Sharon Lawn is Director of a research unit in the Department of Psychiatry at Flinders University. She is highly active in mental health movement in Australia and brings multi-disciplinary skills and experience from being a health clinician for more than 23 years. Her research uses a broad range of qualitative and mixed methods, and focuses on examining the culture of service provision, systems of care, implementation, and service users experiences of care.
What inspired your interest in the field of psychiatry?
Since early childhood, I guess I’ve always been an ‘observer’ of the human condition and so it seemed like a natural path to pursue; to understand that the emotional world of the individual is central to how they live in the world.
My career path has taken a number of directions but the constant themes have always been the person’s experience of their world, equity, social justice and advocacy for the wellbeing of people.
How did you get into editing?
I’ve always been a prolific reviewer. I come from a family of ‘helpers’ and civic minded people. I love reading about what people are doing in their research.
Since your career began, what do you think has been the most important development in the psychiatry field?
Without a doubt, the consumer/service user movement has been the most significant development in this field.
Without a doubt, the consumer/service user movement has been the most significant development in this field. There are many problems in mental health systems of care and there is much work to be done to address these problems.
It is fundamentally about how we treat each other. The mental health field is interesting because you are likely to see the sharp end of issues that pervade healthcare, generally. You see it with a stark focused lens. The consumer/service user voice has been a powerful and much needed one.
In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge still to be addressed?
Ensuring compassionate care and addressing the coercion, paternalism and stigma that can occur within systems of care. That shouldn’t take us too long to address now should it?!
How could this be achieved?
Clearly, open access means that everyone, regardless of who they are, can read the research. It no longer remains the domain of those with institutional access, money or status.
This means that the dialogue and debate that follows includes all stakeholders. In particular, it is important that the policy makers and everyday people who are delivering and receiving services have access to the most current research.