In the field of participatory health research (PHR) and related action research paradigms, limitations of standard ethical codes and institutional review processes have been identified. PHR is highly situational and relational, part of a hierarchical health care context and therefore ethics of care has been suggested as a helpful theoretical approach that emphasises responsibilities and relationships. The purpose of this article is to explore the value of Tronto’s second-generation ethics of care for reflection on ethical challenges experienced by academic researchers. Using the design of a collaborative auto-ethnography, this article starts from a story of a researcher who deals with dilemmas in responsibility to care for co-researchers with lived experiences during a PHR study in the field of acute psychiatric care. By analysing the challenges together with all co-researchers, using a framework of ethics of care, we discovered the importance of self-care and existential safety for an ethical PHR practice. The reflexive meta-narrative shows that the ethics of care lens is useful to untangle moral dilemmas in all participatory research-related paradigms for all engaged.