The MHCC is committed to being driven by lived experience in everything we do. We encourage consumers of mental health services, their families and carers to join our staff and Advisory Council and we engage with other lived experience organisations and providers.

Emma Bohmer, the MHCC’s Senior Adviser, Lived Experience and Education, is the project lead for our ‘Driven by Lived Experience’ project, which is producing a foundational framework and strategy. She also contributes her lived experience perspective to our Leadership group, education and engagement activities, practice guidance and complex complaints and investigations. Emma provides secretariat support to our Advisory Council and, outside the office, is a member of the Mental Health Commissions Peer Work Network and the Department of Health and Human Service’s Lived Experience Advisory Group. We have all learned from Emma’s compassionate and wise insights into the consumer experience. We asked her some questions about her role:

What is lived experience and why should it be seen as expertise?

Lived experience is valued as expertise that is grounded in personal experiences. The lived experience perspective is vital in order to inform and influence meaningful systemic change within the mental health sector. Working with people with lived experience is beneficial for everyone as the diverse voices of consumers, families and carers offer unique insights into the experience of living with mental health issues and navigating the mental health system.  Viewing the mental health system from this perspective provides valuable opportunities to make life changing improvements for people involved with mental health services. At the MHCC we are driven by lived experience of mental health issues in all the work we do.

What made you want to work in a lived experience role?

I was initially drawn to lived experience roles after being inspired by an amazing Peer Worker. The opportunity to maintain a deep level of authenticity in my professional career is really empowering and strengthening. I am also personally driven by the opportunity to use my adverse experiences to positively impact the lives of others.

What are some of the challenges with lived experience roles?

Lived experience roles benefit from a broad range of skills. I’ve found it helpful to focus on not just what I contribute, but also the way that I do it. People in lived experience roles leverage their passion and their willingness to draw on their own difficult experiences, as well as those of others. I’ve found that seeking balance through committed daily self-care practices is important for me to both sustain and be successful in this type of work. It’s also important to utilise supports.