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dialogue – The Lived Experience Workforce Conference

The Lived Experience Workforce Conference called dialogue held in Brisbane during May 2019, showed that Tasmania’s Peer workforce is underdeveloped compared to other Australian States.  Several hundred peers attended the conference whereas in Tasmania I am aware of a handful of individuals employed specifically as peers.

The Mental Health Commissioner, Ivan Frkovic opened the Conference stating that peer workers are an integral part of effective reform and key partners in system change. He quoted Louise Byrnes’ 2016 research which revealed how the attitudes of executives is a defining reason why people with lived experience are employed, or not employed by organisations. The Commissioner spoke about the need to educate people at all levels of industry to bring about real sector change acknowledging how the peer workforce is challenging the mental health sector fabric, requiring we work together as agents of change.

I sat next to a woman at the conference, with scars up and down her forearms who has been employed as a peer-worker for sixteen years.  She told me how her experience of self-harm had on many occasions ‘saved her life’. Our conversation changed my understanding of self-harming, as I hadn’t considered there to be positives before; demonstrating to me how effective her lived-experience contribution to the mental health sector is, as well as the potential of a peer workforce generally.

The first Keynote speaker was Gareth Edwards who is a writer, entertainer & healer originally from the UK.  Gareth challenges the belief that medication and communication are the only approaches to mental health recovery incorporating other therapeutics such as laughing yoga and music in his work. He criticised the mental health system for coercing us all to be the same, when we are not. Gareth led the group in a series of musical activities including a Round of Row Row Row Your Boat to demonstrate how three separate streams of voices, symbolic of our divergent lives, can harmonise.

A short workshop about boundaries was facilitated by Dietician & Lived Experience practitioner, Megan Bray . The peer I worked with said that if she recognises she is talking about herself too much then she finds her boundary and returns her focus to her peer. She also intentionally breaks boundaries set by QLD Health.  She explained that people have their own natural timing such as in making decisions which she always respects regardless of what her manager expects.

Megan Bray quoted author Breane Browne saying that boundaries are not only prohibitive and restrictive but helpful and generous too. Megan invited us to role model good boundaries and suggests not being under involved or over involved to keep us safe.  She invited us to consider how often are we reachable explaining that poor boundaries bring burn out and compassion fatigue. Megan said that compassion fatigue is seen by some as the gift of resentment which demonstrates that a boundary has been crossed.

I listened to a speaker from Brisbane called James Hill who is employed as a Mental Health Advocate for Qld Energy. James meets monthly with the General Manager of QLD Energy and bi-monthly with the CEO to discuss the ‘real story’ of how the workers are coping.  James’ initiatives which include a program called Mates in Energy  stemmed from his own journey with depression.  Like a lot of tradies James didn’t feel comfortable discussing depression with his boss citing kidney problems as the reason for his sick leave. It was when James’ GP asked for a ‘return to work plan’ that he learned that no such plan existed and his ‘return to work’ journey became a pilot plan for all tradies at QLD Energy.

Keynote Speaker Robyn Priest pressed the importance of being your unique self, advocating for non-compliance and reminding us that we don’t get to judge what is real for other people. She also reminded us that recovery is not about the nail.  By this comment she was explaining that like in first aid training, if we are dealing with a penetrative injury, removing the nail may make the injury worse. She reminded us that supporting another individual may conflict with the system and that as peers we need to avoid role creep whereby, we act like social workers etc rather than peers.  Robyn talked about what it is to be a peer with comments like reminding the person that their health and wellness is unique to them and cautioning us against expressing disapproval of the person or the choices they make as key attributes of a peer.  She used the example of writing case notes and suggested that this is best done with a person rather than for a person. Composing case notes together also removes the possibility of not representing your peer accurately.

Robyn’s vision is that every person comes to realise their true awesomeness and live their own truth. Her choice to dress in what I describe as 1950’s men’s business attire came to her in the wake of a depressive cycle, where she realised, she needed to express her unique truth and not mimic the presentation society expected of her. In this liberating choice she found herself healed from depression.

