Lived Experience, Ryan D’Lima

Lived Experience. People with a lived experience of disability, social challenges, suicide, mental health issues, and their families and carers, hold unique insights into how services can best respond to the mental health and other needs of their clients. In relation to suicide, Lived Experience’ refers to people who have been impacted by suicide, including people who have experienced or live with suicide ideation, attempted suicide, cared for someone at risk of suicide, and people who have lost a loved one who has died by suicide.

At the SPAN August 13th meeting, Ryan D’Lima shared his powerful personal story which involved his previous career and highly regarded work in the corporate development field. Whilst recovering from a very difficult period in his life, he came to realise he wanted to change the direction of his life and work “for purpose” rather than “for profit”. That led to his change of career direction and his commitment to helping improve mental health services.

Ryan currently works as the Mental Health Drug & Alcohol Lived Experience Coordinator with NSW Health Southern NSW Local Health District. He has a consumer advocacy role and provides professional support to peer workers who work in the various regions of our large Southern Local Health District.

Brief over-view of Lived Experience Presentation by Ryan D’Lima

Ryan spoke of the growing recognition in health services and of the need to change the culture using ‘lived experience’ in order to improve health services. With this in mind he is currently trying to recruit peer workers in regional areas to help provide caring non-clinical support to people likely to benefit from additional on-going support from someone with common experience (ie a peer worker). He is also looking for mental health consumer representatives to represent the region and help improve support services. Our region includes surrounding areas and the cities and towns of Crookwell, Goulburn, Braidwood, Yass, Queanbeyan, Batemans Bay, Moruya, Cooma, Bega, Pambula, Merimbula, Eden, Delegate and down to the Victorian border. It consists of 37 sub-regions and 2 hospitals with designated places for patients requiring mental health care (Bega and Goulburn (14 and 32 ‘beds’). There are also 6 community health centres in our district.

It is noted that a high percentage people who had died by suicide had experienced significant previous trauma which suggests that better management of trauma (and PTSD) may well be vitally important in reducing and preventing suicide. He spoke of the involvement of both mental health issues and social stresses in relation to suicide risk and explained that various combinations of these can exist in different situations.

During discussion around the extent to which current hospital in-patient and Emergency Department (ED) care meets the needs of the range of people seeking mental health care in crisis situations, Ryan alerted us to two pilot projects currently being trialled in NSW. One involves suitably selected people receiving care by Suicide Prevention Outreach Teams (SPOT) rather than being assessed in the ED. Another is an Alternative ED for people with mental health issues and/or high suicide risk that is reportedly being trialled in the Nepean/Penrith area. However, he noted that such models of care are very expensive to set up and/or operate.

Those present thanked Ryan for his meaningful talk and for making the day trip from Queanbeyan to attend and speak at our meeting. We look forward to liaising with him as in relation to possible new lived experience/peer support initiatives we may develop. We are also keen to hear more about the two pilot alternative ED models of care but are also aware of constraints arising from the current economic climate. We would very much like to be able to help see such an alternate model of acute mental health crisis care introduced in this region.

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