Why read memoirs?

Solid, correct information is essential to good healthcare and compliance. Good stories don't hurt, either. Hearing a family's story about facing similar challenges can be the difference between "knowing" and "believing."

My dear friend, June Alexander, is working on a project promoting the use of narratives in training nurses. Please help her with this worthy project!

Readers are invited to share their favourite quotes/excerpts from helpful memoirs - I am co-authoring a research paper on the usefulness of memoirs in educating mental health nurses. I am particularly interested in short passages, even one-liners, that the readers have found particularly helpful, and why this resonated and connected so strongly with them.  We want to show how narratives can help the reader understand aspects of the illness/recovery journey, the tipping point  and other phases. The ultimate aim of this work is to provide mental health students with a guided reading of memoirs,  so that they can be a) more understanding and b) more facilitative of change … helping them understand what an eating disorders like from 'the inside' rather than seeing it purely through clinical eyes. 
Reading memoirs, as well as engaging in guided discussions about them, may help future clinicians realise the importance of empathy and unconditional positive regard in establishing a collaborative relationship. This Paper will argue how learning through memoirs of illness and recovery benefits students. It will share some of the creative ways selected biographies can be used to help transform the perspective of health profession students. It is also part of a project to build an evidence base in the use of narratives for promoting insight, change and empowerment within nursing, sharing ideas to support the confidence and creativity of other educators in the use of narratives in various forms to teach essential nursing concepts. Email: june@junealexander.com 


  1. This sounds like a neat project! In graduate school, I did my master's thesis on the effects of eating disorder memoirs on college student readers. In particular, we were interested in whether some of the material might be experienced as "triggering." We randomly assigned folks to either an ED or a control memoir, and actually didn't find a big impact either way:


    I 100% agree, though, that memoirs can be very eye-opening for health professionals!

  2. Jenny,

    How fascinating that you studied that question! I have always been very cautious about this question when it comes to patients. The role of insight and motivation -- and inspiration -- strike me as very different for patients with anosognosic mental illness.


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