Alcohol Stories is a pilot project, funded by Alcohol Research UK, for 12 months. The findings from the study will be used to develop future research, as well as being written up as a stand-alone project.
Between January and June 2015 I will be interviewing 10 men, aged between 35 and 55. All of those who take part will have experienced mental ill-health and who have thought about, or acted on thoughts about, self-harm. I am taking a broad definition of self-harm here, in line with NICE (2011): ‘self-injury or self-poisoning irrespective of the apparent purpose of the act’. About half of the men will identify themselves as having a clinical problem with alcohol; and about half will not. This will allow me to start to compare the stories of men who do, and do not, have a ‘problem’ with alcohol, and including men who currently do not drink.
Men are being recruited through two community based mental health organisations: one supports men who have experienced self-harm or suicidal thoughts; the other supports men who have problems with alcohol or drugs.
The interviews are testing out an adapted version of the ‘life-grid’, which is a technique used in biographical research. I used the life-grid in previous research with adults who had self-injured (by cutting), and this version is similar, but includes a section on ‘Alcohol, Me and Other People’. I do not know yet whether the life-grid will work – e.g. whether it will help men to talk about their lives, and about difficult topics; or whether it will constrain them. Men in this age group are often said to find it difficult to talk – especially about issues that might be considered emotional, or that could show weakness. Again – the project will be finding out whether this is the case with this particular group of men, and what approaches work in supporting them to talk (if in fact they do need help).