How much 'lived experience' is enough? Understanding mental health lived experience work from a management perspective

Aust Health Rev. 2020 Dec;44(6):898-903. doi: 10.1071/AH19261.


Objective The aim of this study was to explore management understanding of the lived experience required for designated lived experience or peer roles within mental health. Method This qualitative study used semi-structured interviews and one focus group with 29 participants employed in diverse management roles from the public and not-for-profit health and community sector in Queensland, Australia. Results The findings indicate a lack of consensus in defining 'lived experience', including what lived experience is required to be eligible for designated roles. Although some participants were clear on what designated roles added to the workforce, uncertainty and attempts to avoid stigma led to some participants questioning the need for designated roles. Conclusion This study suggests the ongoing expansion of the lived experience workforce is affected by challenges in defining 'lived experience' as a requirement for designated roles and fears regarding stigmatised identities. What is known about the topic? In the mental health sector, opportunities and challenges exist in attempting to effectively incorporate the emerging lived experience or peer workforce. Research has highlighted the need for support from senior management, the need for role clarity and the risk of 'othering' for the lived experience workforce. What does this paper add? This paper responds to the gap in existing research on the experiences of management in defining and articulating their understanding of lived experience and potential impact of uncertainty and inconsistency in understanding for the lived experience workforce. What are the implications for practitioners? This study identifies the need to strengthen management understanding of lived experience to facilitate ongoing development of lived experience roles.

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Humans
  • Mental Health Services*
  • Mental Health*
  • Peer Group
  • Qualitative Research
  • Queensland