Bruce’s Story

Peer work is completely unlike anything I have ever done. I’ve seen the difference my story can make to someone’s entire outlook.

There was a time I would have struggled to ask a mate if he was ok. Since being a Peer Worker at Flourish Australia I’ve felt the stigma around talking about mental health dissolve. Now I can have that conversation with a complete stranger and I’m committed to seeing stigma disappear completely from the wider community. I’m a bloke from the bush, born and bred. I spent my early years learning all about farming and grazing livestock and went on to drive trucks all over Australia for about 20 years. A relationship breakdown brought me back to my home town of Moree where I could be close to my sister while I got back on my feet. Moree is a small town of about 13,000 people, so it’s a fairly tight knit community but being so remote, it can feel quite isolating for people. That’s something I can empathise with as a result of my own lived experience of depression. The support that Flourish Australia offered me at that time in my life showed me how valuable Peer work is to the local community. Up to that point in my life, farming and truck driving was all I’d known and I was about to take on another contract in Queensland when I was approached to consider a Peer Worker position with Flourish Australia at Moree. That got me thinking long term about whether truck driving was what I wanted to still be doing in five years time and thanks to the support I had already received from Flourish Australia, I had the confidence to give something new a go. Peer work is completely unlike anything I have ever done. It’s so rewarding to be able to use the experience of a dark time in my life to bring hope to other people who are struggling with their own challenges. I’ve seen the difference my story can make to someone’s entire outlook. Having travelled a lot, I’m able to talk to most people and many of them around here are off the land like me, so we connect right away. I know first hand from experience with my own father that the best time to talk to a bloke is when he’s on the tractor and has these long straight runs. Like doing long hauls in the truck, that’s when you have plenty of time to think things through. For me, one of the most positive changes has been going off medication, after I talked to my doctor. As I became more involved with other people through my work at Flourish Australia, I grew frustrated with feeling tired all the time and started feeling good enough in myself to no longer need medication to get me through each day. Like anyone, I have down days, but working in such a supportive environment, surrounded by colleagues I can talk to, has made a world of difference to my ability to bounce back. The support you get from everyone here at Flourish Australia is terrific. If I ever needed help with anything at all I knew I could turn to my support person who has since become a wonderful work colleague. In the past I would never have believed I’d have the opportunity for a job like this – or thought it possible that I could be capable of it. I feel driven to find out even more about mental health and grow from peer support into a mentoring role. One of my goals is to play a part in getting rid of the stigma associated with mental health matters altogether.

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