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Lived Experience Advisory Board

The Centre’s Lived Experience Advisory Board (LEAB) is a group of people with indirect and/or direct experiences of disabling barriers, neurodivergence, mental distress, mental illness, trauma, caring/supporting people in mental distress, and/or ref(using) mental health services including experiences of iatrogenic harm. Using an intersectional social justice approach, we seek to ground the Centre’s direction and wider conversations about mental health in our lived experiences.

The biographies of our Board Members, Coordinator, and Academic Lead are below.

Bethan Edwards, Member

Dr. Bethan Edwards has long term experience of living with a mental health condition and is passionate about survivor / service user collective activism.  She has been involved in a number of grassroots service user led initiatives, including Stop Sim, Mad Covid, Recovery in the Bin and the CALMED Trial campaign.  Bethan currently works as a researcher at the University of Manchester and her research interests include emergency, urgent and crisis mental healthcare.   She is a member of the CSMH’s Lived Experience Advisory Board (LEAB). You can find Bethan on Twitter @ResearchPixie.

Bwalya Mulenga (she/her), Member

Bwalya is passionate about social justice and empowering marginalised communities to drive changes in policy and practice. She is currently a trustee board member for No Limits (Youth Organisation) and has worked as a Youth Advocate on the "Help Us Move On" project, lobbying to give Hampshire’s young people a voice in local affairs. Bwalya has also worked as a Community Involvement Officer for the NHS where she engaged with and encouraged communities to be involved with the development of health and wellbeing services.

Having completed her undergraduate in Global Health and Social Medicine, Bwalya is currently pursuing a Master's in Medical Anthropology. Her academic projects have primarily focused on the impact of race-based adversity on the mental health outcomes of Black communities in the UK.  

Cassandra (Cassie) Lovelock, Member

Cassie is a Black mixed-race wheelchair user, activist, and policy person. She works and writes across disability, mental health, unpaid care, and race. She is very tired. Find her across the internet @soapsub.

James Lane, Member

James Edwin Lane is a musician and facilitator based in rural County Durham. As a youth and arts worker, Time to Change Champion and mental health first aider, James’ interests lie in youth and LGBTQIA+ empowerment, mental health, combatting social injustice, and working toward a more equitable society.

Janahan Sivanathan (he/him), Member

Janahan Sivanathan is the Sanctuary Project Officer in the King's Sanctuary Programme team. Janahan gained his law degree in 2021, having been motivated to study law after experiencing the UK’s immigration system first-hand as a Tamil refugee. He was named runner-up for the Future Legal Mind Award 2020 for his essay on discrimination against Foreign National Offenders embedded in the UK immigration system. Janahan is a Trustee at Medical Justice and previously worked at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants as the Assistant to the Chief Executive Officer and as a paralegal.

Rachel Hill, Member

Rachel is a former languages teacher with long term experience of living with a mental health condition.  After forced retirement left a huge gap in her life purpose,  she now endeavours to use her experience to inform, encourage, inspire and motivate others. She finds her mental health journey is now presenting meaningful opportunities. "The greatest good I can do is not just share my story but actively work to improve/create services so that other sufferers have an easier time in accessing the help they need to help themselves." She is passionate to create impact and shape future decisions about what is helpful, needed and potentially beneficial not only for those suffering but for those NHS policy makers who decide where funds are spent in the research and treatment of mental illness.

Raza Griffiths, Member

I am a long time mental health service user and campaigner, and my work is informed by my experiences of being medicated without consent, being given various diagnostic labels and being on a 4 year NHS mental health therapeutic community.

My key interests include mental health and the impact of racism and intersectional discrimination including homophobia, helping organisations develop meaningful involvement practice, and the use of personal narrative and storytelling to inform and educate.

I was Lead author of the Kindred Minds BAME/intersectional mental health service user led manifesto for social change, A Call for Social Justice, (NSUN, 2018); led the consultations with service users to develop the Department of Health backed 4PI Involvement Framework for meaningful involvement in mental health (NSUN, 2014); and co- drafted the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Recovery Paper, A Common Purpose (2006) to strengthen service user voice around recovery.

