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Lithgow Community Mental Health...a personal perspective

Updated: Aug 12, 2019

For the last year I have worked alongside many mental health professionals, I have been impressed with their compassion and their drive to keep educating themselves through traditional study but also through listening and learning from the people they are caring for in our community. Today’s interview is with Mic Clarke the team leader of the community mental health team at Lithgow Hospital. The team includes, social workers, Dr’s, psychiatrists, mental health nurses and Peer Workers and we will be sharing interviews with other team members over the coming months but for now please enjoy Mic’s insightful intervie

1. Who are the people your organization was created for?

CMH see the top 4 % of all people in the community who are living with severe mental illness. In NSW that’s about a quarter of a million people or based on Lithgow LGA of 20000 that’s around 800 people locally with a severe mental illness. Of course we don’t see this many people at once, however we see many people across the community, and can be involved from responding to acute crises, psychosocial interventions, or offering long term care and treatment.

2. Can you share an example of how individuals have benefitted from community mental health?

About 90% of people we see have complex trauma behind other mental health issues like psychosis, depression, anxiety, suicidality. Complex trauma is relational trauma. So we offer relational safety and care through different forms of intervention, which depending on the person could range from therapy, to medications, to offering social supports and advocacy. Healing occurs in the context of good relationships, which in my experience is more possible in the community where services are committed and we know each other, where there is continuity and trust that has been built over time. CMH build this trust with others through our work which is very much community, not hospital based.

3. What are the ways people can connect with you?

The main gateway to free public mental health services is through the Access team which is initially via the NSW Mental Health Line on 180001151. Then plans for contact and assessment are arranged. People needing immediate care and support can come anytime to Emergency at Lithgow Hospital or can drop into the CMH centre also based at Lithgow Hospital

4. What strengths do you see revealed in the people you have supported?

One of the great joys of this work is seeing the resilience and strength of people who present and supporting their transformation. People who experience mental health issues are ordinary people in the community. You don’t have to be anyone special to have a meltdown. We all need support at different times in our lives. So our ability to connect and be in relationship when things are difficult is a great blessing and beauty to behold.

5. Why did you choose to train in this sort of work?

I wanted to serve my community. My grandfather was the Lithgow railway station master here during WW2 in the 1940’s and my Dad spent some of his childhood here, so it’s great to be here and feel the enormous heart and heritage of the Lithgow community.

6. How do you look after yourself?

I spend time every day with practices that return me to my body and being. I’m at the gym most mornings doing yoga, and maintain interests outside of work, and try to ensure I get plenty of rest sunshine and silence.

7. What lessons have you learnt from your work?

This is the human experience. We are all suffering. Everyone has a relational mind. Learning how to relate to this suffering is mental health. We all have mental health issues. None of us are spared. Is this the world’s best kept secret? Surely not. This is worth remembering. That everyone you meet, everyone, everyone, everyone, even the person sitting beside you today, is suffering in some domain of their life, so a little kindness generosity and compassion goes a very long way. We are all suffering. We are all just walking each other home.

8. What is a valuable piece of advice you would give to the readers right now?

Go for the still and the slow. Slow is the new fast. Find sanctuary in stillness and relationship, and return to community to be healed.

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