Student: Caroline

Caroline is a Registered Nurse who attended camp twice as a student of the University of Wollongong; once in 2014 and a second time in 2015.

 Here Caroline talks about her Recovery Camp experience.

The first time I attended Recovery Camp I was a nursing student on a clinical placement. The second time I went I was just starting my Bachelor of Nursing Honours course. I chose to participate because I thought Recovery Camp was the most innovative clinical placement on offer on the nursing course.

It seemed like the placement would be a lot of a fun and a good way to meet people living with mental illness out of hospital settings. I found it to be a fun and innovative clinical placement. I laughed a lot and I ached a lot from all the activities! But more importantly, I discovered it was easier to talk with people who were experiencing mental illness than in other settings. Through listening to people’s stories I felt empathy and compassion and was humbled by the resilience it takes to live with an illness that carries a lot of stigma. I examined my own misconceptions about the way I thought about mental health. These two experiences of listening to people who live with mental illness taught me more than I could ever learn from a book. I came away from Recovery Camp being inspired to change my nursing career and I am now happily working as a mental health nurse.

I have many fond memories of both Recovery Camps and am very grateful for all that I learned. I have a great respect for the honesty and courage it takes for people to overcome adversity and live more fully, despite their diagnosis. I now work in a manner which centres on the person rather than the illness.

Recovery Camp gave me insight into the uniqueness of everyone’s mental health journey. I learned from the volunteers that forming strong and supportive relationships were very important to reduce the feelings of isolation. Being encouraged by others and having fun to try new activities helps the person to gain self-confidence and trust. Also, recovery is about a person taking ownership of their own wellness and being determined and inspired to overcome hurdles to experience positive changes.

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