October 3, 2023

We are Northern: This is the Lived Experience Workforce

October is Mental Health Awareness Month. Today we showcase our Lived Experience Workforce, a key service and feature of our Mental Health Division. It comes from the recognition that those who are living with or lived through mental illness, have a unique insight that can help others going through it.

Olivia Hatchman and Christopher Ferguson manage the Consumer Lived Experience Workforce. Says Olivia, “Lived experience workers have had life-changing personal experiences with mental health and/or alcohol and other drug use. After a period of healing and recovery, they are now employed in diverse roles to use their ‘lived’ expertise to help other people accessing our services.”

Adds Christopher, “Ultimately, it is about how a person’s experiences with mental health are understood and applied to benefit others. This inclusion of a person’s lived experience is also in line with the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Mental Health.”

Lived experience roles are varied and include positions providing direct support, advocacy, management, research, education, training and consultation on projects and initiatives. Our Lived Experience Workforce help tailor the design of service delivery to incorporate the experience of consumers, families and carers. This allows for more collaborative care where clinicians gain a better understanding and insight into the experiences of the people they are supporting.

Chris and Olivia work closely with other mental health staff to co-design and contribute lived experience perspectives in the design and delivery of our mental health service, in addition to promoting and providing training for the consumer/carer workforce. Both are proud of the development and involvement of the team, in supporting consumers accessing the new mental health inpatient unit at Northern Hospital Epping.

Graeme Bryan, a Consumer Peer Support Worker says, “I enjoy the connections I make through our shared lived experience.”

Shannon Hansen, a resident of our Community Care Unit, says, “Peer support inspires me and makes me want to do this work in the future. Graeme and I provide support to each other, and I have learnt that living with a mental illness isn’t easy and that is okay.”

Oliva and Chris say the most rewarding part of their job has been watching the Lived Experience Workforce grow. They say, “It all started with one consumer in a lived experience role and now we have over 50 positions, which is a huge achievement and a sign of the changing times! We are very grateful for Northern Health’s continued support for our emerging workforce and representation at all levels of governance.”

Belinda Scott, Executive Director, Mental Health, says, “The Lived Experience Workforce provide invaluable support to carers, supporters and clinical colleagues. Our consumer’s experience of care is enriched through their collaboration and support.”

Featured imaged: Shannon Hansen and Graeme Bryan.