Consumer involvement in mental health education for health professionals: feasibility and support for the role

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Abstract

Aims and Objectives.

To explore factors impacting on the feasibility of academic and educator roles for consumers of mental health services. The supports required to facilitate these roles from the perspectives of mental health nurse academics and consumer educators/academics will also be explored.

Background.

Involving consumers in the education of health professionals is becoming more common. Frequently this strategy is viewed as important to influence the attitudes of health professionals towards consumer participation in mental health services. There remains a paucity of research about these roles and the factors which promote and support their feasibility.

Design.

Qualitative exploratory.

Method.

In-depth telephone interviews were undertaken with 34 nurse academics and 12 consumer educators or academics. Participants included nurse academics coordinating undergraduate and postgraduate mental health subjects, and consumer academics and educators involved in teaching mental health nursing components. Interviews were 20 – 45 minutes in duration. Data were analysed thematically.

Results.

Four subthemes were identified under the broad theme of feasibility and support: Reliability, support, vulnerability and seen to be griping.

Conclusions.

Significant barriers were identified by nurses and consumers to effective consumer involvement, largely reflecting the impact of mental health challenges. Despite this, there was little evidence of structured support being available to enhance the viability of these positions.

Relevance to clinical practice.

Involving consumers in the education of health professionals through teaching, curriculum development, assessment and evaluation, is likely to enhance consumer participation in mental health services and ultimately improve service delivery. This involvement needs to be genuine to be effective. Consumers are often viewed as unreliable, vulnerable and using education to voice their own negative experiences. These issues and lack of support provided pose major barriers to successful roles, strategies to overcome barriers and maximise the effectiveness of roles require investigation and implementation.

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