Outreach counsellors Kaveh Khan and Thelia Franco provide support at The Buttery, at Binna Burra, for those affected by substance abuse and mental illness.
Outreach counsellors Kaveh Khan and Thelia Franco provide support at The Buttery, at Binna Burra, for those affected by substance abuse and mental illness. Jay Cronan

Celebrations for Mental Health Week

RICHARD, whose surname has been withheld to protect his identity, is still coming to terms with being labelled as 'mentally ill' more than 20 years after being diagnosed with schizophrenia.

The 47-year-old Lismore man wanted to share his experiences to help create awareness for Mental Health Week, which will be launched in the region at Lismore City Hall tomorrow.

“I don't know exactly what caused my condition, but I suppose a number of things contributed at the time, like alcohol and marijuana,” Richard said.

“I guess it's true, it affects people in different ways. I wouldn't say I was a heavy drinker or smoker, but I must have done enough some- where to do the damage.

“Now I am 47 years of age, trying to gain employment, and have had casual work as well as a TAFE education. I think the hardest thing is the label 'mental illness'. It's like a barrier between you and the employer, or used to be. I think there is a lot more help nowadays.”

One of the main organisers of the Mental Health Week launch is The Buttery, near Bangalow, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre.

“We run lots of groups and we have dual diagnosis groups which are directed at helping people with a mental illness who might also be using drugs and alcohol as a way of coping,” outreach counsellor Thelia Franco said.

“I love the work that is done here. People with mental health problems get the support our group offers and we see that they don't end up returning to hospital so frequently.”

The celebration day tomorrow will start at 10am and run until 4pm, with free activities and interactive workshops for the community.



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