A Federation Assisting Individuals, Families in their Journey to Mental Health Recovery [Interview][Transcript]

David_Meldrum_MIFAGuest: David Meldrum
Presenter: Patrick Reyes
Guest Bio: David Meldrum has worked in a variety of executive positions across much of the human services sector, both in government, in NGOs and as a consultant. Along with time spent working with young offenders, child protection, public housing and aged care, he has been found himself repeatedly drawn back to Australia’s unfinished business of guaranteeing decent services and a better quality of life for people with mental illness.
After nearly 30 years working in and around the mental health sector, David is excited by the broader perspectives of recent years, driven in part by the influx of workers at all levels with lived experience Recovery-focused services, with whole of family approaches, and strongly peer-influenced in all aspects of their work, are here to stay, and he feels privileged to be part of that action.

Segment overview: David Meldrum is the Executive Director of the Mental Illness Fellowship of Australia, a federation of long-standing member organisations delivering specialist services for individuals and families. MIFA members operate out of nearly 150 locations across Australia. They work with and alongside participants and members of our organisations in every program, whether as staff, managers, peers, volunteers or board members. MIFA works closely with families, carers and friends as well as the person with a mental illness. Their holistic objectives involve assisting individuals and families in their journey to recover mental health, physical health, social connectedness and equal opportunity in all aspects of life. Their collaborations with other service providers ensure that their front doors will always lead to the best local services.

Health Professional Radio – A Federation Assisting Individuals

Patrick Reyes: You’re listening to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host Patrick Reyes and on today’s show we have David Meldrum. Now David is the National CEO of the Mental Illness Fellowship of Australia. Welcome to Health Professional Radio David.

David Meldrum: Hi Patrick.

P: So Mental Illness Fellowship of Australia or MIFA, doesn’t really tell us much about what it is your organization does. Can you tell us more about MIFA?

D: Well it does tell you a bit because we focus on helping individuals and families who are dealing with illness particularly our strength is in with serious mental illness. So I suppose probably three quarters of our participants in many programs and their families and cares, we’re dealing with the issues around quite serious mental illness including the psychotic illnesses.

P: And does your organization operate it throughout Australia?

D: Yes, we’re a Federation, we’ve got ten members at the moment and collectively we’ve probably got about a nearly two thousand, I think around two thousand staff and about fifteen hundred trained volunteers. So in any given day we’ve got about ten thousand people participating in one of our programs out of anyone of about hundred and fifty locations in every part of Australia.

P: Wow that is a lot of people. So we do know that there are more than a couple of mental illnesses, which ones would you say are some of the common ones in Australia?

D: Well it depends where you want to start. If you go to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual which is the big sort of bible used in this area, there’s something about 4 million Australians that got an undiagnosable mental health problem in any given time. You go down to the other extreme, how many people have severe and persistent mental illness with complex disabilities and so on, you’ve got about 60 thousand people. So take your pick along that continuum, if you’re talking about people whose lives are significantly affected and disabled by quite serious mental illness, there’s at least a couple of hundred thousand and some people would say as many as six hundred thousand.

P: Wow. And can you give an example of how you guys would work with, say families or friends or carers?

D: Well we work largely outside of what you might call a medical sphere. And so a good chunk of people’s experience of serious mental illness is might well be what they might call a breakdown that by involving be in hospital or certainly with a GP, possibly with the police in an emergency department and in general they would get a confident care and help with things that medicine can deal with. They then, if they were very lucky, would find their way into a confident, slightly broader based community mental health service with nurses and psychologists and…and so on. That’s where…very recently is to stop and yet there are whole lot of other issues to deal with the family, with employment, with housing, with the social life and with wider physical health issues that tend not to happen well and that’s our zone, that’s where we work particularly with individuals and families in trying to put a quality of life back together.

P: I see. Now our listeners are clinicians of one kind or another, what message would you like to leave them as being on Health Professional Radio today?

D: Well when you’ve got somebody’s who’s obviously, deeply impacted by mental illness that is beyond the clinical, there are very good services out there like, we’ve got a national hotline for example and I can give you the number 1800 985 944, that’s 1800 985 944 and anywhere in Australia that will get you to one of our member organizations which is near by somewhere. And we guarantee that there are people who will understand about mental illness particularly serious mental illness. They’ll be able to put you in touch with people who may be are dealing with exactly the same issues at the moment and they’ll also be able to put you in touch with all the services that are available in your area. So make the link is my…it’s make the link to be on clinical services because people are trying to put a life together beyond the actual management of the mental illness itself.

P: Alright. And other than that phone number that you provided is there a website that our audience, listeners can go to?

D: Yes, you can go to minetworks.org.au, you’ll find a lot of excellent information. If you’re a GP when you’re typing in the words schizophrenia or bipolar or mental illness in the family, you’ll find on your side by there’s some information sheets there labelled My Networks which are very useful and will link people to services like ours and… We’re not recruiting the clients because we’ll be telling all the good quality services available in their area and not just ours.

P: Alright. And now a favorite question within Health Professional Radio is what is the biggest misconception that keeps you awake at night that you would like to clear up a bit?

D: That’s a very good question. I think it’s probably not so much a misconception as a very common perception in the public somehow this is not a lot to do with me. Every family’s got somebody with a mental illness. Every family has got someone nearby with a serious mental illness, every classrooms got a kid in it who’s got a parent with even a psychotic illness, every high school with a thousand kids in it there’s thirty or forty kids that’s gonna develop psychosis in the next seven years. This is not them, it’s us.

P: Alright. David thank you for taking the time out of your day to join us today. It was our pleasure having you on Health Professional Radio.

D: Thanks Patrick.

P: So now if you’ve missed my conversation with David Meldrum, the National CEO of the Mental Illness Fellowship of Australia, there is an audio file on both YouTube and SoundCloud and you can also read a transcript of this conversation on our website and thank you for joining us today.

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