Introducing Senior Consumer Consultant Wanda BennettsSenior Consumer Consultant Wanda Bennetts
IMHA has now welcomed on board experienced consumer consultant Wanda Bennetts. Wanda will be developing channels through which mental health consumers can shape IMHA’s directions so that the service is responsive to their needs.
Wanda is no stranger to IMHA. In her previous role as the consumer portfolio holder with the Department of Health and Human Services, she was actively involved in our recruitment, selection and induction processes as well as our reference group.
Wanda initially worked as a primary teacher, but has worked in consumer perspective roles since 2000. Her passion for the importance of consumer participation in services set up to support them has been driven by her personal experiences using mental health services.
As she puts it when asked why active involvement from consumers is a must: ’If you were building a house, but never bothered to find out what the person living there would like, and just made assumptions on what they need and prefer, then chances are the house may not be a very good fit.
‘Consumers bring a richer perspective to service operation. After all, if you just get one voice commenting on something, that may be good, but as soon as you have two, it’s even better; and the more people you have bouncing ideas around, the richer the conversation,’ says Wanda.
‘Clinicians who have worked with consumers often say that once they’ve seen at first hand the potential and the benefits, they would never go back to old ways of working.'
‘It may take a bit longer, and require a bit more energy to create the time and space for it, but the rewards can be tremendous.’
Wanda has set up six consumer advisory groups during the 15 years she has worked in major mental health services throughout Victoria. Some notable outcomes include that consumers now co-facilitate inpatient groups run at the Northern Hospital.
‘There are eight such groups running each week, exploring topics such as what happens after discharge,’ Wanda says.
Another achievement was the development of a resource for consumers, by consumers, on electro-convulsive therapy. While not taking a stance that is either for or against this treatment, the dialogue tool encouraged informed decision making and advance planning, and was based on questions that consumers themselves had identified as important
Wanda is very excited about establishing similar opportunities for IMHA to work alongside consumers. ‘Doing this right in these early days of IMHA’s development means we can build consumer participation in ways that are not just token consultations or getting things ticked off at the end,' she says. 'Instead we can create a consumer perspective that is robust, meaningful and innovative.’
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Reviewed 22 July 2021