The purpose of the COPMI National Lived Experience Forum is to work in collaboration with people with lived experience of mental illness and use their experiences and perspectives to inform the planning, implementing and evaluation of the COPMI national initiative.
The Forum’s goal is to work in partnership and be a resource for lived experience input into the COPMI national initiative through strong connections with people with lived experience across the Australian states and territories.
The role of Forum members is to:
In 2014 our forum members were sought from people with a broad range of perspectives and experiences including:
New members were elected for the 2014-15 funding period. Forum members meet regularly, both face-to-face and via teleconference.
'I am a father of three beautiful young girls. I grew up in the late 60’s with five brothers, losing my mother to suicide in my late teens and seeing how depression can affect my family. Having grown up as a first generation Laotian refugee in Australia, I can see how mental illness is not discussed or talked about in the community. I am determined to break this barrier so my children do not have to suffer in silence should they ever have to face the same circumstances. I am proud to be associated with COPMI so together we can break this barrier of stigmatisation and raise awareness now and for future generations to come.'
John is married to Nani and together they have three children under 14. After working in the paper industry as a chemical engineer for nine years, John became the lead pastor of a growing church in the North West of Tasmania. After eight years in this role, depression struck but wasn’t diagnosed until it was almost too late. Finally, during a time of contemplating suicide John sought help. Today at 44, he is in recovery and having re-organised his priorities and values works part-time in Anglicare’s Family Mental Health Support Service. He is a stay-at-home dad for the rest of the time. He is passionate in particular about men’s mental health and in his spare time can be found 'on the water somewhere' fly fishing for Tasmania’s famed wild trout.
Amanda is a Peer Specialist and Independent Mental Health Recovery Consultant and Trainer, from Perth WA. Originally born in Geelong, Victoria 48 years ago she is the oldest of four children, with three younger brothers. Her mother and grandmothers battled depression all their lives. Amanda is a parent with lived experience of mental distress which began in her teens, but emerged uncontrollably after the traumatic birth of her seventh child. After seven years in mental health services, she heard about recovery and has been successfully living recovery for eight years now. Amanda’s professional background is in family, child and youth work. After her mental health experiences she decided to retrain in educational and relational counselling and pastoral care chaplaincy. She has worked at a variety of mental health services over the last nine years in WA and has presented at a variety of international conferences. She was a senior recovery trainer with the Richmond Fellowship of Western Australia and held the post of State Co-ordinator of the Hearing Voices Network of WA. Amanda has developed innovative services to support families where a family member experiences mental distress, voices, visions and other unusual perceptions. She currently convenes and coordinates the Recovery Rocks Community, a peer led and run recovery community that supports people on their mental health recovery. Amanda likes the beach, loves music and is a talented singer, songwriter and musician.
Gemma is the mother of two beautiful children aged 12 and four and lives in Victoria with her wonderful husband Andrew. Gemma's life has been touched by mental illness for as long as she can remember and her lived experience includes being a child of a parent with mental illness (as her father has lived with schizoaffective disorder for the majority of her life) and living as a parent with a mental illness as she has experienced symptoms of severe depression on and off since the age of 11. She is also a carer as she has found herself caring for her father as well as her 12 year old daughter who has experienced symptoms of depression and anxiety. Gemma has spent the last few years working in the mental health sector endeavouring to create lasting change in the outcomes of people living with a mental illness, their carers and families and is currently working as a peer support worker in her local area. She is very excited to have the opportunity to work with COPMI on the National Lived Experience Forum and can't wait to see what the next year will bring.
'I have two boys aged 11 and 14. I have been a single parent for a number of years and, over this time, I have been learning to manage my depression and bipolar. I have been actively involved in volunteer education in schools and community groups, and presenting a community radio show aimed at reducing stigma around mental illness. The COPMI Forum is a brilliant avenue for creating change where it really counts - children. Working with other Forum members and hearing the voices of young people is one of the great aspects of the CNLEF.'
'I am a mother of five children. I grew up in a family with mental health issues. After the birth of my fifth child I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and post traumatic stress disorder. I do presentations and talks about my recovery and challenges over the years. My younger daughter has since been diagnosed with a mental health problem and so I have moved into a carer role as well. I am passionate about education and the role of including children in family resilience.'
Intergenerational mental illness has been a part of Hilary’s family for as long as she can remember. Her family have a saying, 'Whatever doesn't break me, makes me stronger'. It’s through this strength and resilience that Hilary felt the desire to share her journey, knowledge and experience to assist others. COPMI has the right values and vision that allows this to happen. Her lived experience led her to a 20-year career which has taken her to England, Victoria and Queensland in a variety of community and peer roles in mental health.
'I am 21 years old and currently studying psychology at university. I hope to eventually become a clinical psychologist and have a strong passion for promoting mental health awareness. I am the daughter of a mother with a mental illness and have faced my own mental health problems as well.'
'I am an adult of two parents with a mental illness. My two younger brothers have also experienced mental health issues. Through working with COPMI for the past few years I have built my networks and begun working at a local level speaking about my lived experience. I have been a part of effecting change with like minded people and the experience is priceless.'
Alix is 23 years old. He grew up in country New South Wales. His father has schizophrenia. Growing up in the country, mental health issues were stigmatised and it was hard to know where to find support. Alix now lives in Sydney, and is completing his studies in psychology. Alix is passionate about helping children and families dealing with mental health issues, with a particular interest in increasing support and information for children, and reducing stigma within the general public. Alix is proud to be a part of COPMI, and hopes to make a positive contribution in the work he is doing.
To date our Forum members have overwhelmingly reported that belonging to the Forum has enriched their lives and been personally rewarding and allowed them to contribute in some unexpected ways.