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Parents dream of healthy community

“I DON’T know how many times he has jumped off the bridge.

The voices insist that he does, to prove he is not afraid.”

Rosemary (not her real name), a 67-year-old Uniting Church member, is a mother of five.

One has schizophrenia.

“Putting your child in a psychiatric hospital is a terrible thing for a parent to have to do,” she said.

“He was only 15 the first time.

He felt all his nightmares had all come true.”

Schizophrenia is an episodic illness requiring high flexibility in provision of support.

Countless families have sought to get this flexibility of support tailored to their needs.

Due to a variety of systemic reasons, including stigma and funding shortfalls, they have failed.

Secure housing is the key.

Wesley Mission Brisbane is working with a group of 40 families who want safe, supported and permanent accommodation for their adult children.

For many of these families the strain of caring for their adult children is compounded by their own advancing age and health conditions.

The group of families is known as Mantle Housing Ltd.

Mantle consumer consultant Helen (not her real name) is one of the few people living with schizophrenia who have their
own home.

“It is my sanctuary – where I feel safe,” she said. “It has given me a therapeutic environment in which to recover.

“I have a friend across the road who has battled the same illness and it gives me added security knowing she is there to share problems.

“It gives me a sense of inclusion and belonging, feeling part of a little community.”

The Mantle members’ goal is to create a community for their children, one that gives them the security to engage with the world on their terms.

Wesley Mission Brisbane has committed $1million in land and development assistance to Mantle Housing, which is now working with governments to raise the rest of the funds needed.

Early this year the Haven Foundation in Melbourne launched their first purpose-built community.

This has been achieved through the persistence of a determined and professional board, led by Professor Alan Fels.

Mantle is currently searching for professionals to join their board or offer specialist assistance.

Helen worries about other people living with schizophrenia who are not as fortunate as she is.

“Many still live with ageing parents or in squalid hostels with insecure tenure or, even worse, in prison or on the streets,” she said.

“They do not live in therapeutic environments in which they Parents dream of healthy community get an opportunity to achieve some recovery and a decent life.

“Their futures are very uncertain with little hope of recovery and fulfilling their potential.

“This is why I have decided to join Mantle Housing, to try in a small way to speak up for fellow mental illness sufferers who
cannot do so for themselves.

“The prospect of Mantle providing pleasant, safe, secure housing for these people in the future is one of the things that
gives me hope for them.”

For more information contact Michelle Hildebrand on 3621 4676 or m.hildebrand@wmb.org.au

Ben Pennings is a freenlance writer