Sharon Lawn

Professor Sharon Lawn is a lived experience researcher at Flinders University, South Australian and Chair and Executive Director of Lived Experience Australia. She was previously Director of the University’s Psychiatry research Unit for 5 years. Sharon worked in mental health, aged care and disability services for 23 years.

Sharon has led many research projects involving implementation of health system change. Her research has included a focus on self-management, physical health and mental health, veterans and first responders, peer work, services user and family perspectives, and addictions. Sharon has more than 230 publications and has been awarded many grants.



For this presentation, I will reflect on what I have learned over two decades of living both the ‘private and public’ of physical health and mental health as a family and also being heavily involved in advocacy and research on this issue. Through sharing our family’s experience of living physical health and mental health, and hearing the experiences of others, I will aim to show how it is inextricability ‘a family affair’ with shared ‘living’ impacts and consequences, that must also include the family of people with mental health and physical health issues. That is, families who support their kin with mental health issues are more than mere holders of information and task providers supporting professional expertise; or as I term them – ‘the invisible magic fairy navigators’. They impact and are impacted by living the experience with the person. Also discussed will be the longitudinal path, physical identities and histories within the often-overlooked private world of the family and its individual members that are rarely considered within clinical assessment and interventions, once mental health and physical health comorbidities develop. I will argue that physical health and mental health were always together. I will also argue that herein lies significant opportunity for understanding, engaging individuals and families, and addressing physical health and mental health challenges more sustainably within the lived world of the person. The implications going forward will be considered.