounts in mental health debates.

Due to the likely influence of personal stories, we argue that debate participants have a responsibility to assess such stories as evidence when they are put forward to support a debated viewpoint. The article also suggests ways to ensure the use of personal experiences contributes to the variety of resources available to debate participants, importantly, without compromising the quality of the arguments or increasing stigma.

This article was produced as part of Project PERFECT – research that aims to find out whether unusual beliefs have benefits and to challenge mental health stigma.

The Power of Stories: Responsibility for the Use of Autobiographical Stories in Mental Health Debates