“I don't think we've quite got there yet”: The experience of allyship for mental health consumer researchers
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WHAT IS KNOWN OF THE SUBJECT: Consumer participation in mental health services is an expectation articulated through mental health policy. Consumers as researchers could contribute significantly to mental health services. Barriers to participation are significant and limit consumer involvement. WHAT THE PAPER ADDS TO EXISTING KNOWLEDGE: Enhanced understandings of collaborative relationships between consumer and nonconsumer researchers. Researchers from the health disciplines find value in consumer involvement in mental health research. These researchers can support and facilitate consumer research by being allies to consumer researchers. WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: Understanding the role of allies is necessary to strengthen their capacity to support consumer researchers. Involving consumers in mental health research is likely to lead to improved practice. ABSTRACT: Introduction Australia and New Zealand mental health policy requires consumer participation in all aspects of mental health services. Systemic participation informs and improves the quality of mental health services. Collaboration with consumer researchers should be similarly required. Enhanced understandings of collaborations are needed. Aim To enhance understanding of the perspectives and experiences of nonconsumer researchers in working collaboratively with consumers as researchers. Method This qualitative exploratory study involved interviews with nonconsumer mental health researchers who have worked collaboratively with consumers in research. Interviews were conducted with participants from Australia and New Zealand. Results "Allyship" emerged as a major theme. This describes nonconsumer researchers playing an actively supportive role to facilitate opportunities for the development and growth of consumer research roles and activities. Seven subthemes were identified: establishing and supporting roles, corralling resources, guiding navigation of university systems, advocacy at multiple levels, aspiring to coproduction and consumer-led research, extending connections and partnerships, and desire to do better. Discussion Allyship may have an important role to play in the broader consumer research agenda and requires further consideration. Implications for practice Embedding meaningful consumer participation within mental health services requires active consumer involvement in research. Allies can play an important facilitative role.
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