New name and a new domain

Things at Mental Health carers Arafmi have been pretty quite since Executive Officer Jane Henty left in December 2015. Well, you will be happy to know, that following the appointment of a new EO, Jenny Branton in July, things are set to hot up once again.

The first thing to change is our name, we are now simply Mental Health Carers Australia. Secondly, to reflect this change is our web site, www.mental healthcarersaustralia.org.au. Please jump on and have a look and change the address in your favourites.

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New EO for Mental Health Carers Arafmi Australia

Mental Health Carers Arafmi Australia are pleased to announce the appointment of our new Executive Officer Jenny Branton, who started in the role in July. Jenny brings extensive management experience in the not for profit and local government sectors, wide ranging experience in the disability sector including lived experience as a carer. Jenny is planning a tour around the country to meet with carers and organisations to help her understand their needs and to inform what activities Mental health Carers Arafmi Australia will focus on over the next twelve months. If you would like to be part of that please contact Jenny on 0417 532 344,

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The case for family therapy in the treatment of anorexia nervosa on Health Report 

Norman Swan on Radio National – December 7th
In the case of eating disorders, do families make recovery easier or harder? A program discussing family therapy with James Loch of Stamford University in California. To listen to this informative podcast, click here
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Judy’s Journey – Carer helps carers

Peninsula Health carer consultant Judy Anderson knows well the challenges of caring for a loved one with a mental illness. She spent 15 years caring for a family member with a debilitating mental health condition. ‘I know what you are going through is something I find myself often saying. ‘It helps carers to know they are not alone in their journey and that someone does really understand.’ To read more of Judy’s story in Health Victoria, click here
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Victorian Government Carer Card Program

The Victorian Carer Card is a  collaboration between the government, businesses and the community, the Carer Card Program gives recognition, understanding and support to Victorian carers. The program has a wide range of discounts and benefits on offer from businesses, the local government and community organisations. Cardholders are also entitled to free travel on public transport on a Sunday plus two return off-peak travel vouchers each year. You can find a business or type of offer by browsing the categories in the online directory.
To be eligible for a Carer Card you must be a resident of Victoria and either: (1) the primary carer of a person with a disability, severe medical condition or mental illness, or someone who is frail aged or in need of palliative care, or (2) a foster, kinship or respite carer.
You can confirm your eligibility by: (1) providing your Centrelink Customer Reference Number (CRN) or your Department of Health & Human Services Vendor Number if you receive a carer payment or allowance, or (2) having a medical professional verify your eligibility. Professional carers that receive a wage for providing care are not eligible.
To find out more and to apply, click here

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NEW Carer Gateway Website

Carer Gateway is a new national website and phone service to help carers access practical information and resources to help them in their caring role. Carer Gateway provides information about the services and support available for people who care for someone with a disability, chronic illness, dementia, mental illness or who are frail aged. This new service will be available via www.carergateway.gov.au or by phone 1800 422 737 Monday to Friday, from 8.00am to 6.00pm local time in all states and territories.

Assistant Minister for Social Services, the Hon Alan Tudge MP, issued a media release regarding the Carer Gateway launch, read it here.

For any general questions about Carer Gateway, email carergateway@dss.gov.au

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Centre of Excellence in Peer Support (CEPS) e-zine – December 2015

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Workshops: Understanding Trauma

​Interested in expanding your understanding of trauma? Want to acquire new skills and knowledge in this field of work? Keen to learn best practices that are informed by the latest research?  
Adults Surviving Child Abuse (ASCA) runs a number of professional development workshops across Australia on complex trauma, vicarious trauma and trauma-informed practice. Download a PDF booklet of ASCA’s workshops and the training calendar for Jan-Jun 2016, or see below for a brief description of the workshop.
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Christmas and care plans

From the COPMI Website

Planning helps families to prepare for tough times
Christmas can be a very stressful time of year for many people. For some, there may be complex social interactions with family, financial pressures and the pressure to have a ‘magical’ festive season. For others, it may be a time of isolation and loneliness.
For parents experiencing mental health problems (and their families) Christmas can be even more stressful.

Consider triggers to stress
Thinking about the triggers and stress you may face in the upcoming festive season can help you to prepare to manage them. What strengths do you have that you can draw on to help you cope? Who could you turn to for extra support if you need it? Who should you avoid or limit contact with if they add too much stress to your life?
It may also be a good idea to develop a care plan for your family about what to do in case there’s a mental health crisis. Care plans can help to alleviate some anxieties and fears you may be experiencing and can help children to feel reassured as well.

Care plans provide a reassuring backup plan
Care plans can be developed by families themselves, or with the support of a mental health professional. Different family members may have different worries, so it can be helpful to sit down and write the care plan together.
The COPMI national initiative has created these templates to help you develop your own care plan. You may want to complete these or simply use them as a guide.

Read more about developing a care plan at the COPMI website.

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7 messages for GPs from mental health patients – Article in the Medical Observer

PATIENTS with mental illness are not happy about the way medications are prescribed and they want their voices heard by GPs.
The Mental Health Commission of NSW has received more than 200 submissions from patients, carers, doctors and nurses that provide insights into the “lived experience of medication use” in mental illness.
The summary report released on Wednesday reveals that patients would like GPs to inform them about all possible treatment options, involve them more in the decision-making process, and take their concerns seriously.
Some of the specific recommendations include:

  1. The prescription pad should not be reached for too quickly. Non-pharmacological options such as counselling, cognitive behaviour therapy and exercise should be offered first.

“Please don’t put us on medication until all the other stuff that actually works has been tried properly,” one patient said.

  1. Side effects must be part of up-front discussions about treatment options.

“I wish I was given information on what to expect or look out for to see if it was working correctly,” another patient said.

  1. The potential for sexual side effects should be discussed openly and honestly to help alleviate unnecessary shame.

A mental health nurse told the commission: “[Sexual dysfunction] has a cascading effect on many aspects of a client’s life, affecting their self-image, relationships and quality of life.”

  1. Better understanding is needed if a patient decides to go off their medication.

“My GP was not happy when I told her about the experiment of going off meds when I went back to [see her about starting] again. Kindness and understanding is what is important for a person to learn from their mistakes and journey in life. Not being made to feel like a kid who doesn’t know what they are doing.”

  1. Every general practice should have a practice nurse who has experience in mental health.

“That way, any patient with mental health issues could be seen first by the nurse, who may be able to spend sufficient time with the patient to determine an appropriate intervention strategy,” one patient noted.

  1. Patients should not be made to feel like a failure if their condition d oes not improve.

“As a consumer I felt demeaned, powerless and desperate to feel better when none of the drugs helped at all and I was made to feel at fault,” one patient told the commission.

  1. GPs should have regular conversations with patients about how their medication is going and whether there is the possibility of safely reducing or ceasing the medication.

“Most of all, listen, listen, listen, listen to what the person with the mental illness is telling you about the medication. It is their feelings. It is their experience that really needs to be heard,” one patient recommended.

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