Jenni: “It’s Possible to Hope”
Jenni first became unwell in the 1980s, and was diagnosed with schizophrenia and depression. It was in the early 90s that Jenni started attending Grow, a twelve-step mutual support program for people experiencing mental distress. When her father passed away in more recent years, Jenni decided to return to Grow once again: “I had some serious problems, and I needed support, and I couldn’t get it anywhere else,” she says.
Since her first experiences of informal peer support, followed by participation in Grow, Jenni has been an active member of a number of different support groups. She feels that by connecting with other people who have had similar experiences, these groups provide her with a unique kind of support, and give her a better outlook on living with mental illness. From budgeting, writing, and exercise classes, through to sharing recovery stories and reducing stigma, Jenni has found many group topics helpful in her own journey.
She also enjoys the opportunity to give back, and sometimes take on leadership roles in her groups. At times, Jenni can find it difficult to speak in public, and says that she was a lot quieter when she first started going to groups. Now, things have certainly changed – last year she led a class in card-making for a multicultural support group that was established by a close friend.
Looking forward, Jenni is exploring further training with VMIAC (the Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council), around Transcultural awareness. Being productive and making changes in the mental health system as a member of Spectrum of Cultures and the Kew Multicultural Support Group means that Jenni feels she is getting more out of participation: “It’s good to show that it’s possible to hope, and that recovery is possible.”
Jenni also receives support from her friends and family, and PHaMs (Personal Helpers and Mentors) worker.