Associate Professor Sarah Gordon PhD (Otago), MBHL, LLB, BSc
Sarah’s personal experience of mental illness shaped her university study with the areas of psychology, medical law, bioethics, and psychological medicine being the focus through to PhD level. Combining this theoretical education and personal experience, Sarah has spent the last 20 years working and advocating for an improved mental health sector and societal perceptions of mental health from the perspective of a person who personally experiences mental illness.
Since 2011 Sarah has worked as a service user academic with the Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Otago. Through this role, she has promoted and progressed service user-led and co-produced education and research.
This work has resulted in the establishment of "World of Difference" – a service user academia education and research team, which Sarah currently leads. The education and research programs being led or co-produced by the World of Difference team are focused on ending discrimination, and promoting recovery, inclusion, and respect for the human rights of people who experience mental distress.
From psychiatric patient to Associate Professor (and psychiatric patient)
Sometimes I wonder where to start. Should it be the serious assault I suffered at the age of eleven or should it be when I was officially diagnosed with a serious mental disorder after I was sent for my first ‘vacation’ at the psychiatric facility? Ultimately it doesn’t really matter – what does matter is that I have always had people in my life that have supported me unconditionally, despite the serious impact that my struggles have had on my life, and theirs, at times (and I will talk a little about this). Furthermore, their expectations about who I am and what I am capable of have never changed. Their perspective has always been that given the impact of my illness I'd just need a bit more support to realise my dreams and aspirations (and I will talk a little about this). I never knew that my ultimate aspiration was to be a ‘disruptor’ which is how I describe what I have been doing for the last thirty years (and I will talk a little about this). Essentially, I try and disrupt the status quo – the status quo being the belief that people like me don’t recover and achieve, that a broken system can’t be fixed, and that most people really don’t care that much about any of this….unless it is personal to them (and I will talk mostly about this). I look forward to sharing my personal and professional knowledge and experiences, and most importantly, my hope and vision for the future with you.