Lived Expertise of Mental Health Crisis Services: A Community-Based Participatory Workshop

Jeff Ciak, MSW, Sarah Fatemeh Porter, Jess Stohlmann-Rainey, Nev Jones, Ph.D., and Nze Okoronta

In the dynamic field of mental health services, the call for a more inclusive, equitable approach to crisis intervention has never been louder. This workshop stands at the forefront of this transformative movement, championing user-led, action- and community-based participatory research (CBPR) methods as vehicles for change. This workshop seeks to push the boundaries of conventional methods, contribute to academic discourse, and catalyze real-world improvements in mental health care by promoting a more inclusive, equitable, and imaginative approach. By intentionally centering the voices of service users, survivors, and peer workers, we acknowledge and harness lived experience as a critical form of expertise, essential for shaping research, policy, and practice in mental health crisis services.

The unique value of lived experience in informing and guiding mental health initiatives is unparalleled. However, the full potential of this resource remains largely untapped in traditional research frameworks. Our session aims to bridge this gap, proposing user-led research, action research and CBPR not only as methodologies but as philosophies that respect and prioritize the firsthand insights of those most affected by mental health crises. By fostering a collaborative environment, we will explore innovative strategies that emphasize mutual learning, accountability and co-creation.

This interactive learning opportunity will include:

  • Analyzing systemic barriers that perpetuate inequities within mental health services, and how these affect both the individuals in these roles and the overall effectiveness and inclusivity of interventions.
  • Exploring case study insights and recent research to understand the negative impacts of marginalizing essential voices in the development of mental health spaces and roles.
  • Discuss strategies for creating more just and effective frameworks for mental health crisis services, advocating for policies that recognize and fairly compensate the contributions of social work and peer workers.
  • Develop actionable strategies for enhancing mental health services. Outline steps for integrating the principles of user-led research, action research, and CBPR into ongoing and future mental health research to ensure the system values every voice, especially those with lived experience.