Once upon a time, the idea of listening to people who have experienced mental distress was a wild idea. Thankfully, it is now widely agreed that it is those who have personally lived through such experiences, have a deep expertise.
Indeed, it is recognised that if we are to provide a helpful service to people in distress, it is essential we ask what helps and what hinders and be guided by lived experience to create services that enable people to lived meaningful and contributing lives. Research indicates that learning from people with lived experience provides students and practitioners with unique insights that facilitate professional compassion, build a foundation for person-centred practice, expand understanding, challenge negative and stigmatising attitudes, and facilitate skill development.
Western Australia’s first lived experience academic was employed in the School of Occupational Therapy and Social Work in 2010. Over time, the dedicated background work of Dr Robyn Martin saw the position move from guest lecturer, to curriculum consultant, to sessional tutor, to part time lecturer and the lived experience academic position which Lyn Mahboub (left) now inhabits. Lyn has worked as part of the Masters in Mental Health Recovery teaching team and taught into the undergraduate social work and occupational therapy courses during this time. In addition, she has enacted other leadership roles within the local and national mental health sectors.
In 2015, the School’s leadership team comprising of Associate Professor Angus Buchanan, Professor Donna Chung and Dr Courtenay Harris endorsed the development of a multi-strand project to embed lived experience teaching and learning within occupational therapy and social work curriculum. This project is known as the Valuing Lived Experience Project (VLEP).
The VLEP has several sub projects, which include:
- The creation of a unit for potential lived experience educators. This development is being overseen by the project advisory group. The advisory group comprises lived experience consultants, academics from the School, industry partners and occupational therapy and social work students. The funding from Richmond Wellbeing ensures that the lived experience consultants are paid for their work on the advisory group.
- A filmed simulation project involving people with lived experience speaking about their recovery and what helped and hindered their journey.
- An information and discussion evening promoting the role of lived experience educators in tertiary education.
- Researching the process and outcomes of each element of the project.
- Applying for teaching excellence grants to monitor the impact of the project.
The project received funding from our industry partner, Richmond Wellbeing and their Bentley Armadale Partners in Recovery program. Lyn Mahboub is the project lead and supported by Dr Robyn Martin (who was already an advisor, mentor and ally of the project) along with research assistants Sophie Ridley, Dr Kate Dorozenko, Dr Ben Milbourn and Annalise O’Callaghan.