This article was originally posted on the EDIT Lab blog, April 2019.
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1. Direct rewards
Sometimes, taking part in research has a direct benefit to the participant. This can be in the form of monetary reimbursement or a token of thanks from the researchers. This is usually true of smaller studies that take up a lot of time, or that involve an activity that some people would find unpleasant. Benefits can come in many different forms depending on the type of research carried out. Participants taking part in brain imaging studies may be offered a picture of their brain, or those trialing a new online treatment may receive a free course.
More often, larger scale studies aiming to recruit hundreds or thousands of participants are unable to reimburse every participant directly. These studies, such as the GLAD study, instead aim to reduce the input needed from participants, for example through making questionnaires accessible on mobile phones so that they can be completed on-the-go and sending out saliva kits to be completed at home.
“Participants know that they have contributed towards knowledge about mental health that may help others in the future”
2. Helping scientific research
These types of study can be seen as having no immediate benefit to the participant, although many people still find it very rewarding. Participants know that they have contributed towards knowledge about mental health that may help others in the future, be it through understanding the causes of an illness, informing treatment development or helping to reduce stigma about a certain condition. It can be incredibly fulfilling to know that your participation has helped progress in science. Many researchers will update participants about the findings from their study, or will inform participants of any papers that result from the research when they are published. This way, participants are made aware of exactly how their contribution has added to knowledge and helped others.
3. Becoming part of a community
Taking part in a large scale study also offer participants the opportunity to be part of a community of people interested in mental health research. One of the aims of the GLAD study is to create a community of researchers and participants who are able to help each other. Members are provided with a resource of information about mental health difficulties, treatments and where to seek help if it is needed, and are able to opt in to the research projects that interest them. Rather than making a one-off contribution, participants are a part of the bigger picture of mental health research and of the GLAD community.
“Rather than making a one-off contribution, participants are a part of the bigger picture of mental health research”
4. Learning and reflecting
Finally, many participants describe taking part in research as a way for something good to come out of their struggles. Being able to reflect on their experiences and use that information to help others in the future can be seen as a positive outcome to a difficult time. Overall, every participant has their own reasons for wanting to get involved in research, whether to directly gain something, to know that they have helped others or to turn their own experiences into something positive. It is these participants who have made advances in the field of mental health research possible.
“It is these participants who have made advances in the field of mental health research possible.”