Barbara started the Mental Health Support Group in 2004 after losing her son Barry to depression twenty-five years ago. Winner of the 2021 Ballina Citizen of the Year Award for her work in mental health support, Barbara was also a recipient of a NRCF Recovery and Resilience Grant this year for The Mental Health Support Project.
The need for this project arose last year due to those who had been homeless finally finding a home, but unable to afford basic needs such as warm clothing, furniture, kitchen equipment, bedding and electrical goods.
“It’s wonderful to get accommodation, but a mentally ill person sitting in a shell of a house or apartment will quickly deteriorate mentally” says Barbara. “This grant gave hope. It provided a basis from which people could concentrate on normalising their lives to become part of the community and rehabilitate.
Children from these families also benefited because there was stability in their lives, a warm bed, comfortable furniture and a home. Without the worry of having to pay for these things, they became more resilient and able to face life’s challenges. It gave them a second chance, enabled them to engage with their community with dignity, and focus on their recovery.”
Jane and Rob were one such couple. Both with a history of childhood abuse and neglect resulting in significant trauma, and extensive drug abuse, they were struggling with their mental health. They had also been homeless for many years and had recently had a baby.
Securing permanent housing just before their baby was born, they moved into a house, owning only the clothes on their back and a few bags with personal belongings. Through the Mental Health Support Project, Jane and Rob suddenly had a house full of furniture, kitchen items, linen, towels, curtains – everything they needed to make their house a home. They also received donations of baby items and food vouchers.
“Overcome with emotion, they often spoke of how grateful they felt” says Family Development Worker, Tommie Crethar. “They shared how living on the streets left them feeling worthless and filled with shame. However, once the MHSG team stepped in and supported them, they said their life turned around. Their main focus now is to continue attending their counselling sessions and drug rehab and keep their house looking beautiful to raise their child.”
Find out more about the amazing work of the MHSG via their facebook page. To enquire about volunteering, contact Barbara on 0400 736 815.