What happens when we put psychiatric patients in charge of services?

In 2012 I experienced a mental health crisis which ultimately led to my being sectioned in a psychiatric hospital. Psychiatric hospital admission is life-saving for many individuals in suicidal crisis, but there were aspects of the experience that were immensely challenging for me. 

In the months that followed, I started to work on plans for a Suicide Crisis Centre which would provide a different approach and methods from those of psychiatric services.

As a psychiatric patient, I encountered huge scepticism and doubt when I spoke about my plans. Most people thought my plans improbable – even inadvisable. However, a year later, we opened the Suicide Crisis Centre. Our team of trained counsellors are advised and supported by psychiatric professionals, but the ethos and approach of the Centre were formed from a lived experience perspective, rather than from a psychiatric perspective.

We are now ten years on, and I run an award-winning Suicide Crisis Centre that has gained international recognition for its work. 

My lived experience of mental health crisis was perceived as a significant disadvantage by many people a decade ago. But there has been huge progress in the past decade and lived experience is now seen as highly valuable by commissioners and psychiatric service managers. Peer support workers are now employed by NHS psychiatric services. They work to support psychiatric patients in a variety of settings.

We are increasingly being asked by NHS services to provide training for their staff, and we are currently providing suicide prevention awareness training to peer support workers who are working in NHS psychiatric services in London. They are working in psychiatric hospitals, in the community and in A&E departments in general hospitals. Their unique understanding of mental health challenges, from a personal perspective, will have such a positive impact on patients who they encounter.

Increasingly, individuals with lived experience are being recruited to positions of leadership within NHS services, too. 

It is a significant transformation, in a relatively short space of time. Lived experience is extraordinarily powerful and impactful, and it is excellent to see that it is now being widely recognised and valued. 

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Suicide Crisis

Joy Hibbins, Chief Executive Officer

Suicide Crisis

Suicide Crisis is a registered charity which runs an award-winning Suicide Crisis Centre. We provide face-to-face intensive support to people who are feeling suicidal. For information about our Crisis Centre and our services, please visit our website www.suicidecrisis.co.uk. We have been providing services for over eight years and have never had a suicide of a client under our care and, as a result, our work has attracted national and international attention. The Ministry of Health in New Zealand contacted us in 2019 to find out…

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