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National Family Reference Group
The headspace National Family Reference Group advocate for the role, contribution and needs of families and friends across all headspace programs and services.
|Ann Gallagher||Gurvinder Kaur||Sharene Dearlove|
|Kim Edgar||Michael Powell||Sarah Hermann|
|Georgia Byles||Mill Peterson||Michelle Jane|
|Candice Huynh||Bez Tran||Lane Swales|
Ann is excited to be working alongside the other members of the reference group, among whom she says there is a bond borne of the fact they have all supported young people experiencing mental ill-health.
She wants to use her platform to break down the stigma that young people and their families sometimes feel when experiencing mental ill-health.
Ann advocates passionately for family and friends to have a dedicated space inside headspace centres where they can find information about how to best support their young person.
‘We are their support between appointments, so we need to be able to find that information too,’ she says.
In her life away from headspace, Ann runs an eco-friendly cleaning business and works as a family and carer peer support worker. She’s recently completed her Diploma of Mental Health so she can continue her advocacy in this space.
As a family peer worker at her local headspace centre, Gurvinder draws on her lived experience of mental ill-health to support young people who come to the service.
She knows well the important role of family in navigating the mental health system, having supported her younger sister to get help soon after their family migrated to Australia.
She is passionate about making sure refugee and migrant families can access support for their mental health while adjusting to life in a new country.
Gurvinder’s message to family and friends supporting a young person with mental ill-health is to seek help. ‘You will see you are not alone. This is a shared community experience, even if you feel like no one is talking about it,’ she says.
Mental health advocacy is also a feature of Gurvinder’s digital art, which she shares on Instagram.
Sharene’s contact with headspace began when her youngest daughter accessed headspace services for anxiety.
Later, when her eldest teenage daughter returned home from university experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression, the family again sought assistance from their local headspace centre.
The family accessed regular support from headspace for the next three years, which Sharene says was ‘an absolute lifesaver’ for her daughter.
‘The centre was very family inclusive, offering support and guidance to not only my daughter, but those of us supporting her,’ she remembers.
As a member of the National Family Reference Group, Sharene is determined that all family and friends know what to do when a young person is experiencing mental ill-health, including who they can contact for support.
She also draws on her family’s experience in her contributions to her local headspace consortia.
Sharene is a mortgage broker with 25 years’ experience, and also runs her own small business.
Kim is a powerful advocate for mental health awareness and suicide prevention.
Kim’s son, Daniel, died by suicide in 2018. Kim tells her family’s story to help others learn the signs of mental ill-health and to promote ways that families can support their young person.
Kim uses her position on the headspace National Family Reference Group to advocate for holistic and family-inclusive approaches to mental health. She says it is important for practitioners to acknowledge young people are parts of a family unit that also requires knowledge and support to navigate the mental health system.
‘Suicide prevention is everyone's business,’ Kim says.
Since Kim joined the reference group, she reports that headspace is listening to and acting on the advice of members.
‘The breadth of opportunities for family participation show that we’re really valued – and that’s amazing,’ she says.
By becoming a member of the National Family Reference Group, Michael carries on the legacy of his late daughter, Emma, a mental health advocate who died by suicide five years ago.
In the time since her passing, Michael has become a trusted voice on mental health and suicide prevention in his local community where he lives with his wife and youngest daughter.
Michael remembers feeling disconnected from Emma’s mental health journey as a parent and says it’s an experience he shares in the hope it drives more family-inclusive practices across the mental health sector.
His objective is to ensure family and friends have somewhere to go for information and advice, or for support with their own mental health.
When he’s not working to improve access to family-inclusive mental health care, Michael is hard at work renovating his family home.
Sarah is passionate about building the capacity of young people and those who support them to create and drive positive changes in their lives.
Sarah has supported her sibling and her partner who have both experienced mental ill-health and also has a lived experience of her own.
In her role in the National Family Reference Group, Sarah hopes to champion greater awareness, support and recognition for the vital role that families and friends play in supporting young people having a tough time.
Also a provisional psychologist, Sarah is a voice and advocate for children and young people experiencing complex mental health challenges.
When she’s not hard at work in the mental health system, Sarah loves pottery, going to music gigs, killing houseplants and trying to be cooler than the young people she works with.
