Different voices: Reviewing and revising the politics of working with consumers in mental health
Working with consumers is now a common expectation in contemporary mental health services. Yet health professionals may not entirely understand the difference between patient and consumer roles. Alternatively, they may feel they do not have the skills or resources to deal with people in roles other than patient or carer. Nor may they be able to separate out their personal experiences with particular consumers from the ideals and goals for effective consumer partnerships. This paper reviews a concept known as the politics of difference as well as the rise of the consumer movement in order to explore areas of difference between consumers and providers, to reexamine how power and marginalization practices occur. It reminds professionals that generalizing from one failed experience relating with a consumer is just as invalid as idealizing the current policy of consumer inclusion. Inviting, allowing, amplifying and improving the effectiveness of the consumer voice in mental health services today requires active commitment, educative processes and novel strategies to move beyond superficial relationships so that consumers and professionals work together to make enduring change.
International Journal of Mental Health Nursing
© 2004 Blackwell Publishing. The definitive version is available at [www.blackwell-synergy.com.]