Consumers deserve to be more than token members of research teams studying mental health interventions. However, conducting research requires special skills and most consumer members of research teams require special training. Little has been done to make the ‘skills of research’ accessible to consumers. The absence of an established method of consumer research training likely has been a barrier to collaborative research in mental health.
The few training programs that have been developed include detailed and theoretically-driven material; they stop short of teaching application. The complexity of the materials and the mode of delivery potentially minimise access for many consumers who possess all attributes required to be valuable members of a research team but are troubled by poor concentration or memory.
Before embarking on the creation of these materials, we asked ourselves several questions: What are the essential elements that will ensure collaboration and ownership of the research process? What methods of teaching will maximise accessibility of the materials to a broad range of mental health consumers? What and how much should be included?
We hope that these training modules enable you to make accessible the secret language of research to newly-employed consumer researchers. In so doing, we believe that they will help to reduce one of the few remaining hurdles to genuine consumer collaboration in research!
This project reflects a partnership between The University of Sydney, the Schizophrenia Fellowship of NSW Inc., consumer members of the research team at Pioneer Clubhouse and the Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research. The project was made possible through the generous funding of the Australian Rotary Health Research Fund.
Anita Bundy, ScD, OTR, FAOTA
Faculty of Health Sciences
University of Sydney