The purpose of the Sharing Experience Learned Firsthand (SELF) project was to gain an appreciation from recovering individuals of the role of lived experience of mental health challenges in professional training and work experience. SELF was conducted under the Lived Experience Research Network (LERN), an organization developed to promote service user leadership and inclusion in the behavioral health and disabilities fields. The project was led by three individuals with lived experience engaged in consumer advocacy and graduate training. We were interested in the risks and benefits of self-disclosure of lived experience, the effects on collegial relationships, and the impact on service delivery. Increased understanding of such experiences could be used in the development of best practices in the use of self-disclosure and to promote the integration of peers in the behavioral health workforce. Accordingly, we conducted interviews and focus groups with individuals with lived experience who had worked in mental health, medical, and academic settings. They spoke to their experiences sharing lived experience and offered guidance to individuals and organizations regarding disclosure. Social and work context, discrimination, and the recovery process featured in their responses. Illustrative quotations will be shared in this guidebook. Based largely on their reports, we created an online survey to be completed anonymously. It was distributed across the US in order to gain further understanding of perspectives and recommendations. The findings of the project will be presented and explored after a selective review of available research.
Funding for this initiative was made possible by grant no. 1H79TI083022 from SAMHSA. The views expressed in written conference materials or publications and by speakers and moderators do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the Department of Health and Human Services; nor does mention of trade names, commercial practices, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.