Family and Friends National Reference Group
Ann is excited to be working alongside the other members of the reference group, among whom she says there is a bond borne of the fact they have all supported young people experiencing mental ill-health.
She wants to use her platform to break down the stigma that young people and their families sometimes feel when experiencing mental ill-health.
Ann advocates passionately for family and friends to have a dedicated space inside headspace centres where they can find information about how to best support their young person.
‘We are their support between appointments, so we need to be able to find that information too,’ she says.
In her life away from headspace, Ann runs an eco-friendly cleaning business and works as a family and carer peer support worker. She’s recently completed her Diploma of Mental Health so she can continue her advocacy in this space.
As a family peer worker at her local headspace centre, Gurvinder draws on her lived experience of mental ill-health to support young people who come to the service.
She knows well the important role of family in navigating the mental health system, having supported her younger sister to get help soon after their family migrated to Australia.
She is passionate about making sure refugee and migrant families can access support for their mental health while adjusting to life in a new country.
Gurvinder’s message to family and friends supporting a young person with mental ill-health is to seek help. ‘You will see you are not alone. This is a shared community experience, even if you feel like no one is talking about it,’ she says.
Mental health advocacy is also a feature of Gurvinder’s digital art, which she shares on Instagram.
Later, when her eldest teenage daughter returned home from university experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression, the family again sought assistance from their local headspace centre.
The family accessed regular support from headspace for the next three years, which Sharene says was ‘an absolute lifesaver’ for her daughter.
‘The centre was very family inclusive, offering support and guidance to not only my daughter, but those of us supporting her,’ she remembers.
As a member of the Family and Friends National Reference Group, Sharene is determined that all family and friends know what to do when a young person is experiencing mental ill-health, including who they can contact for support.
She also draws on her family’s experience in her contributions to her local headspace consortia.
Sharene is a mortgage broker with 25 years’ experience, and also runs her own small business.
Kim is a powerful advocate for mental health awareness and suicide prevention.
Kim’s son, Daniel, died by suicide in 2018. Kim tells her family’s story to help others learn the signs of mental ill-health and to promote ways that families can support their young person.
Kim uses her position on the headspace Family and Friends Reference Group to advocate for holistic and family-inclusive approaches to mental health. She says it is important for practitioners to acknowledge young people are parts of a family unit that also requires knowledge and support to navigate the mental health system.
‘Suicide prevention is everyone's business,’ Kim says.
Since Kim joined the reference group, she reports that headspace is listening to and acting on the advice of members.
‘The breadth of opportunities for family participation show that we’re really valued – and that’s amazing,’ she says.
She’s been motivated to advocate for family inclusive mental health care ever since an unsatisfactory experience with the system left her feeling shut out and isolated.
‘Family members are the scaffold that support young people,’ she says. ‘Their voices are often not invited or valued. It is crucial they are listened to and that their involvement is not tokenistic.’
She is also interested in developing ongoing supports for family who continue to care for a young person after a crisis subsides.
Tricia’s advice for anyone supporting a young person with mental ill-health is to not give up: ‘Find what helps you maintain a sense of hope and optimism. Supporting a loved one with mental ill health can be overwhelming. It is important that you nourish your own wellbeing.’
Tricia works as a hospital Spiritual Care Practitioner offering emotional support to patients and their loved ones, and as a Lived Experience Worker (Carer) in mental health. She is also a volunteer with a refugee tutoring program.
In the time since her passing, Michael has become a trusted voice on mental health and suicide prevention in his local community where he lives with his wife and youngest daughter.
Michael remembers feeling disconnected from Emma’s mental health journey as a parent and says it’s an experience he shares in the hope it drives more family-inclusive practices across the mental health sector.
His objective is to ensure family and friends have somewhere to go for information and advice, or for support with their own mental health.
When he’s not working to improve access to family-inclusive mental health care, Michael is hard at work renovating his family home.
Sarah has supported her sibling and her partner who have both experienced mental ill-health and also has a lived experience of her own.
In her role in the Family and Friends National Reference Group, Sarah hopes to champion greater awareness, support and recognition for the vital role that families and friends play in supporting young people having a tough time.
Also a provisional psychologist, Sarah is a voice and advocate for children and young people experiencing complex mental health challenges.
When she’s not hard at work in the mental health system, Sarah loves pottery, going to music gigs, killing houseplants and trying to be cooler than the young people she works with.