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“One of the things I love about HETI is the flexibility of online learning. It means I can study on top of full-time parenting, full-time work, and contributing to the community. If I need to travel with my kids, or for work, I can just take my laptop and keep up with the course load. There are also live lectures with special guest speakers, who bring the subject matter to life. I love attending these and being able to contribute to the live discussions.” By Linda Newell
Gunnedah-based Graduate Certificate student, Linda Newell, is a passionate advocate of the recovery-oriented approach to mental health care. Linda shares her experience of studying at HETI and discusses how her insights have shaped the way she cares for her patients and also her community.
I’m a psychologist working for the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) in rural New South Wales. I work with young people who have moderate to severe mental health issues; to assess and provide intervention as needed.
My community is around 11 per cent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, and like any community, there are quite significant mental health issues within it. We’re also particularly passionate about caring for high-risk children within what can be challenging circumstances with limited resources.
We’re based about an hour away from Tamworth town centre, we serve a community of about 10,000 people, and I am the sole child and adolescent mental health worker.
Our area is quite isolated with the closest inpatient mental health care facilities located four hours away, and it’s a challenge to attract highly qualified people across a range of health care services. As we don't have a psychiatrist on the team, we value the support from the Newcastle psychiatry team through Telehealth and the visiting medical officers.
I’m always looking for opportunities to learn new ways to provide the best possible care for my patients and contribute to my community. This is what led me to study the Applied Mental Health Studies postgraduate course at HETI, specialising in caring for children and adolescents.
One of the things I love about HETI is the flexibility of online learning. It means I can study on top of full-time parenting, full-time work, and contributing to the community. If I need to travel with my kids, or for work, I can just take my laptop and keep up with the course load. There are also live lectures with special guest speakers, who bring the subject matter to life. I love attending these and being able to contribute to the live discussions.
I remember I was nervous about returning to tertiary study. It was such a long time since I last studied, but HETI helped me get my confidence back and I was supported through my return to study. Although support is offered online, I chose to drive six and a half hours to receive face-to-face support, stay overnight and drive back home the next day. It was a huge commitment, but I was glad I made the effort.
I remember meeting, David, the librarian at HETI. Since I’d travelled so far, he spent a fair bit of his valuable time helping me to familiarise myself with HETI, and he was just so supportive. Coming from a small rural community, personal relationships are important to me – so being able to meet David before I started the course was invaluable. This initial positive experience has been consistent ever since, with such positive interactions with HETI staff.
There are some great people teaching the Masters in Applied Mental Health Studies course at HETI. I think the biggest difference is that most of the teaching staff are still active in the sector, so we get real-life insight into what works in the field. The teaching staff are also very creative and thoughtful in thinking of how they can engage students in a variety of ways. I like that it was more than just reading text books or journal articles. Instead, there's video clips, the opportunity to hear from patients, and access to the most up-to-date research in our field.
One lecturer who really stood out for me is Dr Leanne Craze who oversaw my recovery-orientated practice [link to unit fundamentals of recovery-oriented care] course. Leanne is very passionate about her work, and she contributes to a lot of research papers on the approach of recovery for mental health. It made a big difference to be taught by someone who is an active and passionate champion of this system of practice.
Leanne encouraged everyone in the class to collaborate and contribute online, which made our studies so enjoyable and engaging. As a result, everyone happily shared ideas, concepts and resources - and it felt like we were learning together in the classroom; rather than remotely.
I love that the course content is up to date, relevant, and presented in so many diverse ways. In particular, I really enjoy the recovery-oriented approach at HETI. You can tell the teachers love it too, and that’s inspiring. It's almost implicitly and naturally built into the course – the teachers are teaching what they believe in.
What I took away is that I'm not responsible for someone else’s recovery; the patient is responsible for their own recovery, and we see people with mental health issues as being the best experts on their own life. I really value the approach HETI has in this regard.
I genuinely feel that what I’ve learned has made a significant difference to the way I practice. It was intrinsically how I practiced anyway, yet now I have words to explain and articulate my approach. I have the confidence to speak up in clinical reviews about taking a recovery-oriented approach and I will ask questions, which are aligned with that way of working.
It’s this very approach that has made me such a passionate advocate for the ‘right’ way to do things. This has inspired me to want to share what I’ve learned with my colleagues in everyday scenarios. In fact, I’m so inspired by what I learn in class that I’ve started a regular email group, with links to useful resources that I come across. It’s been really popular, and I’m encouraged that people now ask me to add them to the distribution list.
It’s pleasing to see this mental health recovery-oriented approach gain momentum in rural areas of Australia; however, I still think we have a way to go.
I want to add even more momentum within the wider health care system to help support this recovery-oriented approach. In fact, I’ve started to model this approach in mental health with young people, and it’s made a significant difference – and given me a voice. One of the ways I did this was to change the paper forms to become more recovery-oriented and supportive of patient needs and outcomes. I felt this was the right way to do things.
There are certainly still disparities as we transition away from a more traditional medical model into this new approach. However, what encourages me is that people are willing to change, and we have to remember that change sometimes has to be done very gently. The best way to create change is to live it, do it, and talk about it. That’s what gets everyone interested, and that is what inspires me to continue being a champion for a recovery-oriented approach.
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