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VA Mental Health Lived Experience Community of Practice


Mental Health Lived Experience Community of Practice Logo. Circle with people holding hands

The VA Mental Health Lived Experience (MHLE) Community of Practice (COP) is a group for VA mental health care staff who also have lived experience of mental illness (“prosumers”, i.e. professionals/consumers). The MHLE COP meets every third Friday of the month from 2:00-3:00pm Eastern to discuss identified needs from the field, work on ongoing educational and advocacy efforts and offer mutual support. All VA psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, nurses, occupational therapists, peer specialists, trainees, medical support assistants, managers, researchers and other staff with MHLE who are working in VA mental health care are welcome to join! You do not need to be “out” as having MHLE and membership is confidential.

To become a member contact:

In keeping with the VISN 5 MIRECC’s mission to support and enhance the recovery and community functioning of Veterans with mental health disorders, we seek to amplify the voices of people with Mental Health Lived Experience (MHLE) and strengthen the role of Veteran and clinician stakeholders in the work of our Center. Therefore, we are proud to partner with the VA Mental Health Lived Experience Community of Practice to support VA staff with MHLE and the VA as a welcoming, stigma-free organization.

How to Request Services:

MHLE Speakers

Book a VHA mental health provider with lived experience to speak at:

  • Grand Rounds
  • Mental Health Summits
  • Trainings on Recovery-Oriented Care or Diversity

We connect VA facilities with mental health professionals who have lived with a mental health challenge. Research shows that mental health providers who have professional role models with lived experience make more recovery oriented, empowering clinical decisions.

Please contact

MHLE Consultants

Consult with a VHA mental health provider with lived experience to:

  • Improve workplace acceptance, diversity, and inclusion
  • Learn best practices
  • Increase your own coping skills

We connect VA facilities and personnel with VHA mental health professionals who have lived with a mental health challenge and dealt positively with workplace issues. Research shows that mental health providers who have been taught to use lived experience in the workforce better identify with Veterans and coworkers who manage mental health challenges, which leads to more effective care for Veterans and a more welcoming and productive workplace.

Please contact

Consensus Statements

VA Mental Health Lived Experience Community of Practice Consensus Statements communicate a broad consensus from the MHLE COP membership.

Language Statement   Consensus Statement


Will Delaney is a Marine Corps Veteran, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Clinical Trauma Professional, and member of the MHLE COP Leadership Team. He recently appeared on America’s Heroes Group, a podcast highlighting open and diverse conversations with veterans and military service members. Starting at minute 26:10 you can listen to Mr. Delaney discuss his journey living with undiagnosed and untreated military trauma and its aftereffects including mental illness, alcoholism, homelessness, and justice-involvement, as well as his work today providing intensive case management services in the Veterans Health Administration supporting newly housed veterans.

Listen to the podcast »

Each year, through the Lived Experience Community of Practice National Service Awards, the MHLE COP recognizes VA employees who make important contributions to the success of staff with mental health lived experience and support VA as a recovery-oriented system of care. This VA Insider blog highlights the 2022 Lived Experience Community of Practice National Service Awardees (Link only accessible to people within the VA system).

Read the post on the VA Insider Blog »

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month
the Charlie Mike VA podcast talked with Dr. Rodney Teague, Local Recovery Coordinator for VA North Texas Health Care System and MHLE COP member. They discussed Mental Health programs for Veterans, how stigma plays a significant role in preventing Veterans from seeking treatment, and how providers also are dealing with mental health stigma inside of their own profession! Come listen and learn about what you can do to be the change!

Watch the podcast episode on YouTube »

The VISN 12 Community Mental Health Summit took place May 23, 2022, addressing Veterans and mental health care providers across Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan.  This year’s Mental Health Summit focused on how the lived experience of mental health recovery is an asset when working with Veterans and can be an important component to combating stigma and creating a safe and welcoming environment. The first speaker, about 8 minutes in, is Martin Merceret, LCSW, MPH, an MHLE member and Mental Health Social Work Supervisor at the VA Illiana Health Care System.

We invite you to view the recorded session on Facebook »

Articles on Mental Health Lived Experience among Mental Health Providers

Consequences of the Self-Stigma of Mental Illness.Boyd, J., López, M., González-Sanguino, C., Harris, J., & Sampson, I. (2022). In D. Vogel & N. Wade (Eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Stigma and Mental Health (Cambridge Handbooks in Psychology, pp. 88-110). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/9781108920995.008

State psychology licensure questions about mental illness and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Boyd, J. E., Graunke, B., Frese, F. J., Jones, J. T. R., Adkins, J. W., & Bassman, R. (2016). American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 86(6), 620–631.

Accomplishments of 77 VA mental health professionals with a lived experience of mental illness.
Boyd, J. E., Zeiss, A., Reddy, S., & Skinner, S. (2016). American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 86(6), 610-619.

Provider lived experience and stigma.
Harris, J. I., Leskela, J., & Hoffman-Konn, L. (2016). American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 86(6), 604–609.

Developing Organizational Interventions to Address Stigma Among Mental Health Providers: A Pilot Study.
Harris, J.I., Leskela, J., Lakhan, S. et al. Community Ment Health J 55, 924–931 (2019).

Medical Licensure Questions About Mental Illness and Compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Jones JTR, North CS, Vogel-Scibilia S, Myers MF, Owen RR. (2018). J Am Acad Psychiatry Law, 46(4):458-471. DOI:10.29158/JAAPL.003789-18

Out of the shadows: supporting social workers with a mental illness.
Kundra, L.B. & Salzer, M.S. (2019). Social Work in Mental Health

A Shared Lived Experience of a Psychologist Battling a Mental Health Crisis.
Vierthaler, J. M., & Elliott, E. C. (2020, July 16). Psychological Services. Advance online publication.

Workplace bullying among mental health providers with lived experience of a mental health challenge
Harris, J.I., Barnes, T., Boyd, J.E., Joseph, K., (2020, Sep 17). Osatuke, K. Psychological Services. doi: 10.1037/ser0000499. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 32940499.


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