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Back on my own two feet

June feels empowered, in control and she has rediscovered her self-esteem.

Broome woman June Tak looks around her sun-drenched country with its vivid colours and wide open spaces and asks with a broad smile, 'Where else would you want to be?"

Nowadays, June says she is feeling empowered and in control. She has rediscovered her self-esteem.

June says she's recovering well, after years of debilitating mental illness and substance abuse. She remembers having to forage for food, and ask relatives for a few tea bags. She was in very insecure housing and had no control over her life.

But now June says she is feeling much more healthy. She is aiming for a long life; is on a fitness regime, and says she is able to stay healthy in her body and mind, and keep away from drugs and alcohol.

June attends a weekly women's group facilitated by Red Cross, and is supported by a Red Cross support worker to help with the day-to-day challenges life sometimes throws up.

She says she gets a lot from the women's group, which includes Aboriginal women with whom she has a close connection.

"I like being around my sisters and my cousins and I get to meet people. And the Recovery Centre is in a good spot," she says, as it adjoins the Broome Hospital, and overlooks the street where she sees and greets her friends passing by.

June finds the local Red Cross very supportive in many aspects of her day to day life.

"I just pop in to the office and say hello. Sometimes I use the computer," she says. This is a huge benefit for June as she would not otherwise be able to afford one.

"There would be no other real support network as mental health [at the hospital] always has an influx of patients.

Everday support

"Red Cross has been like a little blessing, with transport, computers, and friendly faces. They are just nice people to talk to. My support worker helps me when I need help if I have to do something, drop a form off at Centrelink, she helps me out.

"Red Cross can be of support to help link you up with the right people if something bad has happened to you. They can link you up with the right support networks if you need counselling or if you are troubled."

More than 45 per cent of the Australian population will experience a mental illness at some point in their lifetime. Red Cross helps people on their journey to recovery from mental illness, by supporting people to develop skills, build confidence, access services and participate in their community. Our work focuses on strengths - what people with a mental illness can do, rather than what they can't do. Our workers meet with people in their own environment on their own terms - at a café, at home or just going for a drive and a chat.

Research shows that 27 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples experience high or very high levels of psychological distress - twice the rate of the non-Indigenous population .

With this higher rate of social and emotional wellbeing issues experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, our remote services model promotes spiritual, cultural, emotional and physical healing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples living with mental illness in regional communities.

One of the secrets to becoming well again, June says, was finding employment.

"That gave me a bit of freedom to make my own decisions about my life situation. Being 30 - I don't know if women have a mid-life crisis - but I did!"

June's advice to people who are doing it tough? "Reach out, as there is always help at hand!"

Photo: Lesley Desmond/Australian Red Cross

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