The World Psychiatric Association has given priority to establishing best practice in engaging with service users and family carers. This work builds on an earlier initiative, when the Association established a task force on best practices in working with service users and family carers. The task force developed a set of ten recommendations for good practice. This became the basis for a worldwide consultation of stakeholders, including the WPA officers and over 200 national and international civil society organizations. Several of the recommendations were included as a new paragraph in the Declaration of Madrid in 2011.
WPA has now formally established the Service User and Family Carer Advisory Group. The purpose of this group is to revive and refresh the conversation with a range of people active in this work. The group will provide advice to the Association on matters related to their interests and priorities. The membership includes four people with lived experience of service use and four people with experience as family carers. Members of the WPA Executive Committee also participate in the group.
The Advisory Group has been meeting every two months since November 2019. As well as advising WPA on the organisation and content of its forthcoming World Congress, one example of work it has undertaken is to participate in and provide advice to the WPA Task Force on Minimising Coercion in Mental Health Care.
Martha Savage is a member of the Advisory Group. She says “As a representative of family carers, I have been very pleased at the welcome extended to me by the WPA. The regular meetings of the group have been fruitful and I feel that we have particularly had an impact on the planning of the WPA Congress in October. For example, many of our proposed sessions are to be included and we were asked to appear on panels at sessions that others proposed. My particular interest has been in minimising coercion and I was pleased at how attentive the Task Force was to my input in the discussion document that is soon to be circulated.”
Almost all the members of the Service Users and Family Carers Advisory Group will participate in the next WPA World Congress of Psychiatry. Their contributions will include presentations and panels, high-impact sessions, and integration of their work in the mainstream flow of the event, rather than being confined to sessions about the needs or interests of service users.
Author: Steve Fisher