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Turning a page for mental health in Wollongong

A unique public event involving insightful and highly personal storytelling is set to lift mental health awareness to new levels in the Illawarra.

Twelve people of all ages and backgrounds have been selected as ‘Living Library’ mental health speakers and will share their recovery journey stories to members of the public as part of an event called ‘Real Stories, Real People, Share the Journey.’

The event is being held as a launch for Mental Health Month in the Illawarra.

The speakers are of different ages and social backgrounds and will be positioned at various stations, enabling audiences to zero in on stories most relevant to them, and shift from speaker to speaker over a three-hour period.

The concept is a collaboration between leading community mental health not-for-profit Flourish Australia and Community Service Diploma students from TAFE Wollongong, and takes a twist on Wollongong City Council’s Living Library Programs.

“It’s called a ‘Living Library’ experience because it’s just that – a chance for real people to share real mental health stories with people who want to learn more,” Flourish Australia Wollongong Manager Chloe Hancock said.

“It’s one thing for people to read-up on mental health but understanding is taken to another level when real people are speaking of their own experiences and connecting as human beings.

“It’s also therapeutic for those speaking because they’re playing a role in helping others.”

Belinda Hawker from TAFE Wollongong said a main objective was to steer people with mental health issues towards help.

“People may be living with a mental health issue, but not realise it or not know that life-changing help is usually close,” Belinda said.

“When such people hear the detailed experiences of others who are on a successful recovery journey, it can usually encourage them to start their own journey.”

One speaker at the event is 70-year-old Wollongong resident Peter Feeney, who lives with anxiety and depression, and is in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. Peter has been living with these conditions for over 40 years, not receiving any help for the first 20 years of his experience. When Peter finally sought help, he was able to reflect on his experiences and move forward in his recovery. Today Peter is an active and happy member of the Flourish Australia and Wollongong communities.

Peter’s story is called the ‘Long Winding Road’.

“It’s a wonderful experience to be able to share my story with members of the public,” Peter said.

“The hope of course is that myself and all the other speakers will boost awareness of mental health in the Illawarra, something that could change many lives.”

Real People Real Stories Share the Journey

Where: Flourish Australia Wollongong – “The New Outlook”
3 Station Street Wollongong
When: Friday 27th September 2019
Time: 3pm to 6pm
Enquiries: / 0428 255 751

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