ABOVE: A view of central Adelaide during 2018 TheMHS. PHOTO BY KIM JONES
By Monique Diplock
Flourish Australia flew Monique Diplock down to Adelaide to do a talk as one of our representatives for this year’s TheMHS Conference. Here she shares her experiences with Panorama Readers.
I was studying Mental Health at TAFE a while ago when I first heard about the TheMHS Conference, Australia and New Zealand’s biggest mental health convention. Little did I know that just a few years later I’d be on a stage, speaking in front of a huge crowd at that very event.
I was surprised when Fay Jackson (General Manager Inclusion) asked me to present a talk at the upcoming TheMHS Conference in Adelaide as a representative of Flourish Australia. The organisation would fly me down, and even help me go over what I wanted to say.
While I’ve done a couple of talks in front of my TAFE class, served on the Community Advisory Council and did a Recognition of Lived Experience at Taree TAFE’s Day of Action Against Sexual Assault in 2017, TheMHS would be, by far, my biggest presentation to date. Being asked to speak on behalf of an organisation I really believe in was amazing, and it was comforting that the staff had such a strong belief in my talents.
I have to admit I had my doubts, though. Like always, anxiety was my biggest obstacle. My philosophy with managing anxiety is simple: unless you’re skydiving or dancing with a Leopard, the thing you’re anxious about is probably not “that” scary or dangerous. It’s the build-up that’s the real problem, the scary scenarios my head invents. When I’m at high levels of anxiety, I just try to mentally take one step in front of the other.
TheMHS is short for The Mental Health Services Conference.
If the feelings get so high that they affect my ability to do that, I take a moment, listen to music, or write until I’m centred. It really helped that my entire family encouraged me to go for this opportunity, and I knew deep down that I would regret it if I didn’t take hold of it. So I said yes.
The support I got from Flourish Australia was great! For instance, I experienced a moment of fright leading up to the big day: when I sat down to finish writing out my talk just before I was due to fly out for the conference, I went totally blank. I emailed Kim Jones (Project Officer Inclusion) in a panic, and she helped me figure out the main points that I could work on based on my notes.
Fay was also amazing at easing my mind when I was concerned my story was babbling and oversharing. Peter Farrugia (Peer Workforce Program Manager) was full of knowledge both before and after the talk. Everyone was extremely helpful in sharing their tips and tricks.
On the day of my presentation, I was reassured to see the familiar faces of the Flourish Australia crew while I walked up to the stage. My presentation at TheMHS was called “Why Good Services Should Aim To Make Themselves Redundant”. I shared some handy tools and ideas, as well as my own story.
Originally, Fay Jackson and I were going to do 10 minutes each, but to my surprise Fay decided it was important for my story to be told in full. I felt at ease sharing my story in this safe space, and the fact I had really good support teams both with me and back at home made all the difference. I was thankful my anxiety didn’t overcome me at TheMHS as much as usual.
The highlight of my trip to Adelaide was my entire trip. I loved it! I especially enjoyed connecting with people at TheMHS and getting to know the Flourish crew more. I feel like I made friends, which I rarely do. In addition to my own presentation, I was also able to attend the entire TheMHS Conference. The learning opportunities were endless, and I came home with new ideas and angles for projects that I’ve wanted to get up and running for ages.
It’s usually easy for me to find negatives with everything I do, but in the end I was surprised and impressed with how well I did. Three or four non-Flourish attendees came up afterward to tell me I was brave and that they each had something to take home with them from my talk. Before this experience, I would probably have said a very stern NO to doing more presentations. But after Adelaide, I’m definitely open to more public speaking.
Want to hear Monique’s talk from the TheMHS 2018 Conference?