What is a lived experience of a mental health issue?


Lived experience can be big or small. We help people with lived experience overcome the challenges that stop them being who they want to be.

 
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New Book Launch

 
 

Peer Work in Australia: A new future for mental health

This year Flourish Australia, in partnership with Mind Australia, agreed to create and publish a book titled Peer Work in Australia: A new future for mental health. The book is a collection of papers written by leading Peer Workers, lived experience advocates and allies from across Australia.

An Editorial Working Group assumed responsibility for overseeing the publication, inviting contributing authors to the book and planning a forum which would gather a collective voice about Peer work. The Editorial Working Group consisted of:
• Janet Meagher AM
• Anthony Stratford, Senior Advisor, Lived Experience, Mind Australia
• Fay Jackson, General Manager, Inclusion, Flourish Australia
• Tim Fong, General Manager, Human Resources, Flourish Australia
• Erandathie Jayakody, Team Leader, Consumer Engagement Unit, Mind Australia
• Kim Jones, Project Officer, Inclusion, Flourish Australia.

The book is a valuable resource for mental health services across Australia that highlights Peer work in Australia, its history and future directions, and help influence national discussions about this important and emerging mental health workforce. It was felt that the book would also ignite a much stronger dialogue about the value of Peer work in mental health services and lead to a far greater rate of employment and support of Peer Workers than has historically been experienced.

Contributors to the book were selected because they are strong Peer work advocates who have opened doors to enable the lived experience and Peer workforce to take its rightful, respectful place in mental health services. They have supported people and services to bridge gaps between advocacy for Peer work and the benefits it can bring, and supported the growth of suitably qualified people into much needed Peer work positions.

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Flourish Australia has been one of the leaders on this important movement in Australia. We have hosted interstate and international visitors who have wanted to learn about how we have so successfully grown our Lived Experience and Peer Workforces.

We have championed this because we know the powerful and deeply meaningful work that Peer Workers achieve – the humble, empathic way in which Peer Workers walk alongside people who have experienced similar distress and support them without trying to ‘fix’ their situation; helping the person believe in themselves, so that they discover their own solutions, self-agency, self-advocacy, strengths, capabilities and possibilities.

The book demonstrates how the Peer workforce is an ever increasing and vital component of multifaceted teams in public, not-for-profit and private mental health services, and how lived experience and Peer work employees can bring about much needed cultural change in services and workplaces.

 
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Peer Work: Using Lived Experience in the Peer Space

Supporting quality in Flourish Australia’s peer workforce

 
 
 

Flourish Australia is a leader in the Australian mental health sector. One of its greatest accomplishments is its growing Peer workforce, currently employing over 180 Peer Workers across 63 service locations.

The recognition of lived experience as a qualifying skill through the national Certificate IV Mental Health Peer Work qualification, positions Peer work as a tangible and substantial contributor to mental health support. Over time, Peer work has steadily confirmed lived experience as a primary support within a person’s support network options. It is fast becoming the pinnacle of those networks.

Considering the diverse responsibilities Peer work encompasses, one question continues to confront Peer work and evades constructive responses, how do I use my lived experience in my Peer work role?

This year we developed a one-day workshop titled Peer Work: Using lived experience in the peer space, which provides a practical and hands-on approach to using a lived experience perspective in a Peer work role. The primary target group for this workshop is Peer Workers and Senior Peer Workers. That is, front line staff who use personal lived experience in their role.

The workshop invites participants to explore the elements of the peer space and practice building connections from a lived experience perspective. It includes the following fundamentals of using lived experience:
• Share your connection to recovery by sharing from a personal perspective

• Explore the value of sharing lived experience by understanding the purpose of sharing

• Identify opportunities to connect with people by recognising opportunities and knowing personal boundaries

• Invite sharing from a strengths-based position by sharing from your personal lived experience

• Practice effective, meaningful and purposeful sharing by responding to particular circumstances.

To test the content, 2 pilots were facilitated in Newcastle and Sydney in May 2018. Participants submitted an expression of interest, outlining their skills and experience in training and assessment. 22 staff participated representing a diverse range of disciplines including Peer Workers, Senior Peer Workers, Managers and Mental Health Workers.

Participants represented a variety of communities including Newcastle, Waratah, Maitland, Tamworth, Blacktown, Ashbury, Bega, Hervey Bay, Goulburn, Surry Hills, Parkes, Marrickville, Wollongong, Katoomba, Taree and Sydney Olympic Park.

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The pilot asked participants to perform 3 tasks when assessing the curriculum:
• Critique the content
• Test the activities
• Assess the effectiveness of the workshop

Following each pilot, the content was evaluated and updated based on the facilitator’s observations and assessment, as well as participant feedback. A number of activities received overwhelmingly positive feedback. Those that did not were reviewed and updated. Upon the conclusion of each pilot, participants were asked to summarise their experience in one word. Their responses included words like, innovative, excited, invigorated, energised, knowledgeable, fun, educative, engaging, inspiring, beneficial, enjoyable, informative, respectful, encouraging, reflective, supportive, empowering and safe. All participants reported achieving the training goal “How do I use my lived experience in my Peer work role?” and a number of participants indicated their interest in becoming facilitators of the workshop. This feedback is overwhelmingly positive and reflects exceptional outcomes from the pilots.

 
 
Peer Workers participating in activity for pilot.

Peer Workers participating in activity for pilot.

Peer work has steadily confirmed lived experience as a primary support within a person’s support network options.

We intend to adopt the module as part of the suite of learning options for staff; prepare a training package for trainers; deliver train-the-trainer workshops to Senior Peer Workers; support the dissemination of the workshop across Flourish Australia locations and roll out an initial offering of training across the organisation.

The benefits of training Peer Workers how to effectively use lived experience in their Peer work role will enable strong, fruitful support relationships. Peer Workers will grow from each experience and progressively develop purposeful, meaningful and relevant connections that ultimately support stronger relationships with people accessing the services.

Training the Peer workforce adds weight to Flourish Australia’s public commitment to Peer work in Australia and adds value when providing NDIS-based peer support.

Peer Work: Using lived experience in the peer space is the next and natural evolution to Flourish Australia’s continuing investment in its Peer workforce. Watch this space…

 
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