This paper describes a service user role in the mental health component of an undergraduate nursing programme in New Zealand. The paper provides a background to mental health nursing education in New Zealand and discusses the implications of recent reforms in the mental health sector. The undergraduate nursing programme at the University of Auckland has a strong commitment to service user involvement. The programme aims to educate nurses to be responsive and skillful in meeting the mental health needs of service users in all areas of the health sector and to present mental health nursing as an attractive option for nurses upon graduation. We outline the mental health component of the programme, with an emphasis on the development of the service user role. In the second half of the paper, we present a summary of responses to a student satisfaction questionnaire. The responses indicate that the service user role is an important element of the programme and is well received by a substantial proportion of students. We consider the implications for nursing education and for recruitment into mental health nursing. Finally, we discuss some issues related to service user involvement in the development of new models of mental health service delivery.