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VISN 5 MIRECC Matters Fall 2020- VA Mental Health Lived Experience Community of Practice Partnership


MIRECC Matters: A publication of the VISN 5 MIRECC. Putting Recovery into Practice

VA Mental Health Lived Experience Community of Practice & VISN 5 MIRECC Partnership

Joanna Strong Kinnaman, Ph.D. &
Samantha Hack, Ph.D.


VA Mental Health Lived Experience Community of Practice

The VISN 5 MIRECC began partnering with the VA Mental Health Lived Experience Community of Practice (MHLE COP) in an effort to combat stigma of mental health diagnoses and simultaneously amplify the voices of those with lived experience. This partnership developed through Dr. Hack’s participation in the MHLE COP as a mental health professional living with a mental health disorder. The MHLE COP is a group of VA mental health professionals who also have lived experience of mental illness (“prosumers”, i.e. professionals/consumers).

The VISN 5 MIRECC has a long-standing commitment of supporting and enhancing the recovery-oriented care of Veterans with serious mental illness and addressing stigma related to mental health diagnoses is an important component of the recovery care model. Stigma can foster hopelessness and can interfere with recovery through negatively impacting treatment seeking and engagement.1 Moreover, stigma can affect critical life domains such as housing, employment, education and social support.2 Conversely, the recovery model of care recognizes mental health lived experience as a potential asset. For instance, professional support from peers with mental health lived experience is considered an essential element of recovery.2 Despite the advances through the recovery model of care, stigma can persist among mental health professionals that have experienced mental health diagnoses, due to work cultures that support non-disclosure.2

Mental health professionals with lived experience in an environment that fosters sharing could powerfully impact reducing stigma, increase optimism and hope for recovery and ultimately benefit consumers of mental health services.3 Moreover, these individuals could support a more welcoming environment for other professionals with mental health lived experience, such as peer support specialists and trainees.3 Prosumers who disclose their mental health struggles can reinforce the recovery movement and can be models of wellness themselves.4 We are proud to partner with the MHLE COP and we hope that our support of this worthy effort will continue to support VA staff with mental health lived experience and support the VA as a welcoming, stigma-free organization.

The VA MHLE COP focuses on identifying needs from the field, works on ongoing educational and advocacy efforts and offers mutual support. For those interested, the MHLE COP meets regularly (every third Friday at 2:00 ET). The MHLE COP is also available to speak at ground rounds and other trainings and to provide consultation on workplace acceptance and inclusion. For more information please visit the VA Mental Health Lived Experience Community of Practice webpage!


  1. Drapalski, A.D, Aakre, J., Brown, C.H., Romero, E., & Lucksted, A. (2020). The Ending Self-Stigma for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (ESS-P) Program: Results of a Randomized Trial. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 0, 1-12. DOI: 10.1002/jts.22593
  2. Harris, J. I., Leskela, J., & Hoffman-Konn, L. (2016). Provider lived experience and stigma. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 86(6), 604–609.
  3. Boyd, J. E., Zeiss, A., Reddy, S., & Skinner, S. (2016). Accomplishments of 77 VA mental health professionals with a lived experience of mental illness. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 86(6), 610–619.
  4. Vierthaler, J. M., & Elliott, E. C. (2020, July 16). A Shared Lived Experience of a Psychologist Battling a Mental Health Crisis. Psychological Services. Advance online publication.
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