BRIGHT FUTURE: CQUniversity academic Louise Byrne educates the next generation of mental health nurses.
BRIGHT FUTURE: CQUniversity academic Louise Byrne educates the next generation of mental health nurses. Photo By Peter Lawrence

Rocky woman turns life around after decade of mental stress

LOUISE Byrne is sitting in the driver's seat of her life and she would not have it any other way.

After a decade of traumatic mental illness treatment, confusion and pain, CQUniversity academic Ms Byrne has turned her life around.

The Rockhampton lecturer suffered from stress and distress for most of her life but through the ongoing support of her family and friends and by never giving up hope, Ms Byrne said she has a new lease on life.

"I accessed mental health services from my mid-teens - sometimes voluntary, sometimes involuntary," Ms Byrne said.

"I was hospitalised again in my mid-20s, which included treatment that left me incapacitated and unable to engage with life at all - something that took a very long time to recover from.

"The impacts of the diagnosis and the stigma attached, particularly as a young person, were very damaging for me.

"The turning point for me was when I was working on a creative film about my journey and I was allowed to take a chance, find my own creative way of dealing with it and I was allowed to be the driver of my life."

Now, Ms Byrne is at the frontline of an award-winning new mental health nursing program which has a different approach to the traditional 'take your medicine' mantra.

CQUniversity's Mental Health Nursing Program connects nursing students with teachers that have a 'lived experience' of mental illness.

Ms Byrne and her colleagues were honoured for 'leading the way in Australia and internationally' for 'consumer involvement in mental health nursing education and research' with a prestigious 2013 Open Minds Mental Health Week Award in October.

Her harrowing past is now an invaluable resource for the future as she teaches the next generation of mental health nurses to help service users control their own healing.

"We communicate that mental health consumers aren't just 'patients', but real people with hopes, dreams and desires beyond their mental illness," Ms Byrne said.

"In this way, rather than nurses imposing a particular treatment on the situation, they walk together with service users in more effective partnerships.

"For people suffering, the most important thing is to find your hope because without hope there is nothing."

WHO CAN HELP?

 Lifeline 13 11 14 or http://www.lifeline.org.au Counselling, information and referral

 Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467 or www.suicidecallback

service.org.au

 Kids helpline 1800 55 1800 or http://www.kidshelp.com.au Counselling people aged between five and 25

 MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78 or http://www.menslineaus.org.au Support for men

 Your local GP

MENTAL HEALTH STATISTICS

 1 in 6 people - 1 in 5 women and 1 in 8 men - will experience depression at some stage of their lives.

 Anxiety is the most common mental condition in Australia. 1 in 4 people - 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men - will experience anxiety.

 At least 6 Australians take their own lives every day.

(Statistics sourced from http://www.beyondblue.org.au)