Consumer leaders training staff of the Royal Commission into Victoria's Mental Health service system

Consumer leaders know all too well the connection between language, power, policy and the lived experience of mental health issues and services. Whether it is “mental illness”, “recovery”, “madness” or being “managed”, words are powerful tools that can help or hurt.

This is the message consumer leaders Cath Roper, Wanda Bennetts, Alison Hall and Simon Katterl brought to the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System. Wanting to know how to think and communicate respectfully about mental health, the Commission chose to listen to those who know first-hand the importance of language.

By using open dialogue strategies and a “You can’t ask that” forum, the Commission and consumer leaders discussed the impacts of framing, alternative ways of understanding our experiences, the personal meaning we give words and the ethics of who gets to use them.

Consumer leaders 2019

Training from consumer leaders provided an important opportunity for staff to ask questions and reflect on the effect that they can have in their individual roles. Staff came away with concrete actions. Kerin Leonard, Director, Community Engagement, Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System

We hope the work can assist the Commission to elevate the voices of consumers in their future work and recommendations.