As many of you know, I am part of a local non for profit cafe in Warrandyte. We run many programs to help the community. One of which is “Blur” – a peer led mental health support group. Today in our local paper, Warrandyte Diary, is an article written by Bea Barrett who is a staff member at the Cafe. Originally appearing in the Warrandyte Diary November 2017. The Diary have given permission for me to re-post this piece today.
According to the most recent national survey…At any time, three million Australians are living with depression or anxiety. Almost one in two of us will experience some sort of mental health condition at some point in our lifetime. Only 35 per cent of sufferers access treatment.
Tackling Mental Health One Latte at a Time
By Bea Barrett
Say “innovative mental health initiative” and, chances are, “coffee, cake and Warrandyte” isn’t what comes to mind. But that’s set to change.
Today most mental health information sessions are still staged in rather formal settings – a specialist clinic, a large library, a designated Neighbourhood House. Over the last couple of months though one local expert and his world-class psychologist friend have started mixing it up.
They’ve been seeing what happens when an information session is shared in a setting that feels more light, more relaxed and more welcoming – the local community café, our very own Now & Not Yet on Yarra St no less.
This idea is as simple as it is different to what’s gone before. Driving it is Tim Read, a working artist based at Bend of Islands who also runs a mental health support group and works as a mental health mentor.
His motivation to do some else – something outside the usual? “It comes from my frustration”, Tim explained in an email note to me, “of trying to guide people through a clinical system, a clinical system which I find to be broken. Too often it just does not serve them anywhere near as well as it should – neither the people with mental health issues nor those close to them. And this last point is something most of us are not aware of, not until we find it out for themselves. The Now & Not Yet ‘Coffee, Coffee and Information Nights’ [they start at 8pm] are actually for the carers, the family, friends and colleagues of someone with a mental health issue as much for the suffer themselves.”
I went along to the most recent event to gauge, for myself, its value.
Arriving at 7.45pm I was greeted by cool tunes, a warm vibe and a genuine smile.
I was offered a fresh, barista made coffee and a fresh, seriously deliciously looking cake. I found myself happily agreeing to both.
I took a seat and looked round. The café was three quarters full. Quiet couples sat close. Knots of people, who seemed to know each, smiled and chatted. On the large communal tables individuals were saying hello and introducing themselves.
An outsider looking in would think we’d gathered to listen to a live musician or a slam poet perhaps. They certainly wouldn’t think we’d gathered to listen to a mental health practitioner or four.
I wasn’t the only one on a small table on their own. But even if I was, I wouldn’t have felt alone.
There was a sort of connection between us. It’s as if we all recognised we had something in common.
This commonality didn’t necessarily feel easy – dealing with mental health issues is never easy, not even in your favourite cafe – but it did feel personal. Less clinical. Less removed. More everyday.
Within a few minutes Tim took to the ‘stage’ – rustic wood panels on a lattice of milk crates – and made what turned out to be his first key point. Being here, he emphasised, does not “label” you as having a mental illness or caring for someone with a mental illness. It just means, he went on, that “you’re seeking knowledge about a vital part of personal wellbeing.”
Tim then introduced himself in the strongest of terms. He lives with mental health issues. He has suffered. His illness has impacted on his wife. Their children too. Without them, he would not be standing here.
Heads nodded. Eyes filled. Hands were squeezed. And when Tim asked the question, who here has experienced the threat or reality of suicide, hands were raised. There were so many. Including yours truly’s.
Tim went on to present an at-a-glance guide to mental health issues. The various types were smartly defined. The range of potential remedies concisely outlined. Nothing was assumed. No judgments were made.
Then it was time to open up for questions. There were lots. Tim was assisted by two (impressively down to earth) colleagues from Eastern Access Community Health, based in Ringwood, along with that world-class friend of his – Dr James Courtney.
Dr Courtney, a clinical psychologist, is the senior lecturer and deputy director of the Monash University Psychology Centre. He is also, like Tim, as luck would have it, a local. Funny that.
The idea of the two of them to linking up, to share their knowledge and to do this not in an old official space but in a light and lively community café now seems strangely obvious.
And maybe that shows just how right it is. And what promise it holds.
I left convinced.
The next ‘Coffee, Cake & Mental Health Night’ will be held at 8pm on Tuesday, December 12 at Now and Not Yet, 150 Yarra St Warrandyte
Contact Tim via 0405 101 001
Blur, a modern mental health support group also run by Tim Read and also held at Now and Not Yet, meets every second Tuesday at 8pm.
Next dates: Nov 21, Dec 5, Dec 19
Call Tim for more details: 0405 101 001
For more information on mental health you can read this article: Understanding Mental Health