Understanding and Working with a Mental Health Consumer Researcher

Bè Aadam

A framework for partnership

There are calls for greater consumer involvement in the research process. Are these claims justified? If so, how should one involve a consumer researcher? Looking at peer reviewed and grey literature, there is overwhelming evidence they are. Despite these substantiations though, Australia is lagging behind regions like NZ, the UK and the US. If it does not start increasing the amount of consumer involvement in research, Australia runs the risk of owning a failed mental health service model. Given billions of dollars are now being injected into the sector, the amalgamation of PHNs and the NDIS roll out, this issue seems increasingly more important to address. Consumer involvement will not only assist in the improvement across all aspects of mental health service provision, but strengthen democratic principles which include public involvement in policy formation and change making.

This paper presents the debate for consumer involvement and places it within the Australian context. It lists the different kinds of participation models, tables good-practice principles for organisations wishing to include consumer researchers, and provides an evaluation instrument to assist an organisation’s continual improvement in the consumer participation process. Essentially, this paper seeks to address why actively involving consumers as researchers is essential and offers a toolkit to do so appropriately.

Bè Aadam works as a researcher and consultant, and uses his lived experience as a mental health consumer to guide and inform his work. He has a fourth year honours degree in social science and the humanities, and is currently on the board and committee of several mental health groups. Bè advocates for a model of care that places people with lived experience at the forefront of service design, delivery and evaluation. He works with consumers with the hope of inspiring them to improve their wellbeing and participate as active citizens, in the way they choose, as valued members of society.

Chair Dr kylie valentine

Organisational units