When Nova McCormack arrived at Recovery House, she was burnt out. Working seven days a week as a carer to pay her mortgage, the burdens of life were isolating her from friends and family. By her own admission, she simply existed – a task that was becoming increasingly difficult. Exhausted, she began using drugs to stay awake and motivated, a decision she quickly recognized as dangerous.

“I knew there was a problem and there were a lot of things combining and I felt like I had no hope for the future, so I took myself to hospital,” Ms McCormack said.
During discussions with a psychologist about her next step, Ms McCormack said she became increasingly frustrated with the professional inability to see her as a person, rather than a diagnosis.

She decided against traditional pathways and eventually self-referred herself to Richmond Wellbeing, gaining access to a support worker once a week and rebuilding her life.
“At this point, once a week wasn’t enough and when my support worker moved to Recovery House, she put the idea to me, and I went for it,” Ms McCormack said.
“I had no other option.”

Facilitated by Richmond Wellbeing, Queens Park-based Recovery House hosts 13-week, live-in, recovery-oriented programs each year to support people with severe mental illness to develop the skills to take charge of their recovery journey.

The intensive program is the only one of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. It explores experiences individually and looks for personalised solutions.

Richmond Wellbeing chief executive officer Neil Guard said the program followed the notion that people were the experts in their own lives.

“There is no power differential, everyone is equal, but it is highly intensive and can be confronting,” he said.

Ms McCormack said the program was the most difficult thing she had ever done.
“It was the hardest thing I have ever done,” she said.
”In the past, I’d use substances to cope and I would want to run away all the time but I had to stay and cope with my issues.
“I realised that I was 43 and I wanted to live my life, not just exist in it.”

Ms McCormack has paid her experience forward, mentoring current residents in the program, who will graduate this March.
“I am feeling empowered, it’s amazing,” Ms McCormack said.
“It’s like I have met myself for the first time.”
The pilot program will host a final group of residents later in the year, the third of three funded.
Mr Guard said he was optimistic there would be an ongoing need for such a program.

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