“Stories of Hope” – Behind the Scenes

Perhaps you’re already familiar with my “Stories of Hope” series, in which I interview people who have dealt with mental health challenges and who share the lessons they have learned through their journey.

I’ve completed and published several dozen Stories of Hope interviews; you can click here to see and read them all.

I think you’ll agree that all of these Stories of Hope are candid, inspiring, courageous, and real. I feel privileged to have met all of these wonderful individuals and I’m eternally grateful to each of them for sharing their story with me and with the public.

I’ve gotten quite a few questions about the process behind these interviews so I thought I would answer some of the most frequently asked questions here.

How do you select the people you interview?

In the beginning, and still sometimes currently, I have reached out to people I’ve met through social media who have already been open about their mental health history. Many of these folks were already active to varying degrees as mental health advocates and/or bloggers.

From the very first interview, I also began to solicit for other individuals to contact me if they were interested in sharing their story. Almost half of the people I’ve interviewed contacted me in response to these open invitations and said they would like to participate. Everyone who has participated has done so voluntarily and with no financial compensation.

What is the process for the interview?

I first send an email with my overall premise for the interview, which is this: “While I want to acknowledge the difficulties each person has gone through as part of their story, I also want to focus on the supports, strategies, therapies, or lifestyle changes that have been helpful and that have brought back some sense of hope. This doesn’t mean we should sugarcoat or minimize the challenges, just that I would hope to portray a balance between the rough times and the hope for a brighter future. I’m very open to sharing stories from all stages of recovery, including those who are still facing significant challenges as well as those who have already made considerable progress in their journey.  My goal is for the articles to provide some inspiration to others to show that mental illness is not defining and that a fulfilling life can still be had while living with a mental health concern.”

I also have a fairly standard set of five or six interview questions which I email to the person. We can modify the questions if needed. Then the person takes some time to write their answers to the questions and they return them to me via email. I’ve found that this sometimes takes only a few days or in a few cases, it has taken a few months. But as we know, patience is a virtue, and I’m happy to wait any length of time to obtain the responses.

I think it’s also important to mention that I do no verification of the information provided by the person who is sharing their story. Also, although they often describe specific treatment interventions or medications they have used and found helpful, this does not mean that I am personally endorsing any of these treatments.

Do you edit the person’s responses to the interview questions?

I will do a little minor editing for article length, readability or typos, but I try to edit as little as possible. I try to keep the overall word count between 1000 and 1500 words, but this is flexible. I often add hyperlinks to organizations or websites the person is affiliated with or to sites that describe some of the mental health diagnoses the person has received, or links to other relevant resource information.

I will also ask the person to provide a photograph of themselves and a brief biographical paragraph. I add all of this information into a private preview page and then send the page to the person for their review and feedback. They are able to see exactly how the page will appear before it is published. Sometimes we do a little additional editing before we reach a point where the page looks good to both of us. Then the interview is published on my blog, usually within a few weeks.

Why do you like doing these interviews?

I learned quite a while ago there’s nothing as powerful and inspiring as hearing the personal story of someone who has faced adversity and who has managed to persevere and to even thrive in the face of considerable challenges. I’m also aware that while I have the perspective of having treated many, many people with mental health issues over the years, I don’t have the first-person viewpoint of having lived with these conditions myself.

Do you plan to do more “Stories of Hope” interviews?

Yes, absolutely. I do plan to do more interviews. I’d be particularly interested in featuring people of different ages, varying ethnic backgrounds and countries of origin, and those who may have served as a caregiver for someone else with mental health concerns. I’d also like to interview a few more men, who so far seem to be a bit more reluctant than women to share their stories.

If you are interested in sharing your story, please notify me via my contact page. Also, please subscribe to my blog and feel free to follow me on Twitter, “like” my Facebook page, or connect on LinkedIn. Thanks!

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