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Cohort 8, February 2023 - September 2023 in partnership with NMHCC and MHLEEN in Australia

In partnership with National Mental Health Consumer & Carer Forum (NMHCCF) and Mental Health Lived Experience Engagement Network (MHLEEN) in Australia, the Yale Program for Recovery and Community Health (Yale PRCH) began the eighth cohort of the LET(s)Lead Academy on February 10, 2023, with 15 emerging leaders with lived experience. After eleven weeks of classes about transformational leadership, mental health advocacy, and cultural humility and justice, Fellows are assigned mentors to support them in creating a transformational community project to use their newly developed leadership skills in their local area. The academy will continue to meet monthly for leadership development and project support until graduation in September 2023.


  • My name is Harsh Bansal, and I am a Discipline Lead for the Carer Lived Experience Workforce at Austin Health. When individuals experience trauma or severe life stressors, it is not uncommon for their lives to unravel. This also has an immense impact on their families, friends, colleagues, or any other significant loved ones. My innate passion is to support such families and carers who have been going through stressful experiences, helping them develop positive insights and self-care strategies for themselves. This eventually strengthens their sense of belonging within the community, allowing them to find peace, wholeness, and safety. I understand that there is no single approach that is right for every individual, so I strive to provide mindful listening to each family member and support them in their own ways. In my senior role at Austin Health, I aim to oversee the development of the carer lived experience voice in all Mental Health Division activities, including governance, operations, workforce business development, recruitment quality, and evaluation. My educational background includes certificate courses in suicide prevention, intentional peer support, and single session peer work. Additionally, I am currently pursuing a course in Lived Experience Transformational Leadership from the Yale Program for Recovery and Community Health.

  • Heather Chapman (she/her) has lived experience of being a sibling and daughter of people with mental health distress. Since 2014, Heather has been involved in lived experience work, including collaborating with COPMI and Emerging Minds (Australia). Currently, she is a member of the Emerging Minds Family Forum. Heather is passionate about empowering carers/loved ones to share their experiences and ensuring that everyone has the language to share their story if/ how they want to. Heather hopes to contribute to a shift in mental health care, toward an intersectional relational recovery system.

  • I am blessed to live on the beautiful Gold Coast with my 4 children.I have worked predominantly with children, youth and disabled young people. Which I love. I am currently studying Art Therapy, Psychotherapy and counseling online. I'm enjoying being able to challenge myself with higher education. I am a F/T Carer for my adult son who has challenging and complex mental health and substance abuse issues, culminating in multiple suicide attempts. My work has highlighted for me gaps in the Mental Health arena for Children and Youth. My Lived Experience seeking supports and services for my son has at times been frustrating and humiliating. I look forward to being a part of the solution to help young people access supports and services in their local school district. I also look forward to helping to find ways to restore dignity to those seeking help within our hospital and community health systems.

    I am excited to make connections and share ideas within the LETSLEAD program. I believe this is a life-changing opportunity.

  • Jess has been one of Emerging Minds’ longest standing Child and Family Partners, generously sharing her lived experience and expertise across a wide range of projects in many different ways. Jess grew up in a complex family environment, with a mum experiencing mental illness. Jess is now a youth worker and the single foster parent of one, which has its many challenges, but she knows that it is definitely worth it and she feels lucky that she gets to be part of their life and watch them grow.

  • Kelli has Lived and Living Experiences as someone with Mental Health and Substance Use Challenges as well as caring for loved ones with these challenges from a very young age. She has worked in Lived Experience roles for the last decade including as an Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Peer Worker, Advanced Peer Worker in an Emergency Department and is currently working as a Senior Peer Coordinator in a Rural service.

