Who is a consumer/survivor? Guidelines
Many experiences shape one's self-identification as a person with a psychiatric disability. Those who self-identify have some of these experiences and some of these values. Matching candidates against these summary suggestions may help decide if they meet the criteria for serving as a consumer/survivor on local boards, committees, commissions, planning groups and as consultants. In order to enhance their service by gathering input and disseminating results, those who are in designated slots also are an active part of a consumer constituency.
The Planning Group which created a model selection process for the CMHS National Advisory Council C/S Subcommittee made these suggestions about the diverse current or former experiences that define a consumer/survivor that could be represented on the subcommittee:
inpatient or outpatient commitment; seclusion; restraints; ECT; peer-support services (as a recipient or provider); child and adolescent mental health services; dual MH/MR, MH/DD, MH/SA experience; public mental health services; homelessness; private mental health services; SSI, SSDI, or VA disability benefits; physical or sexual abuse; onset after the age of 55; other trauma; physical disability; VA services; incarceration by the criminal justice system; dual role as both a consumer/survivor and a family member of a consumer/survivor (e.g., a c/s who is a parent of a child with ADHD, a c/s who is the adult child of a parent with dementia, etc.); dual role as both a consumer/survivor and a provider of consumer/survivor services; living, working, or receiving services in a rural area
Consumer/survivor values are put into action in consumer-run service programs. The Consumer-Operated
Service Program Multi-site Research Initiative, funded by Substance Abuse and Mental
Services Administration through the Center for Mental Health Services, found common
ingredients among the programs being studied that embody consumer/survivor values.
Paolo del Vecchio, the first CMHS Consumer Affairs Specialist, described the base of shared consumer/survivor values that remains constant: self-determination and empowerment, independence, egalitarianism, voluntariness, confidentiality, responsibility, choice, respect and dignity, peer support, hope and recovery, social action (del Vecchio, P. (1993). The world-wide movement of mental health service users, United Nations Conference on Mental Health, May 13, 1993, New York.)
The consumer/survivor movement is a human rights, self-help and advocacy movement that embraces these ideas.