Jessica’s Story

Since graduating from Flourish Australia’s Youth Community Living Support Services (YCLSS) program I hold high hopes for my future. The support I received from Flourish Australia empowered me to start living independently and achieve significant life goals.

Since graduating from Flourish Australia’s Youth Community Living Support Services (YCLSS) program I hold high hopes for my future. The support I received from Flourish Australia empowered me to start living independently and achieve significant life goals. It’s given me the confidence I needed to create a new career path for myself. For the first 13 years of my life I was exposed every day to abusive behaviour. My own struggle with post traumatic stress and anorexia proved to be too much for my family, so I felt I had to strike out on my own, at a relatively young age, to survive. I resorted to living in refuges to escape the volatile home environment. The turning point was my referral to Flourish Australia’s YCLSS program 18 months ago. Since then, I’ve regained my independence and now live in a unit of my own, without requiring any community support. My journey had been a long, lonely one, with repeated hospital admissions. Once I was part of the YCLSS program, Flourish Australia’s outreach team would come to me, on a weekly basis. What appealed to me most was that their approach was in no way clinical. The Peer Workers felt more like buddies to me than therapists and as we spent time hanging out together, the trust between us grew. Knowing that they had once walked in my shoes gave me so much hope for my own future. Because I could identify with them, I felt able to open up about things that I would hesitate to share with a psychologist. Having greater stability on the home front has freed me to think about my future. I had previously been studying medical administration but a recent opportunity to address the Prime Minister of Australia, on matters of mental health, has inspired me to set my sights on a career in advocacy. This came about soon after my graduation from Flourish Australia’s YCLSS program. I was feeling highly motivated and took the initiative to respond to a Facebook post that invited participation in ‘politics in the pub’ at Penrith, with the Prime Minister. I have always taken an interest in politics but, in the past, it would never have occurred to me to act on something like addressing the Prime Minister in person. My time with Flourish Australia has taught me the importance of persisting with the goals that are meaningful to me and I felt confident that what I had to say, on the subject of mental health, mattered a great deal to many people. After many years of hospitalisation, I feel very strongly about the poor conditions I’ve experienced in the public mental health system. Others have shared their own stories with me over the years and I saw this as my chance to give us all a voice. I was selected to address the Prime Minister and his Minister of Defence and spent the night prior formulating my speech, to be sure I would get my point across. I feel so proud that I was able to make a real impact by sharing my lived experience, within the mental health system. They were genuinely concerned with what I described and receptive to being further informed. I am currently awaiting confirmation of a one-to-one meeting with the minister. Being heard had a profound effect on me. I realised that I had the power to make a difference by talking about my lived experience and the whole experience has inspired me to carry that advocacy role into my future. I want to become a voice for people everywhere, who are struggling with mental health issues and feel so strongly that much needs to be done, to improve awareness of the unique challenges faced by people in the public mental health system. It may seem ambitious, at the age of 24, to aspire to influencing political decision makers in mental health matters, but my life experience has shown me that changes need to be made, and I want to play a part in making that happen. I feel I’m now in control of my own destiny and wellbeing. Being able to get out of bed each morning, with a sense of purpose is fulfilling for me. Before the YCLSS program, I had reached a point in my life where I was resigned to the belief that the way things were, was the way they would always be and that nothing would ever improve for me. Flourish Australia showed me that I am resilient and walked alongside me with the support and encouragement I needed to claim my place in the community. I feel like I’m on my way now and there’s no doubt in my mind that I will get to where I want to be.

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