This week (17-24 May 2020) is Schizophrenia Awareness Week. This year’s theme, “Stay Connected”, asks Australians to look for new ways to be more present and supportive of those living with mental illness.
Therapy Care passionately advocates for mental health on a local level and strives to break down barriers and stigmas surrounding mental illness and disability for our participants. We execute considered support services that enable and empower participants to maintain their independence and live the best quality of life possible.
“Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore.” – César Chávez
As Dr Eleanor Longden spoke to in a 2013 Ted Talk, when it comes to mental illness, the first question should be “what’s happened to you?”, opposed to “what’s wrong with you?”
Seeing more NDIS support services readily available to those living with mental health disorders is a significant step forward and allows us to provide services to Australians who may need additional recreational, physical or personal support services.
To commemorate Schizophrenia Awareness Week, Therapy Care participant Lee Stewart, 51, shares his story about living with Schizophrenia and urges us all to rethink our perception of the disorder and mental illness more broadly.
Prior to being diagnosed with Schizophrenia 22 years ago, Lee was at university undertaking his degree in a Bachelor of Education: Early Childhood Teaching. The personal trauma of losing his mother in his 20s, triggered Lee’s first schizoaffective episode.
“My mother had passed away and I was living on the streets where I was experiencing a deep depression. Following the episode, I was hospitalised for 11 months. I didn’t know who I was for those 11 months. They tried many medications to help me. At the time, I felt like I had nothing,” says Lee.
Over the next few decades, Lee’s life changed drastically. He was hospitalised various times and eventually had to make the decision to give himself a second chance at happiness.
Lee joined the Therapy Care community two years ago. During this time Recreational Therapist, Karlie Scurr, has been working closely with Lee and his support team to integrate services tailored specifically to his interests.
Missy, one of Lee’s key support workers says, “Lee, who was once very set in his ways, is now very open to trying new activities and he has adopted a more positive attitude towards life. As a result, his kindness and caring personality shines through and is noticed by our wider community.”
Lee receives the following support services from Therapy Care:
● Social and community participation
● Day program
● Exercise physiology
● Plan management
● Recreational Therapy
Lee says, “Therapy Care has helped me breakdown barriers. Everyone I come into contact with at Therapy Care is extremely generous with their time. I have everything I need and feel supported in my day to day life. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
“Trying new activities and socialising doesn’t come easily to me. I love that the team at Therapy Care encourages me to live outside of my comfort zone in environments where I feel safe and supported. Because of this, I’ve made new friends and enjoyed activities I never thought I would,” says Lee.
Lee prides himself on his independence and the Therapy Care team love supporting him to continue living life on his own terms.
“I enjoy living independently, especially knowing I can rely on the Therapy Care team to provide support services when I need them,” Lee says.
Lee has a full life and enjoys arts and has a passion for music.
“I love punk rock. One of my favourite activities with my support worker is going to redeye records and purchasing records. I have many CD’s and DVD’s. I have a great collection.
I enjoy watching the news, going to the club, writing poems, and walking to the corner shop to get the paper and a coffee. I enjoy playing monopoly and battleships. I like having my friends over too. My goal at the moment is to learn how to become a better cook,” says Lee.
When reflecting on the life Lee has built for himself, he is overwhelmed with pride. “It took me so long to get to where I am now and I’m so proud of myself and excited for what the future holds,” Lee says.
While we’ve come a long way in breaking down stigmas around mental illness, the perception of Schizophrenia largely remains misconstrued.
“There are many misconceptions about Schizophrenia. Many of us keep our condition well-managed and behave and function like everyone else.
“I am kind, gentle and caring. I wish more people knew this about me and that one day I don’t feel as misjudged as I do today,” says Lee.
How do you show your support for those living with mental illness? Are you doing your bit to #stopthestigma?