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Mental Health Professionals Have Lived Experience

As a colleague of mine recently said, there are few of us who have not been affected by mental health, alcohol or other drug problems. Sometimes we can have a diagnosis of depression or anxiety or, be affected by a family member living with schizophrenia or substance misuse. At some stage in our career mental health professionals - social workers, psychologists, nurses, psychiatrists and occupational therapists - are likely to be faced with the challenge of coping with these problems and balancing professional roles. Whether or not to tell an employer about these problems is a personal decision (I know it took me a very long time) and there are professional and ethical considerations to take into account. But it's a tricky and complex space. People who access professional counselling and support services need and expect skilled, competent staff to assist them. Mental health services employ people with lived experience and their role is to self-disclose. But in my experience tertiary qualified mental health professionals rarely self disclose mental health, alcohol or other drug problems. And of course there are good reasons for this as there could be employment implications. But here's the thing. The divide between mental health professionals and consumers and carers is often vast. And mental health stigma and discrimination grows through silence. So it's worth considering how we can change this situation in our mental health, alcohol and other drug services in the interests of everyone.

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