Currently Raza I am a ‘lived experience’ lecturer at the universities of Kent, Essex and Canterbury Christ Church, and am on the Lived Experience Working Group of the Mental Health Policy Research Unit at University College, London

I have had articles published in Big Issue, Gay Times, Asylum Magazine and Mental Health Today.

Rick Burgess, Member

Rick Burgess is a disabled activist based in Greater Manchester, he co-founded the WOW Petition calling for a Cumulative Impact Assessment of welfare reform, he co-founded Manchester Disabled People Against Cuts and is an admin of Recovery In The Bin. He works at the GM Coalition of Disabled People and the Lived Experience Advisory Board at the Economic and Social Research Council Centre For Society And Mental Health at King’s College. He is a contributor to the Deaths by Welfare timeline, he has survived several WCA’s. He is also, time, energy, and focus permitting, an artist. He is developing thinking towards Disability Equity which combines the social model of disability, mental distress, disability justice, and intersectionality.

Sonia Thompson, Member

Sonia Thompson currently works freelance in Organisational Development. She spent most of her career in academia and is also a Co-Director of the Survivor Researcher Network.  The Survivor Researcher Network is a UK based user-controlled network for mental health service users and survivors with an interest in research. She has volunteered in the 3rd sector since her teens and continues to be involved in projects that support mental wellbeing. Her alter ego is an afro-wearing superhero that writes fantasy fiction.

Zazie Lawson (they/them), Member

Zazie is a queer and neurodivergent lover of words, dogs, and Paraclimbing. They have worked as an Independent Mental Health Advocate, conducted research within The Service User Research Enterprise, and are about to finish training as a Clinical Psychologist. They are passionate about trans joy and have co-developed and delivered training on transgender and gender expansive allyship. Zazie wrote their thesis on negative effects from Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, and their research interests include iatrogenic harm from mental health services.

Angela Sweeney, Academic Lead

I am a trauma survivor and survivor researcher. I conducted my first survivor research project as an undergraduate student in 1998. In 2001, I joined the (then Sainsbury) Centre for Mental Health as a researcher on a study of the British survivor movement (On Our Own Terms, 2003). I then joined the Service User Research Enterprise as a researcher, undertaking a part-time PhD in medical sociology. After completing an NIHR Post-Doctoral Fellowship at St George's, I returned to SURE as Director in 2021. My research interests include lived experience approaches to research, gender-based violence, and parenting in the context of trauma.

Madison Wempe

I was LEAB Coordinator and a researcher at the ESRC Centre for Society and Mental Health from Spring 2022 to Winter 2023. Prior to joining King’s, I earned my BSc in Public Health at the George Washington University (GWU) in 2018 and my MSc in Epidemiology from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) in 2021, where I led thesis work which examined the impact of police presence on safety in United States public schools. Informed by this work and my time spent participating in mutual aid efforts in London (Streets Kitchen) and Texas (O.D. Aid, FunkyTown Fridge), my current interests include social epidemiology, participatory research, community building, harm reduction, and emerging, non-biomedical approaches to psychiatric care. Before pursuing my MSc, I spent two years working as a Research Associate at a cancer research non-profit (Friends of Cancer Research) in Washington, DC where I used data to investigate questions around patient access to care. I feel strongly that research should stem from and return to communities in real, tangible ways and I seek to upend traditional notions of what it means to be a “holder of knowledge” in research spaces. I am now having new adventures back in the States but will stay in touch with my friends and colleagues across the LEAB and Centre.

Lived experience

Since its inception, the Centre for Society and Mental Health has been a collaborative research centre aimed at shifting public debate about mental health away from individualised interventions and towards social practices and policies that promote and sustain good mental health in communities. To achieve this aim, much of the Centre’s work is designed and delivered in partnership with those who have lived experience.

Our work