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The Mental Health Peer Workforce (MHPW) study was completed in September 2013. The study included a range of information-gathering activities, including site visits and interviews to compile case studies of peer workers from around Australia; a literature scan; and an online survey of mental health peer workers. Peer workers are people who have lived experience of mental illness, often directly, or within their family, and are employed specifically to share this experience and knowledge to help other people and families experiencing mental ill-health. Peer workers are employed around the country, but in a range of different ways. Roles may include peer support, advocacy, health promotion, coordination or education. Peer workers may be employed in outreach services, inpatient units, day programs, and telephone services, amongst other service types. Currently, the peer workforce in Australia appears to be small, and often there is a lack of role clarity and workplace supports for these workers. The MHPW study proposes a more systematic approach to the adoption of the mental health peer workforce, for example through the establishment of National Mental Health Peer Workforce Development Guidelines.
Two documents were produced. 'Mental Health Peer Workforce study' reports on the findings of the MHPW study, and provides a set of recommendations that will strengthen and develop the mental health peer workforce as an important component of quality, recovery-focused mental health services. 'Mental Health Peer Workforce literature scan' aims to draw out issues relating to the mental health peer workforce from the recent academic and grey literature. It draws on national and international literature reviews and studies undertaken by others. Issues for consideration include: definitions; identification of the benefits of utilising peer workers in mental health services; and issues relating to the employment of peer workers. The majority of the literature referenced is from the United States of America and the United Kingdom, where the peer workforce is further developed than in Australia. The literature generally has a greater focus on consumer peer workforce than carer peer workforce.
The National Mental Health Consumer & Carer Forum (NMHCCF) has a vision of mental health services that assist mental health consumers and carers to identify their own needs and work with them in an equal partnership towards recovery. Mental health services will take a holistic view of the lives of consumers and carers to achieve agreed recovery aims. These services will work with the range of other available supports such as services for physical health, housing, employment and day to day living. They will listen to individual stories and be respectful of individual needs and if they do not know how to respond, they will seek assistance from mental health consumer and carer identified workers who are experts in this area. They will be able to do this because mental health consumer and carer identified workers will be working as part of crisis assessment and treatment teams, inpatient units, mobile support and treatment teams and in home based outreach.
Consumer and carer identified workers will be established team members who are able to contribute a personal understanding of the mental health consumer and carer experience, provide informed advice and suggestions for ways forward by being conduits between the lived experience and the service solution. These consumer and carer identified workers will have appropriate job titles such as Consumer or Carer Advocacy Consultant, Consumer or Carer Adviser, Consumer or Carer Policy Officer, Consumer or Carer Research Officer, Consumer or Carer Liaison Officer or Peer Support Worker, and will be valued and respected members of mental health service, policy and research teams. They will be employed in a range of mental health services, but also in departments of housing offices, Centrelink offices and in the criminal justice and court systems. They will have undertaken accredited training to be eligible to hold their position, be engaged in effective ongoing professional development and have professional peer support arrangements. They will be part of a national network to develop mental health consumer and carer support solutions and will take these solutions back to workplaces or feed into policy and research processes.
The primary purpose of this paper is to provide background context, considerations and principles for implementing a workforce strategy for the employment of people with lived experience of mental health issues (from herein referred to as ‘lived experience’) and recovery in RichmondPRA. Prior to the merger of PRA and Richmond Fellowship of NSW (July 2012) both organizations had committed to recruitment and employment strategies that would actively promote employment opportunities for people with ‘lived experience’. Our new organization states renewed commitment to ensuring that RichmondPRA becomes a sector leader in this and that we will become the ‘employer of choice’ for those with lived experience.
This paper points out that agreement on the “philosophy” which underpins employment of those with lived experience in our workforce is pivotal as a starting point. This provides guiding principles for development of additional policies and protocols around employment of people with lived experience in a full range of roles.
The National Mental Health Consumer and Carer Forum and the National Primary Health Network Mental Health Lived Experience Engagement Network acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands and waters on which we work and live on across Australia. We recognise their continuing connection to land, waters, culture and community. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.
“A lived experience recognises the effects of ongoing negative historical impacts and or specific events on the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It encompasses the cultural, spiritual, physical, emotional and mental wellbeing of the individual, family or community.
“People with lived or living experience of suicide are those who have experienced suicidal thoughts, survived a suicide attempt, cared for someone through a suicidal crisis, been bereaved by suicide or having a loved one who has died by suicide, acknowledging that this experience is significantly different and takes into consideration Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples ways of understanding social and emotional wellbeing.” - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Lived Experience Centre
We welcome Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to this site and invite them to provide any feedback or items for inclusion.
We also recognise people with lived and living experience of mental ill-health and recovery and the experience of people who are carers, families, kin, or supporters.