Month: November 2016

Flourish Learning Network


One of the main goals of Flourish Australia’s Recovery Action Plan has been to establish a kind of ‘recovery college.’ We moved a step closer to this in August with the arrival of Ros Christopoulos (pictured above), Senior Manager of the Flourish Learning Network.

‘I am in the initial phase of familiarising myself to get a clear understanding of how the network will fulfill Flourish Australia’s vision’ Ros told Panorama.

‘I will be focussing on the two pilot sites, Newcastle and Wollongong’ said Ros. ‘I have already visited the services at both Wollongong and Newcastle to spend time meeting with staff. I have also been engaging in some of the events and partnerships currently running, including the Russian multicultural day in Wollongong.

‘Another was the AIR (Arts in Recovery) program, a multi-organisation partnership with the Newcastle Community Arts Centre. This has also provided me with the opportunity to meet the people accessing our services.

‘It is also exciting to report that Wollongong University has now been funded to research the needs of students who will be accessing the Flourish Learning Network.

‘I will be attending the MIND Recovery College conference ‘Exploring establishment of an Australasian Recovery College Community of Practice’. This will be a great opportunity to establish networks and source information’.

We are pleased to see the interest in the Flourish Learning Network and as the pilot programs evolve we will keep you updated and informed on a regular basis. Stay tuned!

Wear It Purple Day: Promoting pride and acceptance among our young people

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Above: Doris Kluge, the ringleader of the day

by Grant J Everett

In case you haven’t heard the term before, a “rainbow person” is a term some people use who identify as being a part of the LGBTIQA spectrum. While you can’t get arrested or committed for being in the spectrum in Australia (anymore), people still cop a lot of social stigma, discrimination, exclusion, bullying and even outright violence because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. This can be an especially big issue for young people who are still in the process of trying to figure out who they are.

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Check up from the neck up

Peer Workers Help Promote Mental Health Awareness

Martin Place, Sydney was the venue for ‘Check up from the Neck up,’ an opportunity for people passing in the street to learn about mental health. The event was put on by the NSW Mental Health Commission and involved Flourish Australia Peer Workers from Sydney, Wollongong and Newcastle.

Peer Worker Patricia told us ‘We were handing out information cards and mints, hundreds of them all up, as well as inviting people to stop for a while and have a check-up from the neck up. There were three shifts of twelve Peer Workers. Also, there were other professionals set up there who were conducting the actual check-ups and of course, the Commissioner John Feneley was there and so was Deputy Commissioner, our very own Fay Jackson. There were three shifts all together from 7am to 7pm.’

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Are you getting a black dog for Christmas? Here’s what you can do about it

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For many of us (especially kids) Christmas is the best time of the year. People are serving endless courses of food and drink, exchanging presents, laughing with friends and family, going away on holidays…what’s not to like? However, for some, Christmas can be a living hell. If you’re isolated, then seeing all those happy people may only serve to remind you of what you don’t have.

We know that isolation is terrible for your mental health even when it isn’t Christmas time, but it’s dreadful for our physical health, too. Brigham Young University found that the physical manifestations of social isolation (eg, high blood pressure, the release of stress hormones, weaker immune system) can DOUBLE your risk of early death. This places the health risks of isolation on par with smoking, alcohol and obesity.

Isolated in a crowd

You can have people in your life and still feel lonely. You may work with lots of colleagues have a phone full to the brim with numbers and still suffer from the effects of isolation. In fact, you could be in a room with other people and feel like you have no connection with any of them. Hence, isolated in the middle of a crowd! This is because being around people is a matter of quality rather than quantity.

Isolation can definitely be a matter of choice, too. Some of us may prefer our own company, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Another common reason that people isolate themselves is because they may have been badly mistreated by a friend, family member or a lover in the past, and in order to avoid a repeat of that trauma they’ve put up walls to prevent people ever getting close enough to hurt them. Whatever the reasoning, humans are generally social beings by nature, and that means we need some form of quality company on a regular basis if we want to function properly.

Continue reading “Are you getting a black dog for Christmas? Here’s what you can do about it”

Hope Walk

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From left: Maria Walters (volunteer), Kathy Molnar-Simpson (Manager), Alex Matute (Flowerdale participant), and in front is Mia Walters (Maria’s daughter).

NOTE! This article contains themes that may be distressing to some readers. As always, if you are struggling please speak to your Mental Health, Wellbeing or Peer Worker, your usual supports, or call Lifeline on 13 11 14 any time, day or night.

by Grant J Everett

Like every year since 2003, Saturday the 10th of September was World Suicide Prevention Day. This is a time when organisations across the globe join together to help raise awareness about why people take their own lives, and what we can do to help prevent these tragedies from occurring. The theme for 2016 was Connect, Communicate, Care. These three words are at the very heart of suicide prevention, and they spell out how we can make a difference in the lives of people who may be struggling. For instance, you can CONNECT with friends, loved ones and workmates to make sure they aren’t isolated, COMMUNICATE by just seeing how they’re doing, and show that you CARE by asking them if there’s anything you can do to help.

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Mental Health First Aid training


Kim, pictured with the textbook, is ready to spring into action.

What is mental health first aid? ’[It] is the help offered to a person developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. The first aid is given until appropriate professional help is received or until the crisis resolves. (Kitchener, Jorm, & Kelly, 2013, p. 12)

“Whilst people often know a lot about common physical health problems, ignorance of mental health is prevalent. Regular first aid courses are widespread, however most of these courses do not address helping with mental health problems. Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training aims to fill this gap.” (Mental Health First Aid International , n.d.)

Panorama took a peek at a Mental Health First Aid course presented by Fay Jackson, Flourish Australia’s General Manager of Inclusion on two days over two consecutive weeks at the Figtree Conference centre. Fay is an accredited Principal Master Trainer. That means she has had more than 30 (in Fay’s case a LOT more than 30) previous presentations. There were approximately 23 people, managers, staff and employees mainly from two organisations, RichmondPRA and Physical Disability Council of NSW.

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Focus for Life

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from left: Anna H Gray, Fay Jackson (General Manager Inclusion), Janet Paleo

by Grant J Everett

The benefits of peer support and peer-to-peer services for people recovering from mental health issues only grows more obvious with time. Knowing this value well, Flourish Australia was the first not-for-profit organisation in the country to host the powerful Focus for Life seminar. Run at our Sydney Olympic Park branch over three solid days, Focus for Life allowed participants from all corners of our organisation to accept how much we can offer the world around us and to declare that no matter what we’ve been through or what people have said to us, we all have a high intrinsic value.

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