Pretty obviously there’s a content note about this post for suicide and self-harm
Thanks to Livingworks, I received a bursary to attend the Black Dog Institute Summit on Self Harm in Sydney last week. It was a huge day, starting with catching the 4.51am train down, so I’ll reflect on it with prompting from the posts under the #BDISummit hashtag…
The day before, most of the experts had been at a summit organised by the Lancet on putting together the research from around the world on self-harm and suicide statistics, themes and prevention. Lots of British accents, but also people from around the world. There were people researching self harm in lower and middle income countries and how the reasons for, means, and intentions vary from high-income countries. There were also Indigenous perspectives and reminding us that all the basics, like income above the poverty line, less traumatic emergency department experiences, and compassion in general lead to such great results.
Conference mode means mentos and apparently these fancy glasses that I was so tempted to smuggle out but I was good and stuck to perishables like a banana for breakfast the next day and few tea bags.
Emergency and Inpatient Departments are not fit for purpose
Nearly everyone who has gone to the emergency department feeling suicidal or having self harmed in some way has had one or more bad experiences. If you had a good experience, that is amazing and you probably went on to seek and get treatment and didn’t end up back there. If you do survived the assessment in an unsuitable place without excusing yourself, you face a super long wait for any outpatient therapy, or if you end up in inpatient it can also be a very scary, far from healing experience :/
What use is giving CBT to someone in poverty?
Well, given the long waiting lists that psychologists have in Australia, the huge gap you’re up for in most instances if you do get in to see someone, we’re not even at the point of being able to see what a good block of therapy can do while someone is subsisting on welfare in this country. Personally I was fortunate enough to do my block f DBT but I wouldn’t have gotten into that if I hadn’t been at the point of self harming and having the right diagnosis, and surviving the year you need to before the program commences. I have too many friends on Twitter (whose demise is distresses for many who have it as their lifeline quite literally when it comes to seeking emotional and financial support) who saw their mental health stablise when JobSeeker was above the poverty line and mutual obligations were suspended and they were just left to be by a system that is designed to make money for providers without having to give outcomes to “participants”. argh.
Lived and LIVING experience
Interesting discussion at the podium and in the breaks about living experience of self harm and the validity of being able to live a meaningful life while still self-harming. But differentiating this from the person who appears to be well, who is going about their right daily activities, but s struggling or suffering privately. There was discussion around “protecting” the lived experience workforce from further harm as well as allowing those who are participating in research or work to be able to identify for themselves whether they are currently well enough to take part – like me coming to the summit that day and being able to identify if I needed to tap out, or knowing that I would be worn out in the following days from the experience, whether that is just from the early start, social and masking spoons used, or form any more emotional energy from such a heavy topic.
Last of all, what’s an event post with me without the food?
Breakfast was served during the initial session, with mueslie and yoghurt, and mini big breakfast (thankfully without eggs) coming to the table with pots of coffee.
Raspberry and banana bread and fresh fruit at morning tea, along with a nice cold iced tea.
There was hot food at lunch, but I had a couple of chicken rolls and some Greek Salad. I took a couple of rolls for the train ride home for dinner along with some of the fruit at morning tea.
Chocolate slices for afternoon tea – a very sense brownie for me with a little more coffee for the afternoon roll home.
Nice swift train and tram ride home – I wasn’t murdered in the dingy Star casino light rail station which was a relief!
Where to from here? I watched part of a webinar from Lived Experience Australia on how to become a peer worker on Monday, but it was the basic things like do the course and network and find out where you really want to use your skills… And I kinda know that. I also know that I looked up the peer worker course that TAFE NSW runs and immediately realised I don’t yet want to commit to formal study, and so won’t even apply for anything for first semester next year if at all. Maybe 2024. I’m finding that one external engagement outside my own appointments and anything that I take my niblings to is more than enough currently, like the summit, or a modelling day, or a Greens event. And I want to keep doing that stuff. I also don’t know if peer work as such is for me, but I’m glad being a researcher with lived experience of self harm was also modelled at the summit.
And I was also so very excited that on the same day, my blogging buddy Trae was presenting at a conference over in Perth alongside Grace Tame as someone with lived experience of mental illness. Recovery is so cool. But also seeing and hearing my friends and myself thrive after so many years surviving.