Storytelling, Illness and Medicine

Chris Brown

Telling stories helps us wrestle with and make sense of the things which happen in our lives. When illness or disease emerge and disrupt our everyday lives, stories play a key role by which we attempt to create meaning in relation to what is happening to us. They also invite others to share and engage in the way we see ourselves during such times, create spaces for sympathy, empathy and compassion and encourage people to share in the process of making sense of health, illness and disease with us. When it comes to medicine and clinical practice, the stories people tell become the first point of contact between sufferer and doctor and beyond that, between patient, doctor, consultant and even surgeon.

This inclusive interdisciplinary research stream aims to explore the processes by which we attempt to use stories and narratives to create meaning in health, illness and disease. The project will also examine the myths, the models, the metaphors we use to understand our experiences of health and illness and to evaluate the diversity of ways in which we creatively struggle to make sense of such experiences and express ourselves across a range of media. In the process it will map and evaluate the storied experience of illness between persons, patients, care-givers, practitioners and medical professionals, the impact of stories on care and the delivery of care, medical literacy, and stories shared at the level of health care professionals, the pharmaceutical industry and education.