Everyone needs to feel that they have a role in their community in order to feel valued. Dale Carnegie once said that this need is what distinguishes humans from other animals, yet we can’t fulfil this by ourselves. Being socially disconnected is a major problem, and it is estimated that a large percentage of people with mental health issues aren’t receiving the support they need in this area. Thankfully, the role of Partners in Recovery is to work with people so they can make these essential connections and become empowered to embark on their recovery journey.
Partners in Recovery is an Australian Government initiative which fosters partnerships between otherwise separate service providers so they can work better in providing support for people in need. Bankstown Partners in Recovery is staffed by Support Facilitators from RichmondPRA (Karen, Kathy and Fadzai, above) and Care Connect (Angie, Deyana and Fatima). South Western Sydney PIR also has many other partners working for their service.
Handling what life throws at you is hard enough when you’re well, but many of our readers who have a lived experience know how difficult it is to access services when struggling with mental health issues. The presence of severe and persistent symptoms is a big contributing factor to “falling through the cracks,” as they say, and the people in this boat are often isolated, jobless, and even homeless. Support Facilitator Kathy Molnar-Simpson described the way some people find themselves trapped on a vicious cycle between hospital, homelessness and even prison, over and over again, and that any meaningful recovery is highly unlikely to happen unless this circle is broken. How is somebody in such a situation meant to get and keep a job? How can they find a stable place to live with such a disrupted, transient life? Kathy’s job as a Support Facilitator is to get people off the merry-go-round by putting them in touch with services that can help them on their recovery journey.
Mental health issues are often compounded with a host of other related problems. Hospitals focus chiefly on the medical aspect, but there is much more to schizophrenia, bipolar and depression than just the medical side. That’s one of the reasons RichmondPRA publishes ACTION and OzSTARS magazines: to cover the multitude of factors that impact on our whole lives. Likewise, Partners in Recovery put people in contact with services covering every aspect of living, such as education and training, justice and legal, recreation, family, child protection, domestic violence prevention, supported accommodation, employment, parenting, Personal Helpers and Mentors Program, diabetes health, dental health, finance, income support, alcohol and other drugs counselling, occupational therapy, GPs, social work and a host of others.
So how does Partners in Recovery get in touch with people who have no existing connections? Fadzai Matienga lists a number of ways ranging from word of mouth to making public presentations to raise awareness.
“They’ll make contact at some stage with FACS (Family and Community Services), or with Centrelink, or with the Housing Department, or Banks House (the mental health unit in Bankstown Hospital) or Personal Helpers and Mentors Program. When these organisations identify people who might need our support, they refer them to us.”
People in need also have the option of being referred by their family or even by themselves. In fact, self-referrals account for about 17% of the people who deal with PiR, so the word must be spreading.
You can learn more from the report Partners in Recovery South Western Sydney One Year On, a community update, October 2014. Here is a great quote from somebody who accesses the Liverpool PIR:
“I thought they would be like any other service that did nothing for me…my support facilitator…talked to me like a normal person…he wasn’t just interested in my illness and the clinical side of things but he asked me what I enjoy doing and what interests and sports I like. “
“All aspects of the PIR service are voluntary and consensual,” Kathy added, “And people can engage, disengage and reengage according to their current needs.“
Individuals and health professionals alike can contact Partners in Recovery on 1300 747 797, that’s 1300 PIR SWS. Of course, there are other Partners in Recovery consortiums throughout NSW, and you can find them on www.pirsws.com.au
-Karen, Kathy and Fadzai spoke to Warren