'Things you can't learn from books': teaching recovery from a lived experience perspective
Mental health policy in Australia is committed to the development of recovery-focused services and facilitating consumer participation in all aspects of mental health service delivery. Negative attitudes of mental health professionals have been identified as a major barrier to achieving these goals. Although the education of health professionals has been identified as a major strategy, there is limited evidence to suggest that consumers are actively involved in this education process. The aim of this qualitative study was to evaluate students' views and opinions at having been taught 'recovery in mental health nursing' by a person with a lived experience of significant mental health challenges. In-depth interviews were held with 12 students. Two main themes were identified: (i) 'looking through fresh eyes' - what it means to have a mental illness; and (ii) 'it's all about the teaching'. The experience was perceived positively; students referred to the impact made on their attitudes and self-awareness, and their ability to appreciate the impact of mental illness on the individual person. Being taught by a person with lived experience was considered integral to the process. This innovative approach could enhance consumer participation and recovery-focused care.