The Lived Experience Transformational Leadership Academy prepares persons with lived experiences of mental ill health and recovery to take on leadership roles within their own local, regional, and national systems of care across the globe.
Where the problem lies
The lived expertise of leaders who have experienced mental ill health and recovery is currently missing at all levels of mental health care policy and planning, to the detriment of our systems of care and the people they are designed to help.
Many of the skills new leaders will need are generic, but leadership development alone will not equip them to bring their lived expertise effectively into their work. The development of leaders with lived expertise needs also to nurture a shared identity and collective narrative, critical thinking, recovery values, community development skills, and a vision for a humane, holistic, and coercion-free system of care. Development of leaders also needs to attract and be responsive to the needs of people as diverse as the countries from which they come, with a particular emphasis on cultivating future generations.
Help is on the way
The intent of the fund is that mental health systems of the future will be led increasingly by persons who have acquired expertise through their own life experiences (as well as from other sources).
People with “lived expertise” in recovery have the requisite sense of urgency, as well as other untapped potential, to be effective in transforming mental health systems at all levels.
Phase 1 Action
Initial funding by the IIMHL and MIND Australia supported a 9-month scoping project which developed and tested this idea with recovery and current system leaders in IIMHL countries and beyond. A full report and proposal were presented at the IIMHL meeting in 2015.
The scoping review included consulting with current system and recovery community leaders on the problems they experience with system transformation and their views on solving the problems through lived expertise leadership. It also included a review of current leadership development opportunities for persons with lived expertise and analysis of gaps in the market.
The findings on the problems people experience and the gaps in the market informed the development of a charter for the academy that describes the recovery values, a vision for system transformation, the rationale for the vision, and a strategy for leading change. The findings and the charter will in turn inform development of the role and functions of the academy.
Phase 2 Action
With funding from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Academy trained its first cohort of lived experience leaders from across the United States from September 2017 through April 2018, graduating a class of nine exceptional candidates. A second cohort is being planned for the summer of 2018 in collaboration with the Center for Addiction and Mental Health at the University of Toronto in Canada. Additional funding is being sought for future cohorts that will be drawn from additional countries involved with the IIMHL. This international leadership academy will be accessible online and on-site at Yale University as well as at partner institutions. The academy may also host seminars, support research and produce theoretical papers, and collect and make available a wide variety of resources for leadership education and system transformation from around the world.
The fundamental mission of the academy will be to transform the lived experiences of mental ill health and recovery into the lived expertise needed to achieve transformation of mental health services around the world. Initial priorities set by the group include identifying and recruiting persons with lived experience from developing countries and young adults to cultivate future generations.
The idea for this fund, and the program it seeks to develop, emerged from a meeting of prominent system leaders and advocates with lived experience who came together at Yale University in May of 2014.
The meeting was sponsored by the International Institute for Mental Health Leadership (IIMHL), directed by EXCELLENCE Chair Fran Silvestri. It was held to invite input from leaders with lived experience as to how the work of the IIMHL could benefit from the wisdom they and others had accrued through their own personal experiences of recovery and mental health system transformation efforts. The meeting was co-chaired by Larry Davidson, professor of psychology at Yale and member of the EXCELLENCE Board, and Anthony Stratford of MIND Australia, and included lived experience leaders from Scotland, England, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Canada, Australia, and the U.S.