26-04-2018 01:18 PM - edited 26-04-2018 01:18 PM
Hi everyone and welcome to our new feature: Service Spotlight!
This feature will be highlighting a member of staff here at SANE Australia and the program they run. You will see this feature come up every three months.
This will be set up as a Q&A giving members the opportunity to ask any questions about a program featured and respond to a question that is put out to the community by the program lead.
Below you will see a few interview questions to give you a bit of information and background on the particular program.
You can post your question at any time and answers will be provided from Monday
To kick off this new feature we have @NatR - I’ll let her introduce herself!
Who am I and what is my role?
My name is Natalie and I am the Lived Experience Coordinator at SANE. I manage and support all our Peer Ambassadors who are passionate about sharing their personal experiences of complex mental illness on behalf of and for SANE Australia, as well as others affected by complex mental illness.
A bit about my program
The Peer Ambassador Program (which has only just relaunched from the former SANE Speakers Program) supports a group of people (both those with lived experience and carers) who work with SANE Australia to raise awareness, reduce stigma and provide hope to Australians affected by complex mental illness.
All Peer Ambassadors receive training and support, guiding them through the process of sharing their story in ways that align with their reason for becoming an ambassador. They contribute their unique voice and authentic perspective to SANE’s work by speaking at public or workplace events, and engaging with corporate, government and non-government organisations, the media and broader community.
Participants are also regularly invited to help develop, deliver and evaluate SANE’s programs and services, contribute to advocacy and research projects, review resources and provide their insights through co-design or research projects.
What’s coming up in the Program?
As we have just relaunched the Program, we will be spending the next month recruiting and screening up to 40 new Peer Ambassadors from across Australia. I will then be facilitating two- day capacity building workshops in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth from May – November. It’s going to be a very busy but extremely rewarding and inspiring year
A question I have for the community:
For the benefit of the training we will be delivering for this program, we want to cover how to handle challenges that may arise when a peer ambassador shares their story of complex mental illness, particularly for the first time (as someone with lived experience or a carer).
With this in mind do you have any tips or ideas that may help us support new Peer Ambassadors around challenges you have either faced, or anticipate facing in sharing your own story?
29-04-2018 12:25 PM
That despite it all. People will make judgements that are unfair, even just by being silent and not relating.
30-04-2018 11:37 AM
Thanks so much @Appleblossom for your response! I totally agree with you - whoever is listening to our story brings their own experiences and truths which dont always support or connect with our own. We always encourage our Peer Ambassadors to recognise that their lived experience is their truth and no one can take that away from them. Although we must respect other people's views, they dont replace or counteract our own stories and journeys. How do you look after your wellbeing in times when you have felt like this?
01-05-2018 08:27 PM
i think just from sharing our stories on the forum there is often a bit of a cycle. At first there is a sense of relief and almost euphoria once it’s out. Then comes the panic and maybe regret at what have I done. This also coincide with massive fear of rejection. So you sit on edge until you get some feedback. Then gradually it just fades away and I am mostly ok with what I’ve shared. It does cause lots of anxiety but over time you build confidence and a bit of resilience I think as you share things.
I think the biggest thing is working out what to share. I fear over sharing too.
01-05-2018 12:18 AM
01-05-2018 09:24 AM
That cycle is incredibly familiar amongst so many of our Peer Ambassadors, especially at the beginning of their sharing journey; we call it Sharers Remorse and is completely normal We work really closely with our Ambassadors to manage sharing boundaries during our training, so that people feel safe in what they are willing to disclose and aren't right from the offset. This of course will evolve over time, and at different times of the year and depending on the person/ people you are sharing with. Once you decide these boundaries in your own time and in advance, this makes it much easier to accept or disnegage with others questions. Ultimately, we always use the question 'is this helpful, for you and others, to share this?' Time can give us lots of clarity too.
A lot of our Ambassadors talk of the validation they achieve from sharing and this would make total sense in connection to your comments about feedback; this is why we get all our community organisations to complete an evaluative form at the end of a presentation so that I can then demonstrate the powerful and incredible impact each presentation has. This is really important - that the story isnt just released into empty space.
You're right though, with time and experience, the validation is achieved from the sharing itself and the incredible courage and resilience it takes to do so, even if you have shared multiple times.
Thank you so much for this insightful comment - it really confirms that this experience is a common one
01-05-2018 09:44 AM
@Appleblossom - I think all our Peer Ambassadors are regularly working on their self care and wellbeing after sharing; you are definitely not alone here. I think that when we feel like our journeys arent being respected or acknowledged by certain individuals it's really important to connect with those who DO love us and accept us for our journeys and experiences, and spend time doing things that contribute positively to our wellbeing after these difficult experiences and will 'refill our cup'.
Independent to mental illness, we are all human and have qualities and traits which make up who we are - we arent perfect but the people who are worthy of our time will love us for us and will appreciate us for who we are; not simply the person they would like us to be.
Thank you so much for being vulnerable and sharing this reality.
01-05-2018 03:53 PM
just from sharing our stories on the forum, on the carers or the Lived experience forum , the first step of sharing our story is the first step
01-05-2018 04:14 PM
@Shaz51I definitely agree - it's a huge step and one that takes huge courage and with the support of a community like the forums and in a training workshop, it can make all the difference at the beginning
02-05-2018 05:04 PM
Hi @NatR This conversation is so appropriate for me right now, as I am considering sharing my own lived experiences. So I have been re-reading and thinking over this discussion since it was posted.
And @Teej has said it so well about the concern of oversharing. Which is one of my concern or challenges as well. How do you know what is enough or too much? And I understand training helps with that. But I also look it from the angle of what resonates with the information you share if different with everyone. So while one person might not feel comfortable or disagree with some aspect of what you are sharing, another will be nodding their head all along and will approach after and thank you for making them feel less alone.
Another challenge I have when stepping out into the lived experience spotlight is the impact of my story on my career, my family and my friends. I have not shared much of my experiences outside of professionals; not even my mother. There are many reasons for this. But I am particularly concerned about my career, which there is little left of now anyway. Unfortunately, I have been judged quite harshly and been treated the worst by the very peers I work with. So I am concerned about loosing respect, tarnishing my reputation and spoken off behind my back.
The people that know me really well are incredibly encouraging and supportive, and I get used to the idea of sharing my story further, I have begun to share little bits and peices of my experiences and mental illness journey with others. in doing this has been a sharing of their own stories, their own 'me too'. And I have found the judgment and discrimination far less in the local community. They understood not only the symptoms of their illness but also the challenges of stigmatisation, discrimination and judgement.
With regards to my career, I have effectively mostly resolved many of the concers I have had. I have spoken to professionals in the mental health sector about my concerns as well as reflected on my own career and where possibly it is going, or not going. With this reflection came a realisation that at the end of the day I am human too, and many of my peers have endured mental illness, and have shared little of their experiences or stories for the same concerns I have. I think it is time, however, to bring our stories out into the open more, and show that we are just as vulnerabe as anyone else. I also hope that by sharing my story and experiences, and having my peers listening to it will lead to an increased awareness and understanding and a resolution r reduction in the current state of discrimination and unfair negative judgements.
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