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7The Independent Weekly
August 13 - 19, 2010
Every Wednesday morning,
at a nondescript and often
unnoticed Salvation Army
building on Pirie Street, 50-year-old
Kendall Silsbury brews tea and
prepares breakfast for a few dozen
homeless, needy, addicted -- and
often very ill -- people.
She thinks of a time, just three
years ago, when she needed the
services she now offers to others.
"I started experimenting with
drugs as a teenager. I was diagnosed
with depression and anxiety in
1983, but the help I got was basically
being prescribed something and
told see you later ," she said.
"I managed to get through a
teaching degree and raising a
family, but by 2004 my substance
abuse was totally out of control.
"My relationship of 15 years
split, and in 2007 I was evicted from
my home and I was on the streets."
When she lost her home, she also
lost contact with her three sons.
Her own mother had to change the
locks to stop Kendall stealing from
her home. Kendall got involved
with crime and faced a variety of
Although she tried a couple of
rehab programs, nothing worked
until she started receiving help
from a special team at the Salvation
"It was just such a gentle
approach. It was not, You have to
do this now . Everything was as
slow or as quick as I wanted it to
be," she said.
Kendall had entered the Salvation
Army s Warrondi Stabilisation
Unit, where she was accom-
modated, given counselling, helped
with her legal issues and supported
to stay on medication. From there,
she spent five months in a Uniting
Care Wesley rehab facility.
"When I left there I came back
to the Towards Independence
Network of Services with the
Salvos. I went into stage one of
supported accommodation, then
into stage two and now I m in stage
three in independent Red Shield
housing," Kendall said.
She lives in that house with her
two youngest sons, while her eldest
lives and works in Melbourne. She
now volunteers with the Salvos and
is starting the process to get back
into the workforce as a teacher.
Kendall is a mental health
success story. While she is still
taking medication, she now has
the support and confidence to cope
with her illness.
According to Patrick Kukla,
a team leader of the Towards
Independence and Bridge
programs that helped Kendall,
successes are a result of tenacity
"As much as we re able to, we
want to hang in there as long as
we can with people," he said. "Our
philosophy has more of a relation-
ship base to it and it s driven by the
client, otherwise the whole thing
falls over completely."
While many not-for-profit
organisations such as the Salvation
Army are well-placed to provide
this kind of care, they have been
largely ignored in the major
parties election announcements
on mental health.
The Greens party is the only one
to specifically mention extra fund-
ing being delivered to this sector,
although Labor has promised to
overhaul relations between not-for-
profits and government with an eye
to streamlining funding.
However, there are also success-
ful programs run under recent
national reforms. The Day to Day
living programs in Wayville, Port
Lincoln and Christies Beach --
administered by Mattea Malcolm
from the Mental Illness Fellowship
of SA (MIFSA) -- is funded by the
federal Department of Health and
"People who access the programs
build on their individual strengths,
as they do art and woodwork
or help cook meals, and they
remember they have strengths and
capacities they had forgotten they
had," Ms Malcolm said.
"We have seen people come
in very low in confidence and
quite attached to their identity
of mental illness . MIFSA staff
approach participants as people
who have capabilities as well as
challenges -- like all of us. We have
heard many stories of participants
who are managing their challenges
and moving on to build confident
and fulfilling lives."
Executive director of the
Mental Health Coalition of SA
Geoff Harris said this and other
community-based solutions run
by the Commonwealth had proved
"Those programs have been
evaluated and the feedback from
people who have been on the
receiving end, which is about
10,000 Australians with severe and
persistent illness, is they do work,"
However, Mr Harris said about
40,000 more Australians needed
access to this type of help. The
Liberals election pledges for
mental health don t touch on these
programs, while Labor promises
to pour $60 million over four years
into the area.
Mr Harris said this wasn t
enough to get help for everyone
who needed it.
Other services which used to
provide help for the mentally ill
have been cut back. Occupational
therapists and social workers
were previously included as part
of Medicare s "Better Access"
scheme, meaning visits were
subsidised, but have now been
struck off the list of approved
providers. Instead, these services
have to be accessed through a GP or
Rather than putting money into
these proven solutions, both parties
are investing elsewhere.
The Liberals "Real Action for
Better Mental Health" is worth
$1.5 billion. It includes funding for
a new system based around Early
Psychosis Intervention Centres
and 800 mental health beds tied to
those. The party is also planning to
invest in the youth help Headspace
Labor has promised less money,
$276.9 million, and has targeted
its pledges at suicide prevention.
Apart from its $60 million for
community programs, there is
also money for other "frontline"
services, support for communities
with high suicide rates, money to
specifically help men, and $65.9
million to assist young people with
Mr Harris welcomes the
youth-targeted initiatives and the
But without more money for
other services known to work for
people like Kendall, thousands of
Australians will still be dipping
below the surface of mental illness
without the helping hand they need
to pull them back up.
Policies of life and death
For hundreds of thousands of Australians, next Saturday's election is not about politics -- it's about
mental health. And as Farrin Foster reports, their future depends on the result
Around 100 people gathered on
the steps of Parliament House
in Adelaide on Tuesday night, as
similar vigils across Australia lit up
the sky to focus attention on mental
According to Mental Illness
Fellowship of SA CEO Natasha
Miliotis, the Government estimates
40,000 Australians with severe and
persistent mental illness are not
getting the help they need.
"If we had 40,000 of us with
cancer or diabetes or heart disease
who were missing out on the
treatment we need to manage our
health condition, there would be an
outcry. So why isn't there an outcry
on this?" she said.
But judging by the response
and turnout at Tuesday's vigils,
mental health is finally becoming a
vote-changing election factor.
Jon Jureidini, head of
Psychological Medicine at the
Women's and Children's Hospital,
said there was still a need for more
community support and respect.
"I encourage those people who
suffer from mental illness to make it
uncomfortable for us psychiatrists,
for bureaucrats and other people in
the community, and to demand to be
treated with more dignity and more
respect," he said.
-- Elle Spring
Adelaide blind singer Michelle
Threadgold kicked off the vigil with
the national anthem. Photo: Kate Elmes
Calling out for help Turned tables: Kendall Silsbury is a mental health success story who is now on the
other side of the services delivery debate.
Photo: Stephen Gray
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