Why the YCLSS approach worked for Sarah


Sarah had tried medication and she had tried hospitalisation for her mental health issues. Then she tried YCLASS (Youth Community Living Support Services) and found something that allowed her to recover her way.

Sarah has set up a library at RichmondPRA’s WestClub, complete with book shelves, catalog cards and “date due” slips. Ultimately the success of RichmondPRA’s services relies on the people who access our services developing the confidence to take their own initiatives, as Sarah has done with this little library.

Sarah has been living with bipolar disorder, meaning that sometimes she would be very depressed and withdrawn, while at other times she experienced racing thoughts and “overconfidence.” So how did she come to be involved with the Youth Community Living Support Service?

Made friends, stayed friends, and helped others

“I became unwell with an episode of depression and was very withdrawn, but this time, rather than rely on medication or hospitalisation as before, I decided to try YCLSS. It is definitely not the same as in hospital. In headspace they had limited group work and workshops, but with YCLSS their approach was more personable. With YCLSS they took me on outings. For a while the YCLSS workers were my only friends. For me the choice of YCLSS was absolutely so much better than hospital. I think a non-medical approach is better for me.”

“It took me a while to open up socially at first, but after a while I became friends with others, particularly Josh. We really helped one another out; and then we were able to help others as well!

“After a year, when I graduated from YCLSS I was asked to be on the YCLSS steering committee, which means I now have input into how the program is run.”

Creative outlet

“My hobbies include photography and film, I am into experimental and abstract film. Plus I love to dance. I had some training in ballet and funk, and in Lyrical and Interpretive dance. You can do more with interpretive dance; tell a story and so on. I’d like to learn more about it.

“I was doing a Bachelor of Visual Arts majoring in Film/Screen Arts. Because I was unwell, I was unable to complete it. With my mental health issues, I had trouble with the cognitive side of things and I tended to avoid theory.

“The psychiatrist actually didn’t think it was such a good idea for me to try going back to Uni when I did, but I thought differently at the time. It didn’t work out so well, but I don’t think that hurt me. I learned from the experience.

“I’ve been doing a short course in interior design at TAFE but I am in the process of trying to handle my stress better with educational settings.

“I have a fallback plan: my interior design course and my visual merchandising course. I have also been looking into meetup groups to broaden my social horizons.


“One thing I learned about recovery is that sometimes you can’t rush things. I was really frustrated with my temporary loss of cognitive function. I felt useless. I’ve got it all back now, but I learned that the best way to deal with it is to embrace it.

“If you have this trouble it is nature’s way of saying your brain needs a rest so that you can recover from having racing thoughts. Don’t worry about it. You don’t have to feel like you are useless. You’re entitled to a rest break following an episode of psychosis, to ‘reboot.’
“It is good to push yourself a bit, but not too much. Go with your own instincts, even if the psychologist doesn’t quite agree. Ask a family member what they think.

“Relationships are very important. My Grannie has helped me and so has my fiancée. I wasn’t close to anyone like that for a long time so it’s good to have someone know me and care for me who doesn’t have a parental approach and is more my equal. We have both been through psychosis so we can empathise with each other.

“My cat Mushu really saved me too. And I saved him because he was a rescue cat. He’s my fur baby. You also have to strike a balanced relationship with the professional people in your life.“

Sarah spoke to Warren Heggarty. Thanks to Liam Ford

Contact details
RichmondPRA YCLSS: 1/80 Henry St, Penrith 2750
Phone: (02) 9393 9344

Westclub: 252 High St, Penrith 2750
Phone: 1300 779 270


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