Person with lived experience: Tim

Tim is a consumer peer support worker and a member of the Recovery Camp research team.

Here Tim talks about his interest in Recovery Camp.

As a person with a lived experience of mental illness, who now works as a Peer Support Worker in Mental Health, I think it is wonderful that the team at Recovery Camp can offer mental health consumers a recovery-oriented experience focused on nature and activity.

My interest in joining the team has been driven by the wonderful feedback and stories that I have heard from those who have attended the camp in previous years, by my motivation to increase the lived experience input into the planning and running of the Camp, as well as by the opportunity to co-produce research in my capacity as a member of the NSW Consumer Led Research Network.

Traditionally our Recovery has been characterised by a medicalised model of care that focuses on a set of symptoms, a diagnosis – and not the unique individual and social person. The development of authentic therapeutic relationships between nurses and consumers has been played out in acute mental health settings that are sterile, locked and disconnected. Recovery Camp turns all this on its head – it provides hope that new models of care and new environments for recovery might grow from the seeds sown at camp. It provides hope and vision for both consumers and prospective mental health nurses. It brings positive experiences of nursing to students who have only experienced clinical hospital based placements and positive experiences of recovery to consumers who have become accustomed to the sound of closing doors.

It makes sense to me that Recovery is enhanced in these natural settings and that consumers feel empowered to continue to build on these experiences in their own lives. Nature provides the roots for recovery that linoleum floors repel. Physical activity feeds and strengthens those roots. It is important to understand that in Recovery Camp people grow together – volunteers, students, peer workers, facilitators, researchers and peer workers. It is a democratic and challenging space and each one of us grows as we reach beyond our comfort zone to new heights.

As Recovery Camp itself grows, so too does the opportunity for consumer/volunteers to participate in the processes that drive the camp. It is important for us to ask ourselves how much we can contribute to the planning, running, and research involved in the camp. It is important for us to work together to move towards a model of co-production for future camps.

Just as recovery is a truly individual journey for each of us, Recovery Camp provides unique and individual pathways for all those who volunteer to attend. The camp is fun! It is also a safe place to challenge ourselves to move to places we never imagined, just try the giant swing for instance. I think that camp gives everyone courage: courage to be a better mental health nurse or psychologist; courage to question the self-imposed limitations that a diagnosis of mental illness can bring; courage to continue finding creative, natural pathways once we have returned home. Finally, we know that we can often continue to do these things in the company of our friends and fellow campers and that we can discover new places to travel on our recovery journey.

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