One Voice Can Make A Difference.

It’s a minefield out here, and it shouldn’t be.
When you’re 100% honest with your answers, do you fear retribution, condemnation, criticism? I asked, stated, and all but insisted, that anonymity was not what I wanted. I was honest, and no longer do I fear the opinions and damnation of those who have NEVER experienced what I’ve been through.

If we DEMAND change, then why do so many hide behind anonymity? It’s likely that there’ll be fallout from my choice not to hide any more; I’m out here with my ass exposed for everyone to see, and yep, target, if they so choose. Remember if they’re targeting, they’ve listened to what I’ve said, they might not like it or agree with it, but at least they’ve listened, and what I’ve said has stirred opportunity for further discussion and change. On the flip side, there will be those who listen and understand, and display support for the change I’m wanting to bring about.
Remember, I have a motto:
Judge NOT
If you, yourself, have NEVER experienced what
You are Judging!

I have sat, on more than one occasion in the last 4 months, wondering what the heck I think I am doing. How can I, #JustAMum, make a difference, or see some sort of change occur? Well, sitting back whining about the lack of REAL help for parents and carers, isn’t going to do anything, nobody really listens to whining, people might chime in and add to the complaining, however none of it’s productive. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, something needs to change. One rock at a time, no that’s one step at a time, but this is like shifting a mountain, one story shared at a time, then a few more rocks, a few more stories and emails.

I used to be fearful, and rightly so, condemnation and criticism hurts and has in the past had me questioning my entire being. There are always a few naysayers out there; they’re what make things interesting. I’ve learned though, that even the naysayers can, at times, offer something to think about that I haven’t thought of before. So now, I’ve begun to share stories and have reached a new doorway whereby contributing to calls for submissions and attending interviews, is a part of my speaking out.

1 voice makes a difference. You’re the first person in a quiet empty room. Another person comes in, you start talking. 2 more people come in and they’re talking and they might talk to you too. A while later, 40 more people have arrived in the room and they’re all just talking and chatting about their lives, their days, their kids. The room was quiet, no noise when you first walked in, now the room is a buzz of conversation and noise, enough noise that people can help but hear the noise emanating from that room. 1 voice makes a difference.

Some of you would have already read my submission to the Human Rights Commission about self-harm and suicide prevention. The following are the questions I answered recently when I agreed to be interviewed for a new Queensland Mental Health Commission investigation. They’re hoping to improve the current, sorely lacking procedures they use while trying to detect, assess and manage children at risk of suicide.
The Interviewer was lovely, but she personally had never, to the best of my knowledge, experienced anything even close to what we’re talking about. When interviewing about these issues, “they” know the participant is likely to experience some sort of angst or emotional response to the topic. So, why not have a person there who can empathise, understand and connect with the interviewee? Oh that’s right, that takes money and apparently the saving of young lives isn’t worth that much to the governmental department “powers that be”.

My answers to these questions are my own. They won’t be exactly what I said because I don’t have access to a copy of the notes the interviewer wrote at the time, but I’ll do my best because my beliefs haven’t changed.

1. What can mental health and support services do to be accessible and engaging to young people who are having a tough time.

Help needs to be reached within the local communities, it’s not good enough to tell people to “call Lifeline”. Have you ever tried? You get put on hold, when a young person is in crisis the LAST thing they want to hear is that they’re on hold. It’s not good enough for Senior High School Administration staff to stand up in front of parents and announce and acknowledge that “yes we know there’s a high rate of self harm BUT …. DON’T COME TO ME BECAUSE I KNOW NOTHING!” and no don’t talk to us because “WE DON’T WANT TO BE SUED BY YOUR PARENTS” if we suggest something and it doesn’t work the first time or at all.
There are 2 Headspace offices, Nundah and Redcliffe. I live at Albany Creek. If I was a young person in crisis, who didn’t want to involve family, I have no way of physically accessing these groups.
Solution – EVERY High school has the potential to incorporate a Headspace reduced size facility. And EVERY Principal and Deputy Principal should be required to undergo a complete training program pertaining to understanding the issues at hand, on how to demonstrate compassion, sympathy and guidance. So when a parent or carer approaches them and says “ can you please help me, my son is self harming and I know he does it here at school” They can actually offer support and guidance to that parent and if needed, the young person. I can hear them all now screaming “WE DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THIS IN OUR ALREADY BUSY SHEDULES! IT’S NOT THAT EASY TO JUST GET RESOURCES…” Blah blah blah… You can make a difference, you are choosing not to and making excuses not to. Young people are talking more and more about self harm and mental health issues and the pressures they’re under. More young people are dying. We have the opportunity TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE. Local libraries are another potential place for consideration.

2. What can mental health and support services do to make the initial assessment appointment / meeting as comfortable as possible for young people who are having a tough time?
How about meeting with the young person in their own environment where they feel safe. At home is a good start, if home is a safe place of course. What about school? If there was a “headspace” room then it’s a safe place. What about a friend’s house or another family member’s home?
Insisting in a young person, who’s in a lowered state of mental health, get out of their comfort zone, go into a foreign place, where they have to make all the effort just to go and see someone, isn’t a comfortable way to begin the assessment process.

