The effectiveness of services led or run by consumers in mental health: Rapid review of evidence for recovery-orientated outcomes

An Evidence Check rapid review brokered by the Sax Institute for the Mental Health Commission of New South Wales
1 August 2016

Mental health services controlled and run by people with lived experience of mental illness (‘consumers’) are effective in supporting recovery.

This review paper illustrates the evidence to support consumer led and run services, and offers conclusions and policy and practice implications. The paper provides the sector with some suggestions for next steps in building and growing services led and run by consumers in NSW.

While people with lived experience of mental illness have long supported each other, formal consumer-operated services have only begun to emerge in recent decades and are still rare. The strongest evidence in the report for their effectiveness came from three large studies in the United States, which found consumer-operated services had positive impacts on people’s levels of hope and empowerment, social inclusion, housing, education and employment, and program and treatment satisfaction. Researchers also found a number of studies have demonstrated that consumer-run services are cost effective.

A total of 33 peer reviewed papers and associated literature were reviewed in the report, which was conducted by the Sax Institute for the Commission. 

The process to develop this review began in 2013 when the Commission was invited into a discussion with various mental health advocates and organisations including CAN Mental Health, Being, MHCC, GROW, Mid-Western CAG, Lynda Hennessey and Douglas Holmes. The group discussed the importance of organisations and services led and run by mental health consumers, and the shared commitment to driving growth of consumer led services in NSW. The group suggested a literature review be undertaken, which was delivered Mary O’Hagan and Flick Grey through the Sax Institute. Flick and Mary are well respected researchers who both have a lived experience of mental distress.

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