Stories of recovery: Paula
Paula is a Consumer Consultant formerly supported by Neami.
‘I came to Melbourne five, nearly six years ago from regional Victoria ‘cos there were no services there. I had a breakdown. I came down to live with my eldest son who cared for me for a while. I was referred to a service that I didn’t hear from, then my son went through Dr Google and came up with Neami in Box Hill. I went along to an intake session and my whole life changed. I went from a place from being on the couch for three years to being encouraged to be part of a community again.
My first worker changed my whole life by saying, ‘I’m not going to do it for you. I’m here to stand beside you.’ It was all about empowering me to discover where I wanted to go, set some goals and allow me to do it, but not do it for me. He encouraged me to do peer work, so I’m now back at work. And, I think it comes back to him empowering my belief that I could do it. It wasn’t him saying, these are the milestones that you have to meet. It was more like, how are we going to do it? There were lots of dark times, and I probably called him some unpleasant names at times, but there was that non-judgement, no matter how bad I was.
I’d never had that experience before. Until I’d moved to Melbourne, I didn’t even know what a CCU (Community Care Unit) was. My mental health experience was in-patient and a GP, and I didn’t even know there were mental health services available at all. I think I was 44 at that time, and I remember thinking, why didn’t I know about this 20 years ago? How different my life would have been. In regional areas, there was nothing. I think I’m very fortunate I walked in that door at Box Hill that day and got a place. It hasn’t been easy, and I still have my days but I’ve been able to put things in place to be able to deal with that.
My support worker taught me mindfulness, which was a huge thing. Now I go outside and stand on the grass, or do some gardening instead of popping a tablet. I’ve learnt to socialise again and have a safe space. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable, but you deal with it. The growth that I’ve had, I’ve been able to share back. I’ve been encouraged to do it on my own, but to share my story of recovery with others. I’m now a Consumer Consultant. I started out at the Dual Diagnosis Consumer and Carer Advisory Council. They wanted people with lived experience. My support worker encouraged me to go along to it, and I’m Chairman of it now. It’s all about sharing your experience in that dual diagnosis space.
It’s funny. You can go into a setting, like a focus group. And the minute you say, I’m not a clinician, I’m not a worker, I’m the same as you, you just see everyone relax. Clinicians like to meet you in their clinical offices, and straight away there’s badges and lanyards and a hospital uniform, and there’s that power imbalance. And in a community setting, you don’t have that. From a consumer’s point of view, that’s gold. We’ve struggled through the clinical setting – you must take your medication, you must do this, you must do that. Here, we don’t get asked ‘have you been compliant?’, a technical way of saying have you been taking your medications. Here, it’s, have you been taking your meds? It’s just that difference, from the clinical to the Neami experience. They’re really on the right level.’
In August, Neami National registered Mental Health and Wellbeing Australia (MHWA) as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Neami to provide continuity of services to 270 mental health consumers in Barwon following the voluntary administration of Pathways, an NDIS provider in Geelong.
Following an extensive branding process, in November we announced that Me Well would be the new brand identity for MHWA and focus as an NDIS provider at all levels. Neami National will remain strategically focused as a specialist mental health provider. Whilst the operational set-up of each company will be different, the mission and values of both companies will be the same.
It is our aim that Me Well NDIS operations will be phased-in nationally over the next three years. This will allow us to maintain continuity and support to consumers who are transitioning to NDIS service provision. We will continue with all of our existing partnership, contractual and funding commitments.
We are optimistic that these new arrangements will support Neami to retain a highly trained and skilled workforce to provide specialist expertise while allowing the development of flexible operational systems required to deliver quality NDIS services through Me Well.
For more information on Me Well or our NDIS services, contact us on 1800 063 264 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In partnership with cohealth and North Western Mental Health, Neami have undertaken evaluations of the effectiveness of the Northern and Arion Prevention and Recovery Care (PARC) services in Victoria.
Prevention and Recovery Care (PARC) services provide short-term site based support for people who are at risk of requiring hospital admission or who are leaving hospital and require additional support to successfully transition back into the community and avoid relapse. The PARC services offer 24-hour support and a range of individual and group rehabilitation and recovery programs.
The PARC evaluation focused on an analysis of acute inpatient hospital admissions and length of stay for consumers up to one year before or one year after their PARC entry.
Results showed a 51% reduction in hospital admissions after a PARC entry and a 57% reduction in the total number of days spent in hospital inpatient units.
These outcomes suggest that PARC services are having their intended impact of reducing hospital use for consumers of mental health services. These outcomes represent an exciting first step in evaluating PARC services and the ongoing development of these services.
Learn more about the Prevention and Recovery Care services evaluation here.
Following a very successful pilot, Neami is investing in the expansion of the Peer Health Coaching program.
People experiencing severe mental health issues have higher rates of physical illness and a life expectancy 13-30 years less than the general population. Physical illnesses, such as heart attack and stroke, are responsible for more than 70% of premature deaths amongst people with mental illness.
Driven by this evidence, Neami provides a number of programs that focus on physical health as part of overall wellbeing. Peer Health Coaching is one such program.
Peer Health Coaching is a short-term program in which consumers meet with a peer support worker to identify and work on a specific health goal. Peer Health Coaching is already underway in South Australia following a grant received from Country South Australia PHN, and the program will be rolling out to other states shortly.