Lived Experience includes past and ongoing social experiences of life changing mental health challenges and successes; service use; and periods of healing and learning.
QLEWN recognises that Lived Experience includes direct experiences as a ‘consumer’ and/or support experiences as a carer or family member. We acknowledge that these experiences are distinctly different and inform different perspectives and priorities that can conflict at times.
Consumer – a person who has experiences of extreme psychological distress; problematic substance use; and/or suicidal thoughts, and/or attempts.
Carer/Family member – a person who has regularly provided or provides unpaid care or support for a person living with episodes of extreme psychological distressL who has considered, attempted or completed suicide; and/or who experiences problematic substance use.
The Lived Experience workforce
Identified roles are formal roles (paid or unpaid) that specifically require Lived Experience as an essential requirement for the role. Roles may include offering peer support to others; advocating Lived Experience perspectives on committees and boards; participating in service development and/or policy development; and/or as managers, advocates, educators or researchers.
The Lived Experience workforce includes people working in diverse roles across a variety of settings including private practice, public or private hospital and allied health services, community based support services (mainstream or peer operated), education and research institutions, and government agencies at a local, state and national levels.
Identified Lived Experience roles may also include unpaid roles if Lived Experience is required to fill a structured role that is formalised within an organisation or group. For example, Lived Experience representatives on hospital committees are often unpaid. Some peer support groups are entirely operated by volunteers, but are formally structured (eg GROW or AA). These unpaid roles are recognised by QLEWN as identified Lived Experience roles.
Only people currently working in an identified Lived Experience role in Queensland (paid or unpaid) are eligible for a full QLEWN membership, which includes voting rights and eligibility to nominate as a QLEWN board member. However, QLEWN welcomes associate membership from people not currently working in identified Lived Experience roles in Queensland.
Formal and Informal Peer Support
Peer support roles are the most commonly identified Lived Experience roles. The National Mental Health Recovery Framework defines peer support as people with a Lived Experience supporting each other in their recovery journey. Peer support may be formal (voluntary or paid) or informal and unstructured. Formal peer support may be stand-alone or part of a broader initiative, program, project or service. Peer support programs and services may be totally managed by people in identified Lived Experience roles, by people in non-identified roles, or some combination of both.
People who provide informal peer support to family and friends contribute greatly to improving the wellbeing of people struggling with extreme distress and it is from this foundation of informal peer support that more formal practices and approaches have been developed. However, there are significant differences between informal and formal peer support.
QLEWN seeks to focus specifically on the needs and interests of the Lived Experience workforce. For this reason informal, unstructured peer support between family friends is not included in QLEWN’s definition of an identified Lived Experience role.
Non-identified roles in mental health, alcohol and other drugs services, allied health or other relevant professions include psychiatrists, psychologists, mental health nurses, social workers, occupational therapists, case managers, case workers, community support workers and others. People working in these roles may still identify privately or publically as having a Lived Experience, but they are not employed specifically to work from a Lived Experienced perspective. As such, people with Lived Experience working in non-identified roles are not recognised by QLEWN as members of the Lived Experience workforce.
However, often people working in non-identified roles (whether or not they have a Lived Experience) can be important champions and allies in supporting the Lived Experience workforce. QLEWN encourages such allies and champions to join us as associate members.
QLEWN acknowledges the First Australians, who are the Traditional Owners of the lands, winds, and waters of the Country we work on. We pay our respects to their elders – past, present, and emerging; and we pay our respects to the long and ongoing connection and relationship they have with this Country. We are grateful for the privilege of sharing this land and express our sorrow for the historic and continued cost of that sharing to First Nations People. We acknowledge that this land was never ceded. We know that recovery is not fully possible where systemic injustice and dispossession exist. In the interests of creating a genuinely equitable and just Australia, QLEWN seeks to walk a path of continual learning, development, and practice that contributes to reconciliation.