3. What can mental health and support services do to make treatment or ongoing support as comfortable as possible or young people who are having a tough time?
Same as answer 2. Young people are already feeling uncomfortable, lets make it more comfortable for everyone concerned, including carers that are required to take time off from work, reschedule routines, which may all lead to increased stress and upset for the young person.

4. What training do mental health and support workers need to work effectively with young people who are having a tough time?
EMPATHY… REAL UNDERSTANDING…. COMPASSION….Young people having a tough time don’t come from text books that you’ve earned your degree studying, or if you have done some field work, a handful of clients you’ve interviewed. Young people are all different, require different approaches ..but the one thing they all have in common is that they’re all having a rough time. You can’t teach someone empathy, that only comes from REAL experiences. So, when people from REAL experiences are campaigning to be heard, are stepping up and stepping out, then grab them, train them if need be and let them help others. Not everyone will want to help others but I’m fairly certain there will be those who do and will be highly sought after for their insight and their EMPATHY.

5. What can different mental health and support services do to work together effectively to support young people who are having a tough time?
Communication… one system that interlinks, a bit like the TAX office, CSA and Centerlink. Stop holding on to information in the fear that someone might know more than you.. Aren’t we in this together? SHARE what you have, include local authorities. My experience with the local police stations was an invaluable one. I think only because I SHARED everything I knew so they knew what they were dealing with and that I was doing all I could to work with them.

6. What can mental health and support services do to make their services as comfortable as possible for different groups of young people who are having a tough time? For example:
a) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people
b) Young people in out-of-home care
c) Culturally and linguistically diverse young people
d) Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer young people

I loved this question…

there it is, right there.
See that list? A B C D? We label people, we put them in boxes, we brand them, we stigmatise them.
Don’t ALL our young people eat, breath, have hearts that beat, sleep, bleed, feel emotions?
Well why do we separate them into categories??? In fact why do we separate society like this? It’s part of the problem with people today and I think it’s part of why so many problems exist.
Treat ALL people with the same care, compassion, attention and respect. In the end that’s all anyone really wants no matter who they are or where they come from. Isn’t it?
There was only one group I believe need to be treated with additional care (NOT LABELLED). The young people who live out of home, foster care. These young people have often been torn from their usual, normal place of residence and care. I’ll say care because for some, although it’s usually not nice for us, it is what they know, they love that home, the people in it and it’s all they know. These young people are not only experiencing mental illness problems but the additional issues that may surround being placed into care..

We know the current practices aren’t working. So what do I think, as #JustAMum, needs to happen? How can the system be changed? Oh I can hear all those EXPERTS screaming “it’s not that easy you know”.
Well YES it is. Stop making it about money, stop making it about the fear of being sued if someone tries something and it doesn’t work. Young people are dying and us carers are crying and frustrated, while you sit back and use money and legislation as an excuse to do very little to effect CHANGE.

• Get a REAL support office into every suburb, where the young people are, where they can access help EASILY.
a. A “headspace” room in every high school, or
b. A “headspace” room in the local libraries
• Get Social Workers out of their offices and into the community where the “shit is going down”
• Stop making this “change” about liability and indemnity and money and resources.
• Rewrite legislation if need so that agencies and individuals who are volunteering their time to help others can’t be held liable simply because they’ve said what helped them and it didn’t work for another person.
• Utilise the help from those who have had the experience want to provide. Remember, they don’t need a university degree to know what they’re talking about because they’ve lived it one way or another and “just want to help others”. Train those who want to help.
• Listen to those who are speaking out, they’re doing it because the system needs to change.

Oh, and if you’re wondering why I posted this to Education and Technology category, because people need to be educated that it’s not a nasty disease, it can be talked about, it’s not an embarrassment nor something to be ashamed of.

You can read more of my blogs on my experiences on my website www.friendsonfeet.com.au/blogs or www.facebook.com/EmpoweredParentingNow/notes
#JustAMum #EmPN

Thank you for taking the time to read through, it really does mean a lot to me that you have chosen to do so. Thank you!

Posted by MsJane, 24th June 2014

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  • Would be great to see ASIST training for all client facing positions whether that be Centrelink or sports coaches. A real problem that doesn’t have a one size fits all solution.


  • Thank you for such extensive thoughts.


  • What a super read and loving your blog


  • Thank you for sharing with us, will be following your blog. x


  • All the best with your blog and thank you for providing the link to it.


  • Wow that was such a good read i will be popping on over to read your blog for sure well done again :)


  • Have read the whole article and visited your site. You really have a powerful voice. Keep up the great work and all the very best of wishes to you and your children.


  • Wow! You certainly have made a difference Jane, what a powerful voice!

    • Thanks for the support ladies, it means one heck of a lot to me :D


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