Authors: Kath Thorburn, Lorna McNamara
Event: 2002 TheMHS Conference
Subject: NSW Institute of Psychiatry, Women and Mental Health, book of proceedings
Type of resource: Conference Presentations and Papers
Abstract: In western society adult learning tends to be associated with formal courses conducted by professional educators through educational institutions. However, much learning is acquired informally or incidentally through experience or through participation in activities associated with work, community action or family activities. This type of learning is often overlooked and its potential is not realised.
This paper aims to expose the informal and incidental learning that can occur through activism in the mental health field. Specifically, this paper will focus on the learning that occurred when Women and Mental Health Inc. (WAMH) undertook to improve sexual safety in the mental health system and support for consumers who have experienced sexual assault within or outside the system. WAMH’s membership includes mental health consumers, carers, mental health workers, service managers, educators and community members.
An interview with the chairperson of WAMH formed the basis of an analysis of how learning occurred and the nature of the learning that occurred during the project. The analysis exposed an array of new knowledge and skills, but perhaps most importantly it exposed significant critical learning. The women learned about issues that were previously unquestioned and through this learning came to the realisation that they had the capacity to introduce new values around sexual safety into the psychiatric system. This paper will present the learning that occurred using a framework that may be adapted by others who wish to consciously learn from their involvement in work or community action.