A QLD organisation called Brook RED  hosted the conference and their General Manager, Eschleigh Balzamo closed the conference with an incredibly candid and heartfelt address. Eschleigh spoke about the challenges Brook RED faced when she first came to the organisation.  The first eighteen months were difficult with legal battles and a seventy five percent change in staff.  After that tough time Brook RED entered what Eschleigh calls the good years.  The transition to the NDIS has brought new challenges and Eschleigh says that Brook RED are now shamefully compliant and that they are truly concerned about how they have become a part of the mental health service.  Eschleigh conveyed the dilemma of relying on the NDIS contributions of their clients to pay their wages and keep Brook RED as an organisation afloat and the ethical implications of that interdependence. Eschleigh said that Brook RED are also concerned about their contribution to restrictive practice and find themselves perpetuating systems rather than developing recovery and change.  On behalf of Brook RED, she wants peers to remain outside of the system ‘rattling the cage’ because peers were not meant to become a workforce but be a social movement.

Eschleigh’s candid address left me feeling conflicted about my passion to develop a peer workforce in Tasmania and the need to remain outside of the system rattling the cage.  I guess we will all find our way forward trusting in the hope that the Mental Health System is also changing from within and that the best is happening.

Susan Lipscombe – Consumer Representative

Thank you to The National Mental Health Commission for my scholarship and to Brook RED for the facilitation of that.

Towards Eliminating Restrictive Practices (TERP) Forum

The 12th national Towards Eliminating Restrictive Practices (TERP) forum will be held in Hobart on the 7th and 8th of November, 2018.

The forum provides an opportunity for clinicians, policy makers, researchers and people with lived experience of mental illness from across Australia to share innovative ideas and be informed about evidence based policy and service delivery directions.

The program will include a variety of keynote speakers organised around the theme How far can we go?

For further information, please visit the TERP12 website at www.terp12.com

Wellways Peer Education

Wellways have two wonderful peer education programs available – one for consumers, and one for family, friends and carers.

The My Recovery program is aimed at mental health consumers and provides up-to-date information about mental health and recovery, and supports participants in developing new ways to improve social and emotional wellbeing. Facilitators all have a lived experience of mental health issues, and are trained and accredited to deliver the program.

The Building a Future program is aimed at family, friends and carers and assists them in maintaining their own wellness and supporting the recovery of their loved one.

Both of these programs come in two versions: a full program of several sessions over several weeks, and a snapshot program over a couple of days. For more information about these programs, you can download a copy of the corresponding brochure for each, or read more about them online at the following links:

Wellways – My Recovery

Wellways – Building a Future

Documentary Screening: Ka-Ching! Pokie Nation

Hobart City Mission will be hosting a public screening of the documentary “Ka-Ching! Pokie Nation” tomorrow, October 10th.

They’ve been called “electronic morphine” and “the crack cocaine of gambling”. Ever wondered what makes Pokies so addictive? The powerful documentary “Ka-Ching! Pokie Nation” takes you inside the machine to find out. In this groundbreaking exposé, industry insiders break the silence around this highly secretive industry to explain how Pokies are rigged to keep you hooked.

The documentary screening will be followed by a Q&A with Tim Costello (World Vision Chief Advocate) John Stubley (Hobart City Mission CEO) & Meg Webb (Manager Social Action & Research Centre, Anglicare Tasmania).

Where: Don Bosco Creative Arts Centre, GYC Glenorchy, Mill Lane
When: Tuesday 10th October @ 5.45pm for a 6.30pm start

Refreshments will be available for purchase. Gold coin entry. Spots are limited. Book your seat online here: www.trybooking.com/319434

View the trailer for the documentary here: http://ow.ly/YG1JL
Sign the Community Voice on Pokies Reform letter to the Premier here: https://sarc.good.do/getthepokiesoutoftasmaniaspubsandclubs/letter/

Important changes to the Flourish Constitution

Greetings from the Flourish Board. At a Special General Meeting on 19 September, the Constitution changes were adopted. The new Constitution is can be viewed at http://flourishtas.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/flourish_constitution_aug17.pdf

As a result, we must now do the following:

1. Invite consumers to become registered members of Flourish

  • This will establish a formal register which will be kept in confidential status. This will also become a data base of valuable and important information which (without names) can inform stakeholders.
  • Registered members will be entitled to vote at Annual and Special General Meetings.
  • Individuals applying for membership to the Association must do so in writing on the prescribed form and sign. An application form is attached.

The following extracts from the new Constitution are important.

  • All Applications must be considered by the CEO and endorsed by the Board and recorded in the minutes of the meeting
  • Applications can only be considered up to one month before an Annual General Meeting. Applications for new membership received during the one month prior to an Annual General Meeting shall be processed after the Annual General Meeting.
  • Applications for membership will not be considered from the floor during a general meeting.
  • The Board retains the discretionary right to not accept or endorse any application for new membership.
  • All individuals applying for membership will receive written advice on the outcome of their application.

This means that individuals wishing to become registered members with entitlement to vote at the AGM (22 November) MUST have their application forms to the CEO by 20 October.

2. Establish the procedures we will follow for members of the FLAGs to nominate and/or accept nomination for election to the Board.

  • Each FLAG can elect a Board member
  • Nomination procedures will be sent to you very soon

Harry Wilsdon,
Chair

2017 Official Mental Health Week Launch

National Mental Health Consumer and Carer Forum – What you may not know about Antipsychotics

The National Mental Health Consumer and Carer Forum (NMHCCF), together with researchers from Curtin University have today launched a Critical Literature Review and accompanying booklet for consumers, families and carers on the direct, adverse effects of neuroleptics (antipsychotics).

“We are concerned that many consumers, carers and family members are unaware of the direct adverse effects associated with neuroleptics and the inconclusive nature of the evidence underpinning their use” NMHCCF Consumer Co-Chair Lyn English said.

The review focuses on the history of neuroleptic drugs, the efficacy and long term use of these drugs. It also provides important information about commonly used neuroleptics and prescribing issues, the direct adverse effects, views on tapering and withdrawal as well as safe, alternative responses to consider.

The review states that neuroleptics can have a role in personal recovery but as recovery is a unique, individual process, the role of psychiatric drugs will be different for each person.

“This review has highlighted the direct, adverse effects of psychiatric drugs which, in many circumstances, can be detrimental not only to physical health but also to mental health, therefore impeding recovery” points out Deb Sobott, project lead and NMHCCF member.

The NMHCCF encourages mental health consumers, families, carers and clinicians to read this Critical Literature Review in order to form a balanced viewpoint on the most effective and least harmful avenue to recovery. The accompanying booklet for consumers and carers, ‘What you may not know about antipsychotics’ is a useful guide for people taking antipsychotic drugs and their supporters.

Both documents can be located on the NMHCCF website: www.nmhccf.org.au
For more information please contact Kathryn Sequoia, Executive Officer on 02 6285 3100

Flourish Online Auction – February 2018

In February 2018, Flourish will be holding an online auction to raise funds that will go towards training and running projects for mental health consumers.

We are currently seeking donations of items to auction from individuals and organisations – please consider contributing to the cause!

Consumer and Carer Engagement Project: Engage and Participate in Mental Health

The National Mental Health Commission is undertaking consultation to better understand and develop a national view of consumer and carer engagement and participation in relation to mental health and hear examples of initiatives that reflect leading and contemporary practice.

Lynette Pearce is the Tasmanian representative on the Steering Group and has provided input on participation and engagement policies and strategies that are occurring at the jurisdictional level.

The Commission has asked that information about the consultation be provided to stakeholders across Tasmania. For more information, you can visit this link: https://consultation.mentalhealthcommission.gov.au/policy-projects/engage-and-participate/

The Commission’s consultation will close on 31 August.

Mollie Campbell-Smith Forum: Bodies on the Brink

Richmond Fellowship Tasmania in conjunction with the University of Tasmania are facilitating the upcoming Mollie Campbell-Smith Forums. This year’s guest speaker is Dr. Zali Yager and the topic is Bodies on the Brink: In a world that asks us to constantly compare, criticise, and change our bodies, how do we encourage children to feel good about themselves?

The forums will be held in Launceston and Hobart on the 30th and 31st of August. For further information, please follow the links below:

Bodies on the Brink – Launceston
Bodies on the Brink – Hobart