1. "Mental health overwhelms everything else": Facilitators and barriers to health||self-management by people living with mental illness
Colleen Fisher, Mohan Isaac, Vivien Kemp, Sharon Lawn, Shane Bailey
This study was a part of a larger non-randomised controlled trial, incorporating qualitative components to explore the lived experience of the 27 participants within the study.
Key elements discussed within the presentation in terms of the findings included barriers and facilitators to the self-management of health in personal, social and structural categories.
Main barriers in personal categories included low levels of health literacy among participants, in particular surrounding the management of physical health, healthy eating and food guidelines. Participants understood the need to eat healthy food, but found they needed help and support to do so.
An element in findings that was interesting was that participants were observed to make rational health related decisions, often prioritizing their mental health over their physical health. This sophisticated reasoning is not often attributed in the literature.
Social barriers and facilitators that were shown included the attitudes of unsupportive mental health professionals, participants sharing they often found professionals demeaning and dismissive of problems they had with medications. Economic barriers included low or fixed incomes, making it difficult to attend the gym or attend appropriate dental services.
In conclusion, the data from this study revealed that participants seem to be well aware of the barriers and facilitators in the management of their own health, however need support and coordination of services in relation to weight management and nutrition.
2. Creating Good Company, a support group.
Claire Carlon, Timothy Heffernan
Claire presented an inspirational consumer based perspective on her experience with being diagnosed with Bipolar disorder, and her motivations behind starting her own support group for people experiences mental illness.
Creating good is a free, informal gathering, run by consumers for consumers, with no referral needed. Claire outlined the benefits of the program included social interaction and an accepting environment without the pressure to “get better”.
Claire shared challenges of facilitating the group included setting boundaries around giving out her energy and personal time to others, and the importance of prioritizing her own mental health.
Creating good has so far been shown to be very successful in helping people to connect, form friendships and increase their confidence and self esteem. Claire highlighted it has also been a great source of personal fulfilment, and advocated for the importance of including peer support and consumer involvement in today’s mental health services.