It’s hard to make positive changes to your life when you can’t even leave your room.
But when Brett, 55, did venture out he was surprised to find friendly faces, people to talk to, help with linking to local services and a social art group where he could learn some new skills. He found them all through the Plus Social program run by Primary & Community Care Services (PCCS) in Mermaid Beach.
A dad of two and carer for his 29-year-old son with Asperger’s syndrome, Brett was unemployed and feeling socially isolated. Living with diabetes, he then suffered brain bleed which exacerbated his mental health decline and led to a diagnosis of depression and anxiety.
“I was basically just a very angry person,” explains Brett. “I wasn’t doing anything, I wasn’t contributing to anything. Everything I saw, I saw the down side of – I didn’t see the up side to it. I didn’t even want to get up in the mornings. I didn’t want to talk to anyone.”
Brett’s psychiatrist referred him to Plus Social, a care coordination and social prescribing program which began on the Gold Coast in July 2018. Plus Social works in conjunction with GPs or psychiatrists and offers non-medical interventions such as help with drug and alcohol counselling, housing or finance, and connects people to social activities that assist them in overcoming the loneliness that accompanies many mental health conditions.
While Brett has always used art, in particular 3D graphic art, and playing the guitar as a way to relax, he found new mediums to experiment with during the Chill Art weekly group.
“I enjoy going to art group because they’ve got the equipment to do different sorts of things I haven’t dabbled in. I just find it very relaxing. It gives me a chance to talk to people who are interested in art as well.
“After going to PCCS, things have changed quite a bit. I have no real problem with talking to people anymore. I was shown ways of dealing with problems – not sat down and shown but just watching everyone else and how other people reacted. I became more confident within myself.
“All the staff members there have a positive attitude. So the positive attitude sort of rubs off on you a bit. It just makes you feel that you’re not as useless as you thought you were. I’m happier to have a path in life instead of just locking myself away in my room because that’s what I did.”
After encouragement from his social worker Goldy, Brett started volunteering at an aged care facility. He even facilitated an art group there!
“Just talking to people was great. They may have been older than me but a lot of them had the same kind of interests as me. I quite enjoyed it. I was doing a bit of art teaching while I was there. I found that very satisfying.”
He’s since started his Certificate III in Individual Support (aged care) and has nearly completed the theoretical studies.
And while all of life’s problems haven’t disappeared, he’s finding he can cope with stressors better now.
“I’m just a lot happier than I was back then. I still have problems – like, we got evicted the other day. I was angry for two days, then I settled down and realised it’s just a matter of moving. Before I would’ve been in my bedroom and I wouldn’t have come out. I don’t know how I would’ve handled this if I hadn’t seen PCCS.”
For more information on the Plus Social program, visit https://www.pccs.org.au/ or talk to the PCCS team on (07) 3186 4000. See us at our booth at the Gold Coast Disability Expo, Gold Coast Event Centre Friday and Saturday, June 7 and 8.