A seminar in Bangalow on Tuesday, timed to coincide with Mental Health Week, also saw the launch of a new local business aimed at making the lives of people with mental illness a little bit easier.
Around 60 attendees heard from Jo Frare, a clinical psychologist from NSW Health and Aimee Jeffreys, a clinical neuropsychologist from Queensland Health, about their personal and professional experiences with mental illness.
They also offered practical suggestions for supporting someone who might be experiencing a mental health condition.
‘Statistics show that providing social support and networks can help with an individual’s recovery. And the importance of genuine connections is key to great social support – be prepared to ask what someone needs, and listen,’ Ms Jefferies said.
Reflecting on her own personal life experience Ms Frare said, ‘Hope is incredibly important to recovery. During my experience with mental illness and substance use, my mum never ever gave up hope. I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for somebody holding on to hope for me, when I was at the time so hopeless.’
The meeting also saw the launch of a new range of greeting cards specifically designed for people with a mental illness.
Qualified psychologist and managing director of Hope Street Cards, Sam Booker, spoke about her own experience of being a patient in a private psychiatric hospital and noticing that while she received a number of gifts and flowers, the majority of patients did not.
‘Research has indicated that only 1 in 4 people who have experienced a mental health issue will receive a get well card during their illness – 80 per cent of individuals surveyed reported that a card would be a good way for others to let them know they are thinking of them,’ she said.
The problems is that there are few cards in shops available for people with a mental illness and those that do exist often don’t give sound advice.
So Bangalow-based Ms Booker and her partner decided to set up Hope Street Cards. They have designed a range of cards tailored to specific diagnoses and conditions (including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder), as well as a more general line appropriate for use across all psychiatric conditions.
Ms Booker said each card is accompanied with evidence-based information on mental illness and the particular diagnosis, with suggestions for loved ones as to how best support that person.
A $1 donation from the sale of each card will be made to the Black Dog Institute to support its important research, clinical services and education programs.
More than $100 was raised for the Black Dog Institute at the launch on Tuesday night.