Georgia is passionate about supporting young people as they transition into adulthood.
When it came to understanding and making decisions in relation to her son’s mental health, Georgia found herself feeling alone and unsure of how to best help him. She understands that for both young people and their families, this can be a particularly difficult time.
“As parents, we know that finding our child support when needed is part of our responsibility - like a dentist checkup or swimming lessons. But it’s hard to know where to turn and who to talk to,” Georgia says.
Her message to both young people and their families is that it is okay to make mistakes and to not have all the answers. She hopes that in being part of the National Family Reference Group at headspace, she can contribute to helping families better understand where they can turn to for support and resources to help them best support their young person.
Georgia has recently made a career change into the mental health field and is studying a Masters of Counselling. She also enjoys volunteering, where she works with people experiencing homelessness or who are socially isolated.
Having seen the challenges her loved ones faced while waiting for appropriate supports, Mill felt drawn to the National Family Reference Group to advocate for the needs of young people and those caring for them.
Mill hopes to show other family members that there is much strength to be gained from sharing their stories and embracing collective and community care. Mill says it’s important to remember you are not alone. There is a community out there waiting to help you navigate this journey. She sees how connecting through common ground helps navigating mental distress seem less scary, lonely and confusing for both young people and their families.
Alongside her personal experience, Mill is also a qualified social worker. She is passionate about supporting young people of all backgrounds to engage with and use their existing supports, beliefs and culture to find healing and understanding.
In her spare time, Mill loves to sing and perform with her partner, go for walks in nature and watch documentaries.
Michelle hopes her involvement with the National Family Reference Group will create meaning out of her journey supporting two children with their mental health.
Michelle has developed a passion for advocating for gender diverse young people through her experience supporting her non-binary teenager. She wants to help other parents and families to feel supported, acknowledged and heard in their own journey.
“You are enough to support your young person, and with additional support and resources, you can be even more… Always remember to look after yourself and help others to understand your needs too.,” Michelle says.
Away from headspace, Michelle’s professional work spans finance, administration and wellbeing. In an effort to better prioritise her own wellbeing, Michelle is a self-confessed ‘Clubbercise’ groupie… she loves that these classes allow her to dance like no one is watching!
Being a young person herself, Candice was inspired to join the National Family Reference Group to help provide a voice for young people with lived experience of mental-ill health who also are supporting family.
Having supported close friends and family through their mental health journey, Candice is hoping to shape improvements in access to mental health services. She noticed that many of her family and friends would go without professional support due to difficulties in navigating the system. She says that increasing the ease of access to services for both young people and family can help achieve the best outcomes for young people.
Her message to other family members is to not forget to look after their own mental health, and to reach out when they need support.
Candice also studies psychology and cognitive neuroscience. In her free time, she loves to cook and bake, especially for other people – she loves to see others enjoy her food!
Bez is passionate about being a mental health advocate for adolescents and young adults. Having experienced working as a wellbeing coordinator at a secondary school, Bez understands the challenges associated with providing ongoing support for young people.
She believes in the importance of having resources and services readily available to meet the needs of young people and their families. It's her hope that family members supporting young people can also know where to go to for support and are equipped with the skills and knowledge to help best support their young people.
Bez is passionate about the importance of listening to people who have lived experience. She says that their voices need to be heard to ensure resources and services are relevant and appropriate.
In her spare time Bez likes to cook, swim in the ocean, go for long walks, stare at her house plants (to figure out if they're thriving), and dance!
As a young person, Lane has used their lived experience of mental health challenges to advocate through their local Youth Reference Group. Part of Lane’s lived experience also includes supporting friends, family members and their partner to navigate their mental health journeys.
Lane has gained an insight into what it is like to navigate the mental health system, as well as how to best help those who are experiencing similar situations. They want to use this knowledge to help young people have better experiences when seeking help, and to make sure services like headspace also understand and assist the ‘support people’ around them.
Over the past few years, Lane has seen a lot of positive changes in the mental health system and feels excited to see what the future involves. “It feels that lived experience is a lot more valued now, and I think that makes a significant improvement, for both young people, and the people around them,” Lane says.
Lane spends their time working at a thrift store, playing trivia, spoiling their pets, and listening to audio-dramas.