  • Wendy is committed to promoting the rights of all to have a meaningful and purposeful life, regardless of their circumstances. She has worked for the last 40 years both in government and non-government positions with many vulnerable communities in both rural/remote and metropolitan settings. The people she has worked with include First Nations people, the aged, those experiencing and perpetrating Family Violence, young children, those affected by mental health issues and currently as a mediator for separated families regarding children and property matters. Wendy’s Lived/living experience of being a family member, as a partner and currently as a mother, of mental health and drug and alcohol issues, has reinforced her continued resolve to see all people with mental health issues to be identified as individuals first, who have many needs, and for services to respond as such, in a manner that values others and includes them in the development of any care afforded to them.

  • Leanne is Carer Consultant Project Officer within the Office of the Chief Psychiatrist in South Australia. She spent much of her working life in the corporate world before following her interest and passion for understanding mental health into support roles in inpatient wards, psychiatry training and now a lived experience role. Leanne is a family carer and represents the voices of carers of young people dealing with mental health, and negotiating the intersections of health, disability, education and justice systems on several committees and project groups. She believes in social justice and kindness and life-long learning.

  • Denna is an open-minded, perseverent and adventurous person. She finds comfort and connection in writing and performing Spoken Word. Through this creativity, and also her study of counseling, Social Work and trauma, Denna has been able to express her lived experience learnings and thrive despite any challenges she has faced. Being a part of this program is a dream come true for many versions of herself, especially her inner child!!

  • Sarah has been a Lived Experience Community & Peer Advisor at Open Arms, Veteran and Families Counseling in North Queensland since 2019. Sarah utilises her Lived Experience to support Clients with a person-centred approach on their recovery journey; advocate for change and improve awareness within her Organisation and the Community, to provide improved access and support for Defence Families; improve Community awareness and de-stigmatisation with the facilitation of programs such as Mental Health First Aid. While Sarah’s supports all Clients seeking support from her Organisation, her focus is on working with individuals impacted by the complexities of being in a military family, the transitional nature of Defence service and its effect post service on the partner, children and extended support networks. Sarah herself has experience in seeking assistance and the recovery process for depression, anxiety and isolation due to her Husband’s service. Sarah support her Husband’s journey with rehabilitation from physical injury and recovery from mental health challenges.

  • I support loved ones in my life facing various challenges, including complex trauma, chronic suicidality, and depression, for over 15 years. I walked this journey blindly; until a simple ‘how are YOU?’ from a service provider introduced me to a world of carer support, education, and community. My experiences – as a ‘hidden carer’, and as a first-generation immigrant – informed my focus on empowering carers who are unaware of their identity, and those from CALD communities who face specific and additional challenges not shared by the mainstream. I engage with the carer community through representation, advocacy, and education. I do so through peak bodies, local health organisations, and advocating with my loved ones on systemic issues. Apart from my life as a supporter, I have a 20-year professional life in policy, strategy, research, and training. I’ve practiced in international education, management consulting, and academic research. Away from these I enjoy learning Auslan (to address my own hard-of-hearing), reading (both for curiosity and leisure), and the outdoors.

  • I identify as a person first and foremost, and after 11 years as a Lived Experience Practitioner, I am hopeful but tired. I have held many roles and identities throughout my life that have changed, flowed, grown, and ended. Some of these I have chosen, and some I have not. Some have been acknowledged and supported some have not. I have been and will continue to be part of a family on a journey, a journey which has included a kaleidoscope of experiences including joy, love, grief, connection, disconnection, and loss- loss of life, loss of relationships, loss of power and voice, loss of access to human rights and loss of opportunities. I bring these experiences to my life and work and hope to give others the space to do so. I am someone who, among many other things, asks a lot of questions, sings, loves, cries, seeks adventure, advocates for my circle and a much wider one, gardens, creates for the sake of creating, walks alongside people in my life on both the lighter and the harder days while they walk alongside me, has just the right amount of cats and one doggy, gets frustrated, dances at random times, freezes, has two gorgeous young people who call me mum, walks into furniture that gets in my way, feels strongly, has a cheeky and loyal hubby, plays Xbox quite badly, loves the water and the trees and keeps coming back into the ring to be a part of the healing that is needed for our communities to live life together in a kinder, fairer and more open way, where experiences of distress and the experiences that come with it and lead from it are much less traumatic and dare I say a seen, heard and supported part of life.

