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Issue Five:
One Door Mental Health Centre-Based Services

Part of One Door Mental Health’s overall service offerings include a number of centre-based services across NSW which offer a safe space for like-minded people to share their experiences with others. Two of these can be found in Western Sydney: Harmony House in Campbelltown, and Frangipani House in Parramatta; these two will be the focus of today’s article. Not many programs support consumers in the way they do; through funding from the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), both Houses provide activities that build social, recreational, vocational and educational skills in a safe and positive environment. They see the gaps in the mental health system, where programs and organisations are focused more on clinical care, or where consumers are expected to participate in a certain number of sessions or activities in order for their NDIS package to be activated. The consumers’ level of engagement is entirely dependent on their own comfort level, and can vary from sitting and connecting with others once a week, to active participation in events and sessions every day.

“Stress buffering occurs when social support protects (i.e., buffers) people from the bad effects of stress. Evidence for stress buffering is indicated when the link between life stress and poor mental health is stronger for people with low social support than for people with high social support… Social support is effective in buffering stress when the support specifically meets the demands of the stressor.” – Lakey & Orehek, 2011

Harmony House and Frangipani House use a recovery-oriented approach, which allows them to support the consumers in building their capacity for independent living. Specifically, they use the Recovery 2gether model developed by One Door Mental Health, in which all staff are trained. This model embraces the idea that everyone’s recovery is different, and that they are the leaders of their own journey. There are some consumers who have been visiting for years and whose improvement in their confidence and mental wellbeing has been visible. The activities held at these Houses include health and nutrition, arts and craft, computer skills, mindfulness, and much more. These activities are also consumer-led, with feedback openly given through group collaboration to decide on which activities are most helpful and enjoyable to them. The impact of these activities can be seen through the consumers’ improvement in communication, social skills, and resilience. Due to these effects, relapses are less severe and intense when they do occur, and hospital stays become less regular.

Another aspect of this recovery-oriented approach is the social support that Harmony House and Frangipani House offer. Consumers know that support is available when they need it, which gives them a sense of security; the Houses also follow through with this support when needed. At times, practitioners and support coordinators will meet consumers at the House instead of their own homes, as it is a safe space with supporting staff around them. And if staff cannot support them on their own, they bring in other professionals to help. There are activities that consumers would not normally be able to do on their own, due to anxiety, previous negative experiences, lack of capability, etc. However they have a greater chance of participating as a group through these Houses. Moreover, these Houses serve as a much-needed routine in consumers’ lives, which helps give them a sense of stability and consistency that is essential to maintaining the mental health and wellbeing of the consumers.

Apart from these recovery-focused approaches, open communication is something that both of these Houses excel in. Consumers and staff are encouraged to be open and honest – a communication style whose foundation is solidified through its commitment to giving consumers a safe space to talk openly about their feelings and experiences. There have been occasions during outings when communication has initially challenged consumers. However, through the skills they learn at these Houses, they are able to verbalise their needs to the support workers and find resolutions to these challenges. In short, these activities equip consumers with the skills necessary to deal with difficult situations both inside and outside the Houses, and enable them to maximise the potential of their own lives and abilities.

Evidence in practice
A recovery-oriented approach can be seen as a method of striving to “achieve wellness rather than just treating illness”. The goal of this approach is to shift the focus away from simply eliminating symptoms, to fostering the individual’s skills in various areas in order to equip them to live well regardless of the absence of presence of symptoms (Lloyd, Tse & Deane, 2006).
Social support can increase security, improve communication with friends and family, and contribute to better physical and mental health outcomes. Through the occurrence of stress buffering, social support is considered a protective factor in reducing psychological distress, especially in the face of stressful events (Harandi, Taghinasab & Nayeri, 2017).

Harandi, T.F., Taghinasab, M.M., & Nayeri, T.D. (2017). The correlation of social support with mental health: A meta-analysis. Electronic physician, 9(9), pp. 5212–5222. Available from https://doi.org/10.19082/5212

Lakey, B., & Orehek, E. (2011). Relational Regulation Theory: A New Approach to Explain the Link Between Perceived Social Support and Mental Health. Psychological Review, 118(3), pp. 482-495. Available from https://doi.org/10.1037/a0023477

Lloyd, C., Tse, S. & Deane, F.P. (2006). Community participation and social inclusion: How practitioners can make a difference. Australian e-Journal for the Advancement of Mental Health, 5(3), pp. 1-10. Available from: https://doi.org/10.5172/jamh.5.3.185

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