You can read the abstract for this session here.
Sofie Cirka is a carer consultant who also has experiences as a mental health consumer. She spoke about her experiences as a carer for her mother, being a consumer herself, and then becoming a peer worker.
When her mum became unwell with mental health issues, Sofie found that it had a tremendous impact on their family. Coming from a CALD background, Sofie found that there was additional stigma and misconceptions her and her family faced. When her mother was admitted to an inpatient ward as an involuntary patient, Sofie’s father felt they needed to hide it, and when it was eventually found out by family and friends, it made their guilt even worse. Because her father didn’t understand the system, when Sofie’s mother went into hospital, he thought it meant they would lose their house. Later on when both her parents had passed away, Sofie became unwell herself and was admitted as an involuntary patient for severe depression.
Sofie found out about being a peer support carer when she saw an advertisement in the newspaper. She was motivated to do it because she wanted to help families to work on their own recovery, and as a carer she didn’t have that support she needed so wanted to ensure other families did. Peer support is not just about being friends with someone and it’s different to talking to clinicians. Instead it allows connections between those who have a lived experience and validation, something that cannot be just learnt through education. Sofie has found it to be a privilege to be able to use her experience to give hope to others.
The second presentation was given by Leela James and Rhianwen Beresford from Consumers of Mental Health WA (CoMHWA). They presented on a workshop they ran using Theatre of the Oppressed (TO). TO has four techniques; image theatre, forum theatre, rainbow of desire and legislative theatre.
In their workshop CoMHWA brought together four consumers and four mental health professionals and invited them to explore different themes using TO. The technique they decided to use was image theatre where participants create an image together using themselves, and then the image is analysed. An example is the word “Dream”. Participants together created an image that illustrated their dream of mental health services would be one of a service that runs across day and night, where peers and professionals work together and policy blocks are negotiated. The TO workshop gained good feedback from both the consumers and mental health professionals who participated and CoMHWA are hoping to run more TO workshops in the future.