Reece Bamford, 38, knows what it is like to live with schizophrenia. A peer support worker at Logan’s Addiction and Mental Health Community Care Unit, Reece will be taking part in The Mental Health Services Conference (TheMHS), to be held in Brisbane next week (27 – 30 August 2019).
Reece is now using his own experience of mental health issues to advocate for patient-centred care and help people with mental illness on their journey to recovery.
“Mental ill-health can make it hard for people to feel a sense of belonging or connection to the community,” he said.
“When you are terrified of socialising, self-expression and being around people, you can feel very isolated with no sense of belonging.
“TheMHS Conference brings people together and is an opportunity for the community to express our innermost desires for change, in a platform that not only invites these ideas for open discussion but aims to put these ideas into action.”
Reece said his journey from patient to peer worker has been rewarding.
“I spent more than ten years as a patient within mental health settings. When I first heard about peer support, I was amazed, that my lived experience was valued.
“I was used to feeling like I had wasted the past ten years and suddenly my past made sense.
“It wasn’t something to be ashamed of…it was something to be proud of, a unique tool to help others and increase understanding of the lived experience in mental health services.
“The most rewarding part of my job is when I think the person I am supporting hasn’t been listening and six months later, they will mention something I had said to them, which really resonated or helped them gain further insight into their lived experience.”
Reece says while there has been a momentous change in the mental health sector there is still more work to do.
“If I were a consumer now, I would not feel as lost. I have many tools at my fingertips now and many reference experiences of how to build pathways towards recovery.”
“People who share their lived experience in open forums help others to feel less alone and more empowered to share their own story.
“I look forward to listening to our New Zealand guests, who bring ideas from a country that is considered one of the top leaders of mental health support in the world.
“These conversations help to normalise, de-stigmatise and create a feel a sense of belonging.”
TheMHS hosts a Consumer and Carer Forum as part of the annual conference. This year’s forum focuses on opening a dialogue to discuss the challenges that face consumers and carers. It will enable attendees to workshop ideas and build a resiliency toolkit.
For more information visit https://www.themhs.org/conference-registration/