Monday, February 12, 2007

Credit where it's due: Federal initiatives on mental health

DH hates to admit it, because positivity is outside the terms of reference of this blog but sometimes our governments get things right.

As DH has mentioned before, she suffers from depression, and "suffers" is the operative word. She does not consider herself to be "mentally ill", a term already discredited in the 60s, and now making a comeback as our culture runs out of the energy for dealing with any level of complexity. The reasons for DH's depression are not some mysterious chemical insult to her brain, but the results of a combination of carer stress, lack of familial and institutional support, and the resultant poverty according to the simple formula:

Poverty = Disability **2

When DH sought support, which is what she needed to balance the equation, she found none. Whenever depression struck, particularly over the Christmas holidays in an ill-designed DOH house that provides no rest, no escape from heat stress (all glass, facing west, no insulation, no cross-ventilation) and with no family supports, other than the disabled mother who necessarily takes more energy than she gives, there was nothing.

DH couldnt find a psychiatrist who bulk-billed without months long waiting list. Finally she found one, a fellow very highly regarded in his profession. In his generosity, he told her that as a bulk-billed patient, he could only give her 1/4 hour of his precious time. She slammed this gift horse in the mouth. She tried a crisis service, but they didnt have funding for "mild cases" like hers. (It helps to have suicided first before applying). In 2005, she had a marvellous counsellor who had been her mainstay, an invaluable sounding board for life's difficulties. She met him when she received financial counselling on how to survive on $300 a week or whatever it was from a church run charity. Her counsellor was funded by gambling revenue. It seems the State Government has run out of gambling revenue, because the service was suddenly shut down. See this blog, State Govt runs out of Gambling Revenue! Counselli... In the meantime, DH's anti-depressants stopped working, and she found herself having to go cold turkey without any support whatsoever other than having a different script shoved at her by her GP. It was an awful time, and took about six months to stabilise, a period of roller-coaster dreams and mood swings, during which she was also holding down a very demanding job, doing volunteer community activism, caring for her child, and playing a part in amateur theatre. Her last 6 months of unemployment are a recovery from that frantic era.

Now for the good bit: Finally! The federal government has made 12 psychological counselling sessions available a year through Medibank, and DH has found a counsellor who is brilliant! Plus DH is seeing a careers counsellor thru Centrelink at CRS who is not just trying to shoehorn her into the first available job, but into helping her to find work that is meaningful and sustainable.

So it looks like the worst is over.

Of course no job will get DH out of the poverty trap that DOH has plunged her into with its lack of a strategy for transitioning out of public housing, and of course, no government has made any kind of commitment to doing anything serious about the housing crisis affecting renters.

But DH reckons, with a roof over her head, watching on in safety as 100 Generation Xers are battling to get into one 2nd rate rental property in her municipality, a meaningful job, her depression controlled, and her current range of very satisfying interests, her life is sweet, and she is very fortunate compared to the majority of the world's population

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