  • Alison Penny, is a Family Support Coordinator for the Lived Experience and Community Strategy Section of the Mental Health and Wellbeing Services Division of the Department of Veteran Affairs. Came to this role after spending some amazing time learning about peer work whilst being a Community and Peer Advisor (Family) with Open Arms, an organisation that supports Veteran Families in their mental health journeys. I came to this role through my experience of being a defence spouse for 20 years, and the experiences that my family journeyed through and continue to journey through as a result of military service. Parent of two amazing children who have enabled me to see new world views and learn new ways of thinking. Lived experience of caring for a family member wanting to end their own life. Being a Veteran Family and navigating services and lack of services and waitlists in different states and territories and caring for a Defence member going through mental health distress due to military service. Professional expertise is in advocating for Defence Families to enable them to navigate the systems in which they find themselves in. Community engagement in the Not-for-profit sector to raise the awareness and support of young people living in a family impacted through mental health. Using my lived and living experience to develop authentic relationships through sharing my journey as a mum, wife, carer, passenger and service navigator as a Peer. Using my lived and living experience of the systems to develop lived experience ways of working within a government organisation.

  • Anna lives in Adelaide and delights in being a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, and Christian. Those relationships have all held deep complexity, experience of crisis and distress, caring responsibilities, cultural differences, and competing worldviews, which has and continues to shape how Anna participates in the world and is present with others. As an introspective person and critical thinker, Anna has always been drawn to processes of meaning making and coming alongside others with curiosity to explore what collective or individual belonging, power, value, and confidence looks like, feels like, and sounds like. Anna is passionate about cultivating collective clarity, connection, and confidence in the Lived Experience informed approach as a professional discipline and understanding the nuance of specialist perspectives in delivering a specific point of difference. Anna’s heart is for creating sustainable infrastructure that Consumer and Carer expertise may be embedded and elevated to hold effective place, power, purpose, and collaboration in every sphere of influence.

  • I identify as a mother; my son has experiences that affects him negatively in his mental health. I am a person with lived experience as a family member, at times I am a career. My passion is to find ways to advance the system towards recovery, to advocate against stigma, promoting understanding, communication and education. When my family fell into this experience, I felt ill prepared to support my son. I felt unsupported in my attempts to navigate the system and found it difficult to have my voice heard. I was not part of the decision making, nor was I given choices. When I realized the system was flawed, I educated myself for change. I took part in Curtin’s Lived Experience Educator unit in 2020. I work in the disabilities sector as a team leader for a non-for-profit organization. I believe in using our own power to stay well, but I believe it cannot be done in isolation, the whole community has a role to play, not just to empower and support people in distress, the vulnerable and those in need, but to create the paths and opportunities for them to help themselves. We can do this by creating policies and services that best serve people’s needs and recovery, focusing on solutions, not interests and by incorporating families and supporters in a meaningful and consistent way. It would be interesting to work in projects aligned to my beliefs, targeting my goals of creating equality in our communities, systems that reflect best practices and are accountable. My interest focus on identifying gaps in those systems and creating practical change.

  • I am autistic, ADHD, and I’m a carer and advocate for three family members within the areas of NDIS, Department of Veteran’s Affairs, community mental health services, and educational institutes. I hold a B.Soc.Sc., Children and Family Studies and have experience in early childhood education, child protection, disability, and aged-care. I am passionate about co-design, kindness, inclusion and connection, and establishing shared values. I am committed to seeking systemic change that empowers all people to participate equitably within social, educational, and professional environments. I believe that language and perspective-taking is central to seeking collaborative change and effective lived and learnt experience knowledge partnerships. I design and deliver online education workshops to enable people living and working within disability and mental health to develop shared understanding of diverse perspectives and to co- create strategies for meaningful change.