We learned that Mission Australia is at the forefront of responding to the social and emotional wellbeing needs of aboriginal people, especially in rural and remote portions of NSW. At their Mac River Youth Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Service in Dubbo (where Sally made her documentary on elders sharing stories with youth) every referral except one had been an aboriginal youth. They anticipate providing increasing services to aboriginal persons released from prisons due to their high level s of mental distress.
Next we heard about the Recovery Model, which was also prominent at the Hearing Voices conference from Day 3 and Day 4 of this journey. It emerged from the consumer/survivor movement following the de-institutionalization era of the 1970's and 1980's. They define recovery "as a deeply personal, unique process of changing one's attitudes, values, feelings, goals, skills, and/or roles. It is a way of living a satisfying, hopeful, and contributing life even with limitations caused by illness. Recovery involves the development of new meaning and purpose in one's life as one grows beyond the catastrophic effects of mental illness." (Anthony, W.A. (1993). Recovering from mental illness: The guiding vision of the mental health service system in the 1990's. Psychosocial Rehabilitation Journal, 24(2), 159-168.). The U.S. does not subscribe to the Recovery Model so much but is steeped in the biomedical model. My sense of Australia is that its physicians are also steeped in the biomedical model with a large disconnect between psychiatrists and other mental health professionals.
Mission Australia (NSW Mental Health Strategy 2012) wrote that "Recovery is not dependent on professional intervention and can and does occur without it. Recovery does not mean an absence of symptoms. Rather when achieved, it allows people to live meaningful lives regardless of any unremitting symptoms and periods of relapses". [R]ecovery is not a linear process"."
Next Dr. Ramesh Manocha, Senior Lecturer at the Sydney University Psychiatry Department and Founder of Generation Next (you can google him) spoke about meditation -- what it is and what it's not. He's planning a study with Mission Australia to teach kids at risk how to meditate. He presented a study of 40 minutes of meditation instruction twice weekly for one term who experienced improved benefits in grades and study habits. He found that the people who were experiencing mental silence several times per day or more had the highest mental health scores. People who experience mental stillness less than once per month had the lowest mental health scores. He reported taking 14 women with hot flashes who were perimenopausal for 8 weeks twice weekly meditation instruction. They were to meditate twice per day. They found a 70 to 80% improvement in symptoms using meditation at the end of 8 weeks. The majority of women maintained a benefit at 16 weeks except for one woman who stopped meditating.
At this point we had to leave the conference for our trip back to Melbourne and the final day of the Australian Cultural Exchange Adventure 2012.