People's lived experiences are central to how we work

What do we mean when we talk about lived and living experience?

At Penumbra we’ve always believed that people’s lived and living experiences of mental ill health must be central to how we work. We always look to design and co-produce our services in ways where people with lived and living experiences are central, valued, and respected as experts. Working in this way means we achieve genuinely recovery-focused services.

What does that mean for colleagues across our teams? Well, we talk about lived and living experiences broadly, and of peer roles specifically. These are closely connected concepts but have different areas of focus.

Peer work for example is where someone brings in the learning from their lived and living experience of their own recovery journey to directly support others experiencing mental ill health. This shared understanding is greatly valued by the people we support and creates a distinct relationship.

Peer workers will usually have experienced a decline in mental health and, or wellbeing in their lives. While not expected to bring the specifics of their experience into conversations, by bringing the empathy, skills, and learning from their own journey, people working in peer roles provide a different and complementary way of supporting others in their recovery journey.

So what about the broad concept of lived and living experience?

Valuing everyone’s experiences is important because it fosters an open culture

It’s true that all of us have different lived and living experiences with our mental health. Valuing everyone’s experiences is important because it fosters an open culture where people across roles can choose to be open about their experience and use it where appropriate to support our work.

While the lived and living experience of people in non-peer or non-support roles may not obviously be directly connected to their work, we believe firmly that, where people want to share about their own mental health experiences, this can only support a culture that is open about mental health and where everyone learns from each other. That can only be a good thing for us as a team.

Huge thanks to Nikki for this insightful blog.

Nikki Kilburn is Penumbra’s Practice Development Manager.

Want to see more? Visit our campaign hub: #YourJourneyYourWay

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