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The OPUS Panel — Sharing lived experiences of mental illness

A group of young people and their relatives (the OPUS Panel) aims to reduce societal prejudices and stigmatization and increase hope for current patients by sharing their personal stories of psychosis and schizophrenia. A study to investigate the contribution made by the OPUS Panel to anti-stigmatization, recovery and as a supplement to Specialized Early Interventions treatment for psychosis was presented as a poster at IEPA 11 by a Danish research team.

An initiative to combat stigma

The OPUS Panel was founded in 2009 by a group of young people who had been in treatment in a Specialized Early Interventions (SEI) team in Denmark who wished to combat stigma associated with psychosis and schizophrenia.

A strong and viable innovation that has grown out of practice

The OPUS Panel’s 70 members, which includes 5 relatives, attend 8 annual meetings where they receive performance training. Twenty members of the panel are active in turn.

By sharing and disseminating their personal life histories and experiences of living with “an invisible disease” at a variety of events the panel participants aim to:

  • broaden knowledge about schizophrenia
  • reduce stigmatization encountered by both patients and therapists
  • increase hope for current patients treated in the SEI
  • have a positive impact on the treatment culture

The channels and events through which these lived experiences are shared include psychoeducation for current patients and relatives, introductory courses for new mental health employees and the mass media.

The OPUS Panel has proved to be a strong and viable innovation that has grown out of practice, and it plays an important role in supporting recovery, hope and empowerment, and reducing stigmatization of mental illness in the public sector.

Does the OPUS Panel initiative decrease stigma and improve outcomes?

Is the OPUS Panel impacting societal prejudices and improving understanding of life with mental illness?

Professor Tina Iversen and her colleagues from Copenhagen University Hospital, Denmark, presented a poster at IPEA 11 outlining their study to investigate the impact of the OPUS Panel. The team is exploring and describing the OPUS Panel as a bottom-up concept and investigating its contribution to the anti-stigmatization of and recovery from psychosis as a supplement to SEI treatment.

To decrease the risk of systematic biases and limitations of a specific method and to enable a broader understanding of the questions investigated, the team is collecting data using more than one method (i.e. triangulating the data).

Panel participants are being invited to participate as active agents in the research and to take part in a focus group to identify relevant themes and questions to meet the aim of the study. These themes and questions will be included in an interview guide and explored through in-depth semi-structured interviews using a qualitative design with a phenomenological frame.

Data will be originated from 20 in-depth, semi-structured interviews and field observation of panel meetings for 20 participants who have different associations with the panel.

The data will be transcribed verbatim, coded, and analyzed using interpretative phenomenological analysis. This hermeneutic-phenomenological based methodology enables themes to emerge, reduces preconception, and helps maintain an analytical distance.

Professor Iversen and her team aim to present the empirical data and analysis at the next IEPA conference in 2020.

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