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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.

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.

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.  

Madison Wempe, Coordinator

I joined King’s College in 2022 as the Centre for Society and Mental Health (CSMH) Lived Experience Advisory Board (LEAB) Coordinator and Research Assistant supporting the development of an open access research methods toolkit.

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.

Angela Sweeney, Academic Lead

Dr. Angela Sweeney identifies as a trauma survivor and survivor researcher. She conducted her first survivor research project as an undergraduate student in 1998. In 2001 she joined the (then Sainsbury) Centre for Mental Health as a researcher on a study of the British Survivor Movement (On Our Own Terms, 2003) before moving to the Service User Research Enterprise where she gained a PhD in medical sociology. After working at the Social Care Institute for Excellence and UCL, and completing an NIHR Post-Doctoral Fellowship at St George's, Angela returned to SURE as Director in 2021.

Dr Sweeney is co-editor of Searching for a Rose Garden: challenging psychiatry, fostering Mad Studies (2016), and lead editor of This is Survivor Research (2009). She is currently undertaking an NIHR Development and Skills Fellowship.

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