This month Wellways participant Fiona Browning investigates what “Hope” means to mental health well-being as part of the “CHIME” model. 

“Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi… you’re my only HOPE.” 

For those of you not acquainted with the original Star Wars movie I apologise, but when I hear the word “hope” I am often drawn back to this plea to the powerful character played by Alec Guinness.

Out of all of the parts of CHIME Model: Connectedness, Hope, Identity, Meaning and Empowerment, Hope is probably the one that has been the most important to me. At the blackest, darkest and all-consuming times in my Wellness Journey, hope or lack of it, has been the difference between surviving or succumbing to my illness. I use the word illness because that was how I understood what was happening to me. As with all these parts, hope means different things to everybody, but I also found that hope also looked different at various times throughout my journey.

In the early stages, hope meant just getting to the end of the day; it meant fewer flashbacks and not needing all the PRN (prescribed, as needed) medications. It meant being able to hold my new baby daughter and actually feel something other than panic and being able to see my husband and son on the weekend and then, finally, getting out of hospital.

A few years later, hope disappeared entirely and it was the words of a police officer which got me through to the next moment. He said, “you don’t have to do this, we can find other ways to help you,” which gave me permission not to listen to the thoughts and a sliver of hope that just possibly something else could be done to help. With time, support and guidance, hope became more recognisable and more attainable. It also evolved past immediate moments and became part of longer-term goals: getting the washing done or making it to the school fete. Further on it meant getting back to work, then going back to uni. Not just being a part of my world again but directing it.

Now, and I admit it has been a hell of a long journey, I extend hope to others. I can say to my friends who are in the shittier stages of the journey that hope does exist and if they can’t carry it at this point in time, then I will carry it for them. I know for a certainty that life can and does get better despite and in spite of mental health issues. I share the hope of my peers and colleagues that the work we do together is bringing about change to the mental health sphere.

I have hope that one day we will reduce the cost and stigma associated with mental health issues, that those who do experience it in the future will have that experience lessened by the work we do today in research, evidenced and holistically based practice and peer/consumer workforce equality in mental health.

In that first movie, when Princess Leia asks Obi-Wan Kenobi for help, stating that he’s her only hope, the outcome is not just him but an unlikely team of partners which comes together to bring change to a world oppressed by the “dark side”. And maybe that’s why it comes to mind when I hear the word hope. The movie was called Star Wars, Episode IV, A New Hope and that is what I have learned in my journey… you might not know how or where it will come from, but there is always a new hope.

So please, start a conversation, we are on Facebook and Twitter, and share your stories about Hope and what it means to you.