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Mental Health Safety and Quality Engagement Guide

Mentoring and support

In this section we discuss the importance of mentorship and support. One of the consistent messages we heard during the consultation process for this guide is that mentorship is a critical element of safe and supported engagement of people with lived experience in the safety and quality area. Mentorship can take many forms, and should be discussed and tailored to individual preferences. Here we discuss several aspects of mentorship and support.

Having a mentor helped me to keep going, helped to renew me.

Lived experience perspective

For those who are new to the carer role, they do have important perspectives to offer, but they need a lot of support and mentoring to understand their role. They need to understand how they might get hurt— and so, build up some skills around this.

Lived experience perspective

It is ideal to have someone who has been there before you and understands the landscape, can guide you and debrief in ways that are right for you at challenging times. Mentorship can also help you to get perspective, and help give you context to what is going on.

Lived experience perspective

In this section we discuss the importance of mentorship and support. One of the consistent messages we heard during the consultation process for this guide is that mentorship is a critical element of safe and supported engagement of people with lived experience in the safety and quality area. Mentorship can take many forms, and should be discussed and tailored to individual preferences. Here we discuss several aspects of mentorship and support.

The role of a mentor

Engaging in the area of safety and quality requires mentoring from someone with lived experience who has ‘been there, done that’ and can honestly discuss issues with you. You have important perspectives to offer, and a mentor can help you to better understand your role and potential. Mentorship is valuable at any stage of your lived experience journey; however, those newer to this role may find mentorship particularly beneficial.

Various people can act as mentors. Your mentor may be someone with lived experience who is also a member of the same committee or is involved in the same activity. This allows you to discuss confidential information with them.

Alternatively, your mentor might be someone from the service, but not necessarily from the group you are involved in. These mentors can help you understand the function and dynamics of the service. You should be able to talk openly without needing to explain all of the details because your mentor understands the context.

A mentor can also be someone who is not directly connected to the service or project that you are involved in. For example, they might be active in other areas but have considerable experience in the lived experience movement.

Identifying and engaging with a mentor

There are various ways to identify a mentor. For example, some services may have a formal mentorship program, with a list of available mentors and a process for connecting new lived experience advisers with them. Other services don’t have a formal process. In other instances, you might identify a mentor yourself. It’s important you have flexibility and choice about your mentor and what you want from the relationship. In addition, there should be regular opportunities for you to engage with your mentor— for example, arranging a monthly coffee meeting or a fortnightly phone call between meetings.

How can a mentor help you?

A good mentor can help you understand, navigate, explore and reflect on your role as a lived experience representative. Specifically, a mentor can help you:

  • • feel understood and validated in your role as a lived experience representative, because they have been in your shoes—for example, you might feel anxious
  • • or insecure about your involvement; a mentor can help you work through those feelings
  • • understand your role and your expectations—for example, if you are new to this role, your mentor may reassure
  • • you that you haven’t been exposed to this environment or process before and so you can’t be expected to know everything
  • • become familiar with the language and knowledge needed in a particular context
  • • see the links between potential distress triggers, being active and being on a recovery journey
  • • by providing honest feedback in the right format for you
  • • find further resources to assist with your role
  • • reflect on your involvement—for example, by asking “Are you ok?” “How do you think that meeting went?”
  • • understand other perspectives—for example, those expressed by clinicians
  • • feel motivated and renewed in your role—for example, by reminding you why you are doing this
  • • by discussing and facilitating future opportunities and directions—for example, developing networks.

Supervision by peers or allies

In addition to having a mentor, having access to some supervision may help to support you. This supervision works like clinical supervision for health workers; a peer can act as your supervisor. Unlike a mentor, however, a supervisor is not necessarily someone who has lived experience. Rather, a supervisor is someone who is a member of the group you are engaged with, and an ally in supporting lived experience.

Particularly in the safety and quality area, services invite you to be involved in discussions that may trigger distress for you. Peer supervision by someone who also has a lived experience can help support your self-care. They can provide opportunities for you to debrief or seek alternative ways of managing your lived experience role that work for you.

Building relationships across groups and organisations

In addition to formal mentorship and supervision, you will build many other important relationships across the groups and organisations you contribute to.

It’s the responsibility of both lived experience leaders and other health service leaders to connect with each other. The service needs to ensure that lived experience is part of a broader network of people who sit at all levels of the service. For example, people with lived experience should participate in all management meetings, patient safety and quality meetings, inpatient meetings, service-management meetings, and working groups that govern strategic service improvement. Similarly, there should be pathways for people with lived experience to communicate with and transmit information to higher levels of the service (e.g. a monthly consumer advisory meeting).