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Academic Consumer Researchers: a Bridge Between Consumers and Researchers
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Objective: To describe the contributions that consumers, and academic consumer researchers in particular, can make to mental health research.

Method: A literature survey and a systematic consideration of the potential advantages of consumer and academic consumer researcher involvement in health research.

Results: Consumer researchers may contribute to better health outcomes, but there are significant barriers to their participation in the research process. To date, discussion has focused on the role of nonacademic consumers in the health research process. There has been little recognition of the particular contributions that consumers with formal academic qualifications and research experience can offer. Academic consumer researchers (ACRs) offer many of the advantages associated with lay consumer participation, as well as some unique advantages. These advantages include acceptance by other researchers as equal partners in the research process; skills in research; access to research funding; training in disseminating research findings within the scientific community; potential to influence research funding and research policy; capacity to influence the research culture; and potential to facilitate the involvement of lay consumers in the research process. In recognition of the value of a critical mass of ACRs in mental health, a new ACR unit (the Depression and Anxiety Consumer Research Unit [CRU]) has been established at the Centre for Mental Health Research at the Australian National University.

Conclusions: Academic consumer researchers have the potential to increase the relevance of mental health research to consumers, to bridge the gap between the academic and consumer communities and to contribute to the process of destigmatizing mental disorders. (Authors)
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A program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services