‘It is meant to be heart rather than head’; International perspectives of teaching from lived experience in mental health nursing programs

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Abstract

Consumer participation is a clear expectation of contemporary mental health policy. Most activity has concentrated in direct service delivery, and academic roles for mental health consumers have been slow to establish. An international project was undertaken to implement and evaluate meaningful consumer involvement in mental health nursing education. A learning module was co-produced between ‘Experts by Experience’ (drawing on experience of mental distress and service use) and Mental Health Nurse Academics. This qualitative exploratory study aimed to capture how Experts by Experience perceive their contribution. Interviews were undertaken with Experts by Experience who delivered the learning module. Data were analysed thematically and subsequently interpreted with Critical Social Theory. Two main themes emerged from the findings: ‘there wasn't a barrier’ described how personal narratives enhanced relationships between Experts by Experience and students; and ‘made the human being visible’, described their experiences of allowing students to see the person behind a diagnosis. These findings suggest Experts by Experience teaching is valuable and potentially a tool in redressing stigma. Addressing poor public perceptions could attract higher numbers of quality practitioners to mental health and meet identified workforce shortages. The findings presented here strengthen the evidence base for Expert by Experience roles in mental health professional education. These findings can be considered in international curricula reviews and aid progress towards a more socio-political, humanistic focus in mental health nursing, congruent with rights-based reform agendas.

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Bocking, J., Happell, B., Scholz, B., Horgan, A., Goodwin, J., Lahti, M., … Biering, P. (2019). ‘It is meant to be heart rather than head’; International perspectives of teaching from lived experience in mental health nursing programs. International Journal of Mental Health Nursing, 28(6), 1288–1295. https://doi.org/10.1111/inm.12635

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