Learn more our Consumer Impact Inspiration Award Finalists
This award presented by Lifepath Psychology recognises an outstanding contribution to mental health in Western Australia by an individual who identifies as having a lived experience.
The person who nominated Ashleigh says she was fortunate to meet Ashleigh last year and was extremely impressed by her deep commitment to 'the work of recovery'. "She struck me as open, warm, strong and as I got to know her more, I realised how supportive she was of others whilst remaining very humble herself," the nominator said.
Ashleigh is funny, with a wit that lightens the room and forges good bonds with others. She has a very strong work ethic and somehow manages to balance her own personal self-care with a consistent focus on helping others to understand that recovery is possible and achievable. Ashleigh epitomises the reasons why peer work is so invaluable.
Ashleigh was a victim of prolonged and violent child abuse from within her family unit. Due to the drug use of her mum and stepfather, she often protected and cared for her younger siblings for many years and eventually after her Mum passed away when Ashleigh was only 14 she had her stepfather imprisoned. However, she had to leave home at a very young age and had several years of moving between different living situations and fending for herself somehow. As an adolescent she developed an eating disorder in response to her trauma and was very at-risk for a long time.
Over the years Ashleigh was given many diagnosis including major depression, severe anxiety, borderline personality disorder, complex PTSD and also hears voices in the context of complex PTSD. Ashleigh survived and went on to complete the 15 week Recovery House Program offered through Richmond Wellbeing. She obtained a Diploma of Community Services and Case Management and is an active member of the Richmond Wellbeing Consumer and Family Reference Group and is now employed as a Recovery Support Worker for RW where she is based mainly at Recovery House supporting others as they work through the very program that saved her life.
She has participated in many mental health training courses and up-skilled her peer work capacity by building knowledge of mental health pathways and approaches. She is a powerful advocate for recovery and continues to maintain her wellness whilst working tirelessly to inspire and educate others.
Ashleigh works closