Mental health service user leadership in research



Service user leadership in research can make an important contribution to the empowerment of all mental health service users. Research by service users has produced new knowledge and contributed to the development of innovative methods of improving the lives and advancing the human rights of people with mental health problems. Service user research has also contributed to changing how mental ill health is conceptualized: it has challenged a model of mental illness as simply deficit and pathology and argued that "madness is a crisis of being that value and meaning can be derived from" (O'Hagan, 2009). Service users have argued that dominant research approaches to mental illness can perpetuate inequality and disempowerment. They have argued that the production of new knowledge and the transformation of the terms and concepts used within psychiatry and mental health can, therefore, be an influential route through which to achieve broader social and political change (Sweeney, Beresford et al., 2009; Wallcraft, Schrank et al., 2009). The challenge now for countries within the WHO European Region is to determine how best to ensure that existing service user research initiatives are built upon and extended more widely across the entire geographical region.