Meet a Public Partner

Cheryl Blake

Tell us a bit about your background.

I am a proud Geordie mam of three teenagers and an expert by experience (EbE) around domestic and sexual abuse and mental health. I am also a Fibromyalgia and long Covid warrior. I bring to the table my trials and tribulations of a life turned upside down by circumstances, yet I conquer this all by humour, wit, art, mindfulness, daisy chains, anything pink, my tea obsession, flouncy words… oh, and heavy metal always playing in the background.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I love art, costumes and animals. I’m really into my history too, in particular Tudor and Medieval times. Lately, I have been doing a lot of research around Viking and Neolithic time periods, especially for making weaving tools, textiles and foraging for natural fabric dyes and art mediums. I am trying to grow my own resources for all this too, although I can’t seem to find any flint for making cordage from my nettles and it’s really annoying me. I’m currently using a plastic paper knife from cricut (not very authentic!).

How did you get involved in the Fuse public partner network?

I have been involved with research projects and the community education sector for roughly 15 years now. Just before Covid happened, I had joined Northumbria University as an EbE, working with the social worker and mental health nurse students. It was from that connection that I was offered details of a Fuse research project and I was hooked! Since joining Fuse, I have been involved in podcasting, twitter takeovers and some public health research projects, to name a few things.

What areas of public health research are you particularly interested in?

My interests are mainly around domestic abuse, intimate partner violence (IPV) and mental health, with a particular focus on coercive control as it is still so misunderstood. And whilst it has become more recognised with the passing of the law in 2015 and recently the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 following Covid too, I think there is still so little research done on it. And what’s more is that there are a lot of people going through this who aren’t even fully aware of what’s happening to them. I have a great interest in psychology and behaviour and I find this helps me keep a positive approach, that the world is not bad, just sometimes things go wrong. In the past, I’ve done a lot of work with Children’s Services and Sure Start. I was involved in writing the reviewed the Children's and Family's Act 2014.

Why is having your voice heard in public health research important to you?

I do it for two reasons. First, it is just my passion to figure things out that have happened to me and figure out the ‘why’. But the second reason is because I want to help others who’ve either gone through that to be heard and understood, or shown that it is not their fault. On the education side, I really enjoy seeing students grow over the years from applying to their course to leaving and knowing that I’ve had a part in their future. To help someone else in a social work environment just makes everything easier for me to get through.

What one piece of advice would you share with someone curious about public involvement and engagement?

I strongly believe that everyone has experience in something and there will be a researcher out there who will want to hear about it. The research is so varied, be it around my health, my kids, my experiences or even just thoughts and views - there is always something happening and there will be for you too. It truly is rewarding to know that your voice and thoughts not only mean something but can actually do some good too. Plus, honestly everyone is so nice and I’ve met some great people and some new friends too. It is a good opportunity and a great community to get involved with. A lot of interesting doors have opened and it has given me access to things like being part of the team who produce Fuse podcasts. I thoroughly enjoyed working with Emma Adams on our podcast. We had so much fun and I learnt so much. Plus, having training workshops in producing was so exciting and something I’d not normally have access to. I’ve been involved with a lot of projects, research and development programmes with Fuse, and each and every one has been fun, informative and an extra transferable skill for life or work. So, if you get the chance I’d definitely go for it!

Last modified: Fri, 01 Sep 2023 17:06:22 BST