AUSTRALIA’S first dedicated post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) service provider registry has opened in Richmond.
The Australian Resource Centre for PTSD is a not-for-profit that provides support, education and advocacy for Australians living with PTSD, which is a type of anxiety disorder.
The centre was opened by Michelle New, a resident of The Slopes who was told six years ago she would never work again due to the severity of her condition.
She had been diagnosed with complex PTSD, along with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue, and the medications she was taking to help manage her symptoms affected her memory and cognitive function. Due to long stretches spent in bed with chronic pain and fatigue, she also lost her ability to walk.
Over a period of five years, Ms New participated in treatment options available locally for PTSD, including in-patient care at St John of God hospital at North Richmond and on-site PTSD-specific programs.
“Complex PTSD means multiple traumas. It’s not something you can ever 100 per cent wipe from your memory or erase from your life, but you can manage to learn to live with it day-to-day,” Ms New told the Gazette.
She learnt to walk again, and when she came off her medications her memory and cognitive function returned, meaning her ability to work again began to look like an option.
Ms New’s traumas date back to when she was a young child, and continued in to her adulthood. They include child sexual assault, domestic violence and torture.
Though the PTSD programs she participated in helped her move forward with her life, there was very little available to her in terms of follow-up assistance.
There was no service provider that acted specifically as a touch-point for the PTSD community, so she decided to launch one.
Ms New dedicated over two years to developing a register of all the services available for people with PTSD – not only in the Hawkesbury but right around the country.
“I feel good [providing this service], and being able to give people those shortcuts I didn’t get,” she said.
You’re not alone
“Eight-hundred-thousand people are diagnosed with PTSD at any one time in Australia. Anyone can get PTSD – it covers a very large demographic,” Ms New said.
Since opening a few months ago, the centre has helped survivors from the Lindt Cafe siege, the Black Saturday bushfires, refugees, military, first responders like police, firefighters and ambulance personnel, train drivers, and civilians of all ages from children through to the elderly. Ms New also meets a lot of people who have partners with PTSD who are looking for support (PTSD has a high rate of divorce, she said).
“We’re not a treatment facility,” she said. “We offer support groups every Thursday night from 6.30-7.30pm, and education workshops every couple of months. We’re currently working on an aftercare program as well.”
Many people come to Ms New in the first instance through her free, unlimited 15-minute consultations (by appointment).
She sees people who have been diagnosed with PTSD, as well as those who suspect they may have it or that their loved one might have it and they’re not sure what steps to take next.
To keep things fresh in the support groups, she brings a different topic of discussion in to the fold every week, from ‘dating someone with PTSD’ right through to medications and treatments, and ‘triggers’.
Ms New said people are not pushed to talk about the details of their trauma, as this is not helpful. Rather, what she offers and what people get out of the group sessions is a sense of being understood, and not being alone.
All the members of the board are people who have either PTSD themselves, or they know someone who has.
Ms New wants to make the colour ‘teal’, which is associated with PTSD, as well-known as the colour ‘pink’ has become for breast cancer awareness.
To help Ms New and the other volunteers with the day-to-day running of the centre, monetary donations can be made via the website or the centre’s Facebook page, as well as via a collection point at Ugly Mug cafe in Richmond. The team is also looking for more volunteers.
- Australian Resource Centre for PTSD – 14 March Street, Richmond (in the Hawkesbury Leisure and Learning Centre). Visit arc4ptsd.org.au or phone 02 9412 0000.