"I felt some prejudice in the back of my head": Nursing students' perspectives on learning about mental health from "Experts by Experience"
WHAT IS KNOWN ON THE SUBJECT?: Consumer participation in mental health services is embedded in mental health policy in many countries. The negative attitudes of nurses and other health professionals to consumer participation poses a significant obstacle to this policy goal Involving mental health "Experts by Experience" in the education of nursing students demonstrates positive attitudinal change WHAT THIS PAPER ADDS TO EXISTING KNOWLEDGE?: More detailed understanding of nursing students' experiences and perspectives about being taught mental health nursing by "Experts by Experience" An international focus, extending understandings about how Experts by Experience might be perceived in a broader range of countries WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE?: Positive attitudes towards people labelled with mental illness are essential for quality nursing practice Nurses have an important leadership role in facilitating consumer participation within health services. It is critical that their attitudes are professional and optimistic. ABSTRACT: Introduction Consumer participation is central to mental health policy. Negative attitudes of health professionals are barriers to realizing policy goals. Evidence suggests consumers (Experts by Experience) can influence positive attitudes in nursing students. Research in this area to date is limited and primarily from Australia and New Zealand. Aim To enhance understanding of nursing students' perspectives and experiences of being taught mental health by an Expert by Experience. Method A qualitative exploratory approach was used. Focus groups were conducted with nursing students from seven universities in Australia and Europe. Data were analysed thematically. Results Student participants described how exposure to Experts by Experience challenged their views and attitudes and provided a mechanism for reflection, critique and change. The main theme "changing mindset" includes two subthemes: exposing stereotypes and reflection. Discussion This unique international study demonstrates the capacity for Experts by Experience to contribute to positive attitudinal change towards mental illness in nursing students. This changed mindset must occur for policy goals to be realized. Implications for practice Nurses in all areas of practice will work with people labelled with mental illness and experiencing mental distress. Overcoming stereotypes and adopting more positive attitudes is essential to deliver quality mental health care.