Aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Debbie

Incredible efforts and ongoing work by Wellways HealthCall offices across Queensland and New South Wales have ensured the safety and wellbeing of our clients in the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Debbie.

Participants, staff and offices have come through unscathed, if not a little soggy. Wellways HealthCall staff worked with vulnerable clients who have no family support, to remain well supported in their accommodation. Ongoing communication with clients and families, in areas of greatest distress, was consistently maintained, together with in-person visits with clients and staff in affected areas.

As the force of the storm moved south, with flooding affecting southern Queensland and northern New South Wales, our Wellways staff—particularly in Lismore—prepared to contact all participants to ensure they felt supported, to check in on their food/water supplies, and to remind them to stay safe around flood waters.

“We made contact with participants to ensure that they were all aware of the weather, had food and water supplies, and the necessary emergency and mental health phone support numbers, together with advising them to listen to their local radio station,” says Renee Bridge, coordinator of the Youth Community Living Support Service (YCLSS) in northern New South Wales.

“When the weather event was to hit, we contacted participants again with all of these details and to discuss how they were feeling.”

Staff put together care packages of personal hygiene supplies for evacuation points, the YCLSS team loaned one of their Wellways fleet cars to another NGO which had lost four of their cars in the floods, and staff are currently supporting community clean-ups.

“We just learned last week that some of our participants are assisting the community with flood support and clean-up,” says Renee, “and that was nice news to hear.”

Accountants learn about mental health

Wellways Intentional Peer Support Worker Charlie Anderson recently presented a mental health workshop at the annual national conference of Accru Leap, a peak financial services organisation. The conference organisers were keen for their members, mostly partners and owners of accounting firms, to have a better understanding of mental health and mental illness.

Charlie spoke about identifying people experiencing mental health issues in the workplace, including co-workers and clients, as well as de-stigmatising mental illness through an understanding of the lived experience, and how to engage with and respond to someone showing signs of being unwell. Workshop participants found Charlie’s presentation to be one of the highlights of the conference, as it marked the first time this particular audience—of accountants and business advisors—had the opportunity to learn from someone with a lived experience of mental health issues. Accru Leap has just invited Melbourne Wellways staff to provide further training for their Victorian team.

Launch of TAShelp Compass

Wellways, in collaboration with Partners in Recovery (PIR) Tasmania, has launched a new resource called the TAShelp Compass, funded by the PIR Just Support Project. The resource is a pocket-sized service directory for Tasmanians seeking gateways (organisations and contact details) for mental health and other supports.

The launch was attended by a range of professionals from both government and non-government agencies, including the NDIA, Department of Psychiatry, Department of Justice, the Salvation Army, Anglicare, Colony 47, Relationships Australia and Women’s Health Tasmania. Entertainment was provided by the Choir of High Hopes

Samples of the TAShelp Compass were provided to guests on the day, with 7,500 cards eventually to be distributed throughout the state to community members, mental health workers and participants, recovery and rehabilitation supports, community groups, Health and Justice Departments and new Tasmanian residents. The compass has four navigational points to direct people to the types of help available, including support, transition, advice and recovery.

Rachael Walton, PIR support facilitator for justice, noted: “Working in the mental health sector, I quickly learned that while people recognised a need for support, there was a lack of confidence in determining what support was right for them and how to access it. As a result, people avoided connecting with essential support for themselves, their families and their children. We’re confident that the TAShelp Compass will improve support access for many Tasmanians.”

Frankston NDIS forum

Wellways is hosting an NDIS forum in Frankston in May to provide information on what the NDIS means for people with psychosocial disability. The forum will address questions such as: What is a psychosocial disability? How will the NDIS support consumers and carers? How will individualised plans be tailored to a participant’s goals, personal circumstances and disability support needs? How does the NDIS work with other systems? The free forum will include guest speakers from the National Disability Insurance Agency and Carers Victoria.

Forum details: Wednesday 3 May 2017, 12.30-4pm, Frankston Arts Centre, 27-37 Davey Street. For further information, contact Wellways Frankston on (03) 9784 6800 or register here.

Wellways staff awarded PhDs

Wellways staff members Cassy Nunan, Consumer Advocacy and Leadership consultant, and Stewart Sutherland, Reconciliation Action Planning Officer, have recently been awarded their PhDs.

Cassy’s PhD in creative writing and mental health recovery involved writing a novel featuring advocacy messages about the disadvantage experienced by people who live with mental illness. The novel raises awareness about the ways that stigma, discrimination, isolation, poverty and maltreatment negatively affect peoples’ lives. “I used the detective novel method to explore these attitudes as types of ‘social crimes’, Cassy notes. “I hope my novel influences readers to change how they relate to people who are living with mental health issues.”

Stewart Sutherland’s PHD research investigated the effects of forced removal and assimilationist policies and programs in Australia, New Zealand and Canada. His research looked at the experiences of people of the Stolen Generation, as well as young people in residential school systems in each of the countries.

Stewart’s work with our Reconciliation Action Plan Committee has strengthened Wellways’ commitment to reconciliation, guiding formal processes of acknowledgement and developing culturally appropriate policies and practices. He has recently concluded his role as Reconciliation Action Planning Officer and is considering a number of academic and consulting roles in Australia and overseas.

Celebrating Harmony Day in Tasmania

The Wellways Child, Youth & Family Engagement (CYFE) program in North West Tasmania recently celebrated Harmony Day with its Young Women Together group and members of the local El Salvadorian community. The event, held at Devonport Community House, featured a cooking class in traditional El Salvadorian cuisine, including cheese, refried beans and chicken ‘papusas’, together with Latin music and dancing. The Wellways CYFE program facilitates the weekly Young Women Together group for teenage girls at the community house. The Harmony Day event had the highest level of attendance of any of the group’s events, providing a wonderful afternoon of food, fiesta and culture.

Happy Humans Festival

The Wellways team in the Murray recently participated in the Happy Humans Festival in Shepparton, funded by the Hume and Goulburn Valley Alliance for Mental Health & Housing. The festival offers participants, carers and community members the opportunity to experience and explore what the local community has to offer, from mental health information and support to recreational and creative activities. More than 25 service providers were available to talk to, and interactive sessions and workshops took place throughout the day for the 200-plus community members attending.

The regional Wellways Family Services team attended a similar festival, Thrive, in Wangaratta and delivered an interactive presentation to carers, families and friends of people living with mental illness. Their presentation provided a ‘taster’ of service provision, peer education and strategies for self-care.

Opening Doors hosts outdoor cinema

Wellways Opening Doors program, a 24-hour facility based in Melbourne’s inner south, recently hosted their first ever outdoor cinema event for participants and staff. The grand opening was held on a balmy summer night, with a gentle breeze, and the occasional possum, rustling the trees. The onsite cinema featured a three-metre screen, with quality projection and sound, and colourful bean bag chairs for the audience. Participants chose a sci-fi film to watch under the stars, while munching popcorn and other cinema-style refreshments. Participant reviews of the cinematic experience were outstanding: “five out of five stars”, “what an elegant set-up”, and “good, cheerful fun”. Special thanks go to Ocean Grove Home Hardware for assisting with the comfy, outdoor bean bag chairs.