Peace within, peace without

Grant reviews The Peace of Mind Expo, 2015

Peace of Mind

Although I’d heard about it in previous years, this was the first time I’d attended the Peace of Mind Expo out at sunny St Marys. Despite my legendary lack of direction I was able to find the Expo simply by starting at the train station and wandering up Queen Street in a straight line until I found Memorial Hall. As physically getting there in the first place was my main worry, this was a good start to the day.

The Peace of Mind Expo is like this: imagine a big indoor market area full of over sixty stalls and tables, but instead of selling faulty lava lamps and fake Nike sneakers, the “product” the Expo provides is a one-stop shop for all your self-care needs.

As the scope of the Expo is huge, Peace of Mind is attended by a who’s who of organisations that exist for the overall wellness of our community. In addition to RichmondPRA’s mission of providing holistic (whole-self) care for all people with a lived experience of mental health issues, there were also stands dedicated to fighting homelessness, helping people to kick drug and alcohol habits, and tonnes of information about housing assistance, disability services, children’s programs, adult education, employment advice, and respite for carers.

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As Australia is famous for being a multicultural society, this assistance was tailored to include all demographics, including the culturally and linguistically diverse, Indigenous, the elderly, people with disabilities, and LGBTIQ, to name a few. The Expo had something to offer everybody, no matter whether they were a participant, an expert, or just somebody who’d wandered off Queen Street to see what all the noise was about.

On the lighter side, there was also live music, face painting, prizes to win, activities to keep the little ones occupied, and other assorted tomfoolery.

In addition to informing the general public about all these important services, the Expo is also a good chance for like-minded organisations to network and, in turn, provide a more targeted, more concentrated service. After all, this isn’t like the dog-eat-dog business world: not-for-profit organisations tend to work together to some degree, and we don’t have to annihilate the competition to get ahead. Even though you could technically consider many of these not-for-profit organisations to be in competition with one another, there was a real feeling of unity on the day and the hall was filled with the buzz of positive conversation. That’s great, as RichmondPRA’s official motto is “Together, we’re better”, so it’s nice to see that this isn’t an empty promise. After all, when we work together well, less people get left behind.

Besides traditional psychosocial help, there were also some stalls that offered “alternative” therapies such as Tai Chi and Yoga. These techniques have been around for thousands of years, and Clare Evans informed me that they both have proven, measurable health benefits. Clare is a big fan of Yoga both as an exercise regime and a lifestyle choice, and she managed to attend.

Yogi Amit Sharma actually earned a PhD for his decades of faithful service to Yoga, which is a combination of words you don’t usually see in Panorama.

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Yogi Sharma easily showed off some beyond-impressive contortions of muscles and joints that most people probably don’t even know they have. My entire skeleton ached just watching him, and being a spectator to this was equal parts impressed and ashamed, as my last sit-up was six months ago, and in truth I was simply reaching for the PlayStation controller.

A few of the more courageous RichmondPRA reps (i.e., not me) got up to show how easy some of the beginner’s movements can be. As Yogi Sharma had the body of a Greek demigod with muscles that looked more cut than Bohemian Crystal, it was reassuring to think that at one stage he’d been shaped like a mere human. As our society continues to become more enthusiastic about the holistic style of care, you’ll certainly hear more about these ancient practices in years to come.

Hmmm, I might want to look into doing some Yoga…

Before you hear it from someone else, yes, there was a free sausage sizzle and yes, I may have eaten more than one. End of story.

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A highlight of the day was spending time with friends of mine who have been with RichmondPRA for many years and have all come a really, really long way. The stories they told me about their new careers, the qualifications they’d gained and their lives in general were all wonderful and very encouraging. It’s always nice to see lives being set on a different, better track than the one they’d been on, and it makes me feel as though there’s hope for us all.

A HUGE thank-you to Clare Evans, who went above and beyond the call of duty in arranging this important annual event, and to all the RichmondPRA staff who dedicated their entire day to setting up, staffing the stalls and then packing up. We’d also like to thank the Mayor of Penrith, Karen McKeown, for supporting the event in person, and also to the St Mary’s Community Development Project and the Peace of Mind 2015 Working Group.

Thanks to the very talented Trisha Merriman from WestClub Penrith for the two photos in the middle of the story. We’re hoping to have many more examples of her awesome work to show you in future. Thanks, Trisha!

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