Thank-you to Newcastle!
In April I visited Newcastle in NSW and caught up with the following:
- Professor Prasuna Reddy (of the Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health)
- ARAFMI (Association for Relatives and Friends of Mental Illness, Hunter region)
- Monet's Catering
Monet's Catering (and Gardening Service)
Located in an 1843 building on the site of the former Psychiatric Hospital in Newcastle, Monet's is a wonderful initiative of Samaritans Enterprise Employment. It offers catering, conference facilities and a sit-down function centre to the community and employs people with a diagnosed mental illness to assist them to develop skills and confidence to enter the open workforce.
I was greeted with a Devonshire tea, prepared by Troy, who works in the kitchen, and also met Simon who works in administration and conducts tours of the premises (including ghost tours), Colin who works in Monet's gardening services and some other dedicated staff, including Jen, the Manager.
Troy, a keen cyclist, explained the importance to me of gaining confidence in the kitchen and in the Monet's work environment and told me he can imagine being ready to work further afield soon. Simon has a diagnosis of schizophrenia and says, "I no longer feel overshadowed by that. I am very grateful to Monet's for providing me with a job and stability while I studied at University."r(Simon recently graduated in History and won a University prize for French.)
It was wonderful to spend time at Monet's and see the way thoughtful enterprises can provide the skills and environment to assist people recovering from mental ill-health to participate in the community, enriching us all.
Joanne is the manager of this important NGO which supports carers, families, friends and significant others who have someone in their life with a mental illness. At short notice she had assembled some mothers (Mahinder & Zora ) and Betty, a Family Support worker who has been working at ARAFMI for 6 years. It was a real privilege to meet with them and hear their hard-won insights into the challenges of looking after their loved ones in a regional city.
Particular themes which emerged was the need for respite support for carers, and accommodation when they have to travel to centres for hospitalization of their family member; the need for more emotional support for carers, especially in rural areas; the difficulty of having a family member admitted for treatment to hospital for an acute episode unless they were actually threatening their own life or someone else. Zora suggested the establishment of a network of regional carers to support each other, which seemed like a great idea.
If you are feeling in distress, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.