Chris Hansen has worked in mental health user/survivor politics and peer groups in New Zealand and internationally for the last ten years. Although initially employed in mental health services as manager of a Community Mental Health service, an unexpected promotion to an “out” service user via commitment to a psychiatric ward caused her to see and value the power of peer support. The most valuable contributions to her recovery, she realized, came from those who weren’t paid to be there: her fellow in-patients. This realization, along with the losses associated with a loss of job, friends and self-respect, fueled the anger and passion that drove her to pursue service-user activism at local, regional, national and international levels.
Chris worked as an advisor to New Zealand mental health services, held lead roles in the “Like Minds Like Mine” national anti-discrimination campaign, conducted research for the NZ Mental Health Commission, and worked in an advisory capacity for both the Mental Health Commission and the Ministry of Health in New Zealand. She was a member of the New Zealand delegation to the United Nations, developing the United Nations Convention on the Human Rights of Persons with Disabilities. She also served on the board of the World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry, and assisted in the development of peer-run crisis respites in a number of countries. For most of the past decade, Chris has been promoting, developing, and providing training in [Intentional Peer Support] (http://www.intentionalpeersupport.org/), a peer-developed, peer-implemented practice that challenges the societal attitudes that underlie and perpetuate discrimination based on mental experience.