Consumer & Carer

Consumer & Carer

What is a Consumer?

A consumer is someone that identifies as a person experiencing a mental health condition, regardless if that person has engaged in a hospital or community service or obtains a formal diagnosis. Consumers can utilise their lived experience in many ways to gain recovery knowledge, serving the community through advocacy, sharing your story or various other avenues.

In Australia, the 1970’s was the birth of the very first consumer organisation, called "CAPIC, the Campaign Against Psychiatric Injustice and Coercion” Prior to this movement people who accessed mental health hospital services were often referred to as mental patients, psychiatric patients or patients. More broadly, the term ‘consumer’ has gained momentum and is now used throughout hospital services in Australia, not solely in the mental health sector. It is defined as a person that engages with any hospital service, rather than ‘patient’.

What is a Person with a Lived Experience?

In the wellbeing community we are now starting to accept and use the term ‘person with a lived experience’. This refers to both the consumer and carer. It is an acknowledgement of the importance of utilising a recovery based approach either as the person experiencing a mental health condition or the person that cares for someone with a mental health condition. This has gained a recent trend due to the development of the Peer Workforce.

What is a Peer?

A Peer is a person with a lived experience and uses their lived experience in a work setting. These settings can be clinical, community, advocacy, committees, mentors, researchers, surveyors, artists and more.

What is a Carer?

A carer is a person who provides care for a family member or friend.  A carer may or may not receive a government allowance or carer’s pension for the work that they do.  A carer might also work full or part-time.  Many people who provide care for a loved one do not call themselves “carers”.  They believe that as a wife, husband, daughter, son, sister, brother or friend, they are just doing the right thing.  People in these roles often believe that caring for each other is what families and friends do, and this explains their reluctance to call themselves “carers”. 

When a person’s health needs mean that someone has to provide a lot of support, either physical or emotional, this goes beyond the normal reciprocal caring of a relationship between two people who are well.  If this is you, then you are a carer, and you might need some extra support.  You may be surprised at what is available to help you support your loved one.  Have a look at the “Carer and Family Support” page on this website for more information. Remember, you are not alone.