Although a scientist with training as a peer worker was part of the SALUS research group from the beginning, the SALUS work was initially not planned to be participatory. While individuals with their own experiences of mental crisis or family members were involved as interviewees in many subprojects, such as qualitative interview studies, they were not involved as advisors or coresearchers.
It became increasingly clear during the research that individuals with experiential knowledge are in a very good epistemic position to evaluate how practical and applicable SALUS research is, how much relevance the projects have, and whether there are any pitfalls and errors hidden in the design that the research group had not considered from a scientist's perspective. In addition, there was a curiosity within the research group to experiment with participatory formats themselves in order to test how the boundaries of classical scientific models could be softened and existing power dynamics shifted.
Individuals were found through the network of the team member with training as a peer worker as well as participants from interview studies who had expressed an interest in participating in SALUS, and the peer advisory board was established at the end of 2021.
The advisory board meetings take place quarterly. At each meeting, SALUS researchers present a project or research question. Advisory board members provide objections, assessments and recommendations during the subsequent discussion. A statement is issued following the meeting to transparently communicate how the advisory board's feedback is incorporated into the project.
A progress report on their collaborative work was published by the SALUS researchers and advisory board members in an article for the journal "Sozialpsychiatrische Informationen," Volume 53, 1/2023. In it, we report on our initial experiences as well as the opportunities and challenges of our collaboration.
Link to article: