Sue Rees

Clinical research advocate uses mental health experience to help others

Date: 26 June 2018

Sue Rees, from Harrogate, is aiming to make a difference to the mental health and wellbeing of people in her community.

With the help of North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC), Sue has set up The Mental Health and Wellbeing Network in Harrogate, which brings together some of the most vital care organisations in the Harrogate District.

Sue said: “I have a mental health problem and a lot of people can be a bit blue or down, so we are looking at how the community and how we live can make things better. Loneliness and isolation don’t help with mental health, so it’s important to look at how the community can promote wellbeing and stop mental health problems from starting.”

Sue added: “Very few people actually access specialist services because they don’t meet the threshold to access them or the services haven’t been commissioned.”

Sue saw that many of these issues were being raised in the NYCC and Tees, Esk and Wear Valley NHS Foundation Trust (TEWV) integrated service user and carer involvement group, of which she is a member.

“When we reviewed what was going on in that group, I said we needed to have a dedicated mental health forum.”

The network’s first meeting, held in Knaresborough in April, was attended by more than 30 people, mainly representing voluntary sector and statutory health and social care organisations.

After positive feedback, the network plans to meet again in September.

Sue’s involvement in setting up the network stems from her long-standing role in local statutory health and social care mental health involvement groups, including most recently, her role as a Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement (PPIE) member at TEWV. The trust provides a range of mental health, learning disability and eating disorder services for the people living in County Durham and Darlington, the Tees Valley and most of North Yorkshire.

Sue said: “I had been with TEWV as a service user for a long time. They send round involvement opportunities for the public and the Research Governance Group wanted PPIE members, so I applied, back in 2016. It is my way of giving something back for all the care I had.”

As a PPIE member, Sue is involved in a variety of work and is currently helping to make project proposals understandable for other service users, their carers, families and the public.

“I also attend Research Governance Group meetings and if anything interesting comes up I am able to feed that back to my local service user and carer group.”

Sue said that being part of the Research Governance Group for PPIE gives her the opportunity to use her background in pharmaceutical research and development.

As well as drawing upon her experience from her past work, Sue has taken part in research as a patient.

She was recruited to REEACT, a study looking at the effects of computerised cognitive behaviour therapy for depression, in 2009.

Sue also took part in another study, but later dropped out.

Sue said: “The drug didn’t agree with me, so I withdrew from the trial. People should know that they can drop out of a study at any time. I would encourage everyone to consider taking part in research. A clinical trial might benefit you and if it doesn’t it could benefit someone else. If you get involved in wider research, like me, it keeps the brain going.”


  • Summary:
    Harrogate woman aims to make a difference to the mental health and wellbeing of people in her community.
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