The mental health consumer movement is an assortment of groups, organisations, networks and a workforce that provides a range of resources programs and services to mental health consumers. Campaigning for improved services and consumer-led alternatives to the ‘insane’ mental health system of the times, the mental health consumer movement developed out of the 1970s and 1980s women’s, disability and gay rights movements. Today, the consumer movement includes a number of initiatives related to:


  • Consumer-led groups, organisations and activities.

  • Consumer participation in the governance, planning, implementation, evaluation and development of the programs & services that affect their lives.

  • Consumer rights activism, representation& leadership.

  • Campaigns that acknowledge and promote the ‘consumer voice.’

  • Peer support networks.

  • The consumer workforce.

  • Consumer-run education and training.

  • Peer-led research and evaluation.

  • Consumer participation, engagement & involvement 

  • Consumer-led systematic advocacy

  • The social justice, anti-stigma & anti-discrimination movements

  • Online consumer resources & information.

The MEntal Health Consumer Movement

What is the mental Health Consumer Movement?

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what is a Mental Health consumer?

A mental health consumer is a person with the lived experience of mental illness. A person with the lived experience is any person who:


  • Lives with or is in the process of recovering from a mental health issue, emotional distress or a mental illness.

  • Has a diagnosis of a psychiatric condition or mental health illness.

  • Takes a form of psychiatric medication.

  • Uses or acquires mental health programs, services and products for direct consumption or ownership.

  • Is voluntarily or involuntarily residing in a psychiatric hospital or a community housing facility.

  • Participates in mental health research.

  • Engages in mental health events or activities in the community.

The lived experience refers to the experience of people with or recovering from mental health issues, emotional distress and/or mental illness and their impacts and consequences. In the mental health sector, there is increasing numbers of people sharing their lived experience and providing an informed voice of consumers.

The Lived experience of mental health

The consumer voice

The consumer voice is the views, perspectives, attitudes and interests of consumers and their support network. The consumer voice provides a means for consumers to share their lived experiences with others and communicate their needs, priorities, issues and concerns. 

The consumer voice can be heard through involvement on committees as well as particular methods in which information is often accessed through

  • Testimony

  • Storytelling

  • Case studies

  • Focus groups

  • Consumer consultation, focus groups and interviews

  • Dialogue, discussion and debate in consumer-led forums

  • Complaints and grievance mechanisms


consumer organisations

  • Consumer organisations are groups that attempt to build membership to serve the consumer interests, needs and rights; give them a voice, protect them or promote forces that indirectly or indirectly affect consumers. They focus on serving and promoting consumer's interests.

  • There is a number of groups and organisations to build the capacity of consumers and carers  including: 

  • Consumer peak bodies

  • Consumer advisory groups (CAGs)

  • Technical advise bureaus

  • Consumer-led organisations

consuimer initiatives

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carers organisations & initiatives

Consumer Education & Training

Consumers with the lived experience are often involved in the education, training, the process of raising awareness and conducting health literacy and health promotion campaigns to consumers, services, policy makers and the wider community. Consumer educators deliver education to staff on the consumer experience by telling their personal story, a method effective for increasing knowledge, health literacy and reducing stigma. This includes:

  • The development and representation of training to clinicians.

  • Consumer and Consumer Group Education

  • Training for the lived experience workforce

  • Education and Training for Services and Community Groups

  • Speaker’s Bureau

  • Providing tools, guides and resources

Consumer Research

Consumer research occurs when consumers become involved in research, whether research is consumer-led, consumers are involved in the evaluation of services or in positions where consumer academics organise the research.

Self-Help Recovery

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Psychosocial Rehabilitation programs

Consumer Consultation

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recovery services

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Consumer Leadership & Representation

A consumer representative is someone who voices the consumer perspective and takes part in the decision making process on behalf of consumer. Consumer representatives contribute towards the planning, design and implementation of health policy, programs and services as well advocate for systematic change on behalf of consumers. This person is usually nominated by, and is accountable to, an organisation of consumers

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consumer participation

Peer Support

Peer Support is the support provided between one or more people who have similar or shared experiences, and who recognise each other as peers. This can be offered professionally through peer support work, or informally through friendship, mentorship or peer support groups. .

Speaker's Bureaus

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Consumer Acadmeics

A consumer academic is a researcher that operates from a belief that the consumer perspective to research and education is a separate discipline with its own philosophy and theoretical approach. They are involved in:

  • Teaching students using a consumer perspective

  • Providing input into the psychiatric nursing curricula

  • Establishing a consumer academic program in mental health

  • Working collaboratively locally, regionally, nationally and internationally to promote the consumer perspective



A Clubhouse is a local community centre organized to support people living with mental illness. Clubhouse members participate in a work-ordered day in which the talents and abilities of members are recognized and utilized within the Clubhouse. They participate in consensus-based decision making in relation to the running of the Clubhouse and are provided opportunities to obtain paid employment, access assistance to community-based educational resources, crisis intervention services when needed, social and recreational events, affordable housing as well as the services and support they need to continue their recovery journey.


leaders in the consumer movement

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Peer-Led Evaluation, Monitoring & Reporting

Consumer evaluation is about measuring the impact, building an evidence-base and providing comparative studies to evaluate and improve public adult mental health services based on consumer feedback and the importance of organisational leadership for peer workers. The Your Experience of Service (YES) questionnaire for consumer feedback in New South Wales public health services.

Consumer-Led Advocacy

Systematic advocacy produces long-term changes to systems, laws, policies, processes & standards. Consumer conduct such advocacy to:.

  • Change community attitudes (e.g. stigma & discrimination

  • Lobby government

  • Campaigning: political, media, advocacy and social media campaigns

  • Parliamentary Submission

  • Participating in protests, petitions, polls or voting

The consumer workforce includes all those workers with the ‘lived experience’ that go back into the mental health system as paid consumer workers.


  • Consumer consultants

  • Consumer advocates

  • Peer support workers

  • Consumer representatives

  • Consumer educator

  • Consumer academics and researchers

  • Consumer companions

The Peer Workforce

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