For me, mental health supports have included a whole range of resources and lots of people.
I always had a longing to meet with other people that were like me, who would understand me. I wanted to have friends and I wanted to be connected to services – I wanted to belong.
Through a volunteering opportunity, I found out about a local day program. It was an amazing place, and it felt great to have somewhere to go. I got to make jewellery, spend time with people at the program, and just be outside doing normal friend things. I also volunteered in another program myself.
I had wanted to play soccer since leaving school and I was certain I could do well in full time employment. I landed myself a job, started playing soccer, lived out of home and started spending time with other people frequently. All of these supports reduced my need for clinical supports and really progressed my social recovery. It was a wonderful achievement in my life.
Later down the track, when things changed, my supports needed to be more professional. I worked with support workers, a dietitian, OT and psychologist to restore what I’d lost when I was unwell. The most important element of these relationships was the connection that these workers built with me. Most powerfully, these connections were forged by sharing their own lived experiences. Lived experiences extended from peer workers sharing about their current preparations for fulfilling tasks at work, other workers recommending some of their favourite music I might like, or sharing their process of building of a business.
There was a long period in my life where I didn’t feel connected, where I was used to being isolated, and that was what my whole life was made up of. Sharing stories and experiences led me to feel connected to each person, enhanced my feeling that I had a place to belong, and helped me connect more widely with the people I chose.