Identifying and minimising risks in storytelling

Be aware that it can be upsetting or distressing for people to talk about a difficult health experience. In some instances - such as an adverse event or when a person’s ill-health is accompanied by difficult personal circumstances - it can be re-traumatising to share the story of this event or events. It can be difficult for both interviewers and storytellers to predict whether this will be the case or to know which questions or topics could trigger strong emotions.[19] You can minimise the risk of distress to people who share a story by encouraging people to consider this possibility before they agree to take part. You can also provide contact details for services that can assist people experiencing difficult emotions, such as trauma or grief. You should always aim to use discretion and tact when you ask someone about their experience – if you think a question may be distressing, avoid asking it! If you must ask the question, let people know before hand that you would like to hear about their experience of this issue. Make clear that it’s optional to talk about any experience. (The Gathering Health Stories section of this tool-kit includes guidance about responding if a storyteller does become upset).


[19] Sewell, Meg (2013) The use of qualitative interviews in evaluation (University of Arizona: Tuscon)