Relationships Australia 2016 - 2017 Annual Report 1 - Page 53

Ann Lawrence: Peer Support Worker Ann has used her lived experience with gambling and mental health issues to support others going through similar situations. “I developed mental health issues and a drinking problem after my marriage breakdown,” says Ann. “With alcohol as my companion I became a frequenter of pubs and drifted across to the gaming room. It didn’t happen overnight, but I developed a problem where I could not stay away from the pokies and they ruled my life.” Ann says her relationships suffered the most due to gambling, “I lost my connection to community, friends and family.” One day after a significant loss, she picked up a Relationships Australia SA pamphlet and made an appointment with the Gambling Help Service. “Through counselling I was invited to unpack the issues that were driving my behaviours. Now I use my lived experience to help other people.” Ann says the training was not only therapeutic for her, but also gave her the opportunity to meet other people who were struggling to make sense of their gambling history. She says that one of the biggest barriers to people getting help is stigma around gambling, and that the work of the Consumer Voice Program helps to put a human face to the problem. “Hearing from a person who has the experience makes all the difference. We can all look at research and statistics, but when you really talk to someone who knows how it feels it can alter the way we connect with each other.” Ann, as Senior Peer Support Worker, helped to establish the Peer Support Service at Relationships Australia SA. This service connects clients with someone who has experienced gambling harm who can demonstrate that recovery is possible. “I lost my identity through my journey, but have re-emerged with a new one. I’ve been transported from the victim of all my labels to an amazing level of recovery I never thought possible.” Ann’s counsellor invited her to undertake the Consumer Voice Training Program. Consumer Voice speakers are trained to tell their story about gambling harm and recovery to a range of audiences. Individual, Family and Community Wellbeing | Relationships Australia SA Annual Report 2016 -2017 49