Book of Proceedings: Turning Lived Experience into Vehicles for Justice

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By April 15, 2020 No Comments

Authors: Cassy Nunan

Year: 2019

Event: 2019 TheMHS Conference

Subject: book of proceedings

Type of resource: Conference Presentations and Papers

ISBN: 9780994570260

Abstract: Paper from the 2019 TheMHS Conference by Cassy Nunan. Published as part of the 2019 Book of Proceedings.


Dr Cassy Nunan works at Wellways as Consultant, Advocacy and Leadership. She has also been responsible for researching, co-producing, writing and facilitating various versions of the award winning My Recovery program. Her PhD focussed on the value of intentional storytelling as vehicle for mental health recovery and social change advocacy.

Mark Jackson works at Wellways as Consultant, Peer and Community Education. He trains people in lived experience storytelling, and presents from a lived experience perspective in a broad range of community and business settings. Mark was a CEO of a graphics and printing business, and has experience in counselling, health and business coaching, and in film production.

For people living with mental health issues, stigma and discrimination lead to exclusion and disadvantage, posing significant barriers in multiple life domains. Research confirms this and demonstrates the vast extent of the problem in the wider population. We also know that many people a can’t access the services and supports they need. people in our communities intrinsically value fellow citizens having a ‘fair go’. All of these issues must and can be challenged through lived experience advocacy.

Lived experience storytelling has shown to be an effective modality for influencing people in becoming more aware, caring and inclusive of people who experience distress, difference and disadvantage. It is also integral to systemic change. Researchers like Patrick Corrigan have found that it decreases stigmatising and discriminatory beliefs and actions.

Stories by lived experienced leaders have demonstrated the power of influence over governments and policy makers in ways that have resulted in substantial and important change; one example being campaigners against institutional child sexual abuse - with support of families, communities and friends - being instrumental in the establishment of the Australian Royal Commission.

However, the story-framing method we often use isn’t necessarily the best for achieving our intended purpose. We might get caught up in sharing stories that feed socially constructed stereotypes - even in our best efforts to represent ourselves as regular people who’ve faced extraordinary challenges. In addition, some environments won’t always be conducive to our stories being well received or our aims met. And there are risks to consider about content that might traumatise ourselves and others.

Participants of this workshop will explore and develop an understanding of ways to minimise such risks. They will learn about research and best practice approaches to lived experience storytelling, and together reflect on and begin to develop stories for social change. Participants will be invited to create the building blocks of lived experience stories for future use. Important considerations will be: ‘what are the issues you want to address?’, ‘what changes do you want to see’, and ‘who will your audience be’?

Learning Objectives
Learning Objective 1: Participants will gain an understanding of different styles of storytelling based on lived experienced, through exploring the merits and risks. They will learn what styles can be most effective in connecting empathically and influencing audience perspectives and actions, while mitigating against the risks.
Learning Objective 2: This workshop is relevant because stories can be powerful in influencing social and systemic change, and people can do this more effectively if better equipped. This workshop will impart a framework for purposefully preparing stories. Participants will learn about key fundamentals of effecting storytelling, and using these develop the basis of a change motivating story.

Bruner, J. (2004). Life as Narrative. Social Research Journal. 71(2) 86-94.
Corrigan, P., Penn, D. (2015). Lessons from Social Psychology on Discrediting Psychiatric Stigma. Stigma and Health. 1(S), 2-17.

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