This learning resource has been developed in partnership with

Three Rivers University Department of Rural Health (UDRH) is part of Charles Sturt University. It leads the consortium partnership with The University of Notre Dame, University of New South Wales and Western Sydney University. Three Rivers UDRH aims to improve the recruitment and retention of nursing, midwifery, allied health and dentistry professionals in rural and remote Australia; and is supported by funding from the Australian Government under the Rural Health Multidisciplinary Training Program. We respectfully acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of the country on which we work and learn together. We commit to building relationships and sharing culture with Aboriginal peoples.

Learning Resource

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In this online learning resource, Listening to Voices Theatre members use performing arts and film to share their stories in relation to mental health and the mental health system.  The stories emphasise the expertise of lived experience and support person centred practice.  It is hoped that through engagement with this resource students’ understandings of the lived experience of mental health issues will be enhanced and development of a future health workforce that uses evidence-based practice and lived experience to guide interactions will be achieved.

Teaching and Learning:

1. Trauma

Students to develop an understanding of the relationship of trauma, including childhood trauma, to health outcomes.

2. The System

Students to reflect on the current mental health service system from those who have a lived experience of it and consider the role of the professional.

3. Stigma and Language

Students will gain an insight into the impact of stigma and relevance of language, and will critically reflect on the use and influence of language.

4. Hope and Transformation

Students will develop an attitude of hopefulness and be open to exploring diverse approaches to healing emotional distress.

Education Facilitators' Guide

This learning resource has been co-produced to enable educators and student groups to hear the insights of the performers.  It is anticipated that engagement with the material will help people develop their understanding of the lived experience of mental health issues and build their capacity to explore perspectives of the personal experience and the system.

Meet our experts by experience:


In this film, we meet Kelly, who shares her experiences of early childhood trauma and the impacts of this trauma on her emotional and psychological wellbeing. Kelly details her experiences of voice hearing and coping with alternative realities. Throughout the story, we learn about the difficulty Kelly encountered when trying to find someone to listen, to help, and to support her recovery. We hear Kelly’s recollections of inpatient mental health treatment, and the lack of therapeutic options available in a system where there is an over-reliance on prescribing medications and assigning labels. Kelly’s recollections incorporate many lessons about the importance of trauma-informed care and the criticality of hope. Kelly shares what has helped her on her journey and challenges the long-held misconceptions about what it is like to hear voices.


In this film, we are introduced to Jain, who describes the challenge of finding hope and feeling hopeful in a system full of labels and stigma. Jain highlights what helped the most, and the people that she encountered along the way who made the biggest difference - those who genuinely heard what she was saying, focussed on empowerment, and refused to give up on her - even when Jain was tempted to give up on herself. We hear about the nursing staff, the GP, and the psychologist who were a key part of Jain’s recovery team. Jain recalls her discovery of performing arts and the realisation that recovery often happens outside the square.


Ben’s story starts with the all too common experience of school bullying and peer violence. Ben’s reflections also incorporate the impact of grief on his wellbeing after the passing of his Grandmother - and the heartbreak of losing his closest of human connections. During university, Ben had his first experience hearing voices and recollects his early encounters with the formal mental health system. Ben was diagnosed with schizophrenia - a label that was immediately associated with chronicity, disability, and an absolute absence of hope. Ben’s reflections indicate that the traditional approach to managing ‘auditory hallucinations’ were contributing to increased levels of distress and fear. We learn about Ben’s discovery of new approaches to living with voices, the importance of developing self-acceptance, and the strength that is delivered through hope.


Family violence, addiction, school bullying and childhood trauma were prominent features of Sarah’s childhood - self-doubt, blame, and shame followed soon after. Sarah recalls her experiences of dissociation and voice hearing which started during childhood and continued through adulthood. Sarah reflects on the therapeutic approaches she has trialled over the years and reinforces that, whilst evidence-based, not all therapies work for everyone all the time - calling for a self-directed and personalised approach to recovery and a willingness to explore options. Sarah provides insights into the damage of labels and the stereotypes that are often attached to them.