A research project investigating the lived experience of severe mental health problems and supported decision-making (SDM) from multiple perspectives.

  • Project dates: 2014
  • Grants and funding: Australian Research Council Linkage Project

The Mental Health and Supported Decision Making (SDM) project addresses therapeutic management, the broader social and cultural significance of psychiatric diagnosis (including bipolar disorder, psychosis, schizophrenia and major depression), and the implications for mental health services of the 2014 Victorian Mental Health Act and its emphasis on supported decision-making and a recovery framework.

This innovative and interdisciplinary project has three main components

(1) narrative interviews with people with psychiatric diagnoses, family carers, psychiatrists, and other mental health / allied health practitioners about their experiences and perspectives of living with or caring for someone with a psychiatric diagnosis, with a particular focus on support in relation to making decisions about care and treatment;

(2) an international comparative analysis of supported decision-making laws, policies and programs; and

(3) the development of new and innovative therapeutic practice, with clear mechanisms to support people in clinical and other settings to actively participate in decision-making about their treatments.

A key output of the project was the production of two online resources based on research participants’ stories of living with severe mental health problems and family carers’ experiences.


Component 1

  • To better understand the phenomenology and hermeneutics of living with a psychiatric diagnosis;
  • To systematically document the experiences of family carers of people with a psychiatric diagnosis, so as to identify how they could be better supported in providing care;
  • To systematically document the experiences of psychiatrists and other mental health practitioners in their therapeutic alliances with people living with a psychiatric diagnosis when determining treatments and other supports and services;

Component 2

  • To conduct an international comparative analysis of supported decision-making laws, policies and programs;

Component 3

  • To explore how the results of these overlapping areas of research might be used to inform therapeutic support in the context of psychiatric diagnosis;
  • Through analysis and synthesis of all datasets, to develop options for supported decision-making for implementation through clinical and other relevant services so as to provide better support for service users; and
  • To enhance opportunities for self-determination and social participation for people using the mental health care system.

Key People

Lead researcher

Professor Renata Kokanovic

Professor Renata Kokanovic

Professor of Sociology of Health and Illness, Vice Chancellor's Senior Research Fellow

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External Investigators

Research Team

Advisory Panel

  • Professor Alex Broom
  • Denise Damouni
  • Indigo Daya
  • Liz Dearn
  • Dr Simon Jones
  • Dr Kon Kon
  • Ben Kong
  • Ms Helen Lococo
  • Associate Professor Catherine Mills
  • Bee Mitchell-Dawson
  • Emma Montgomery
  • Dave Peters
  • Dr Kate Richards
  • Fiona Rippin
  • Cath Roper
  • Keir Saltmarsh
  • Julie Skilbeck
  • Associate Professor Ruth Vine
  • International Members
  • Professor Lisa Blackman
  • Professor Damien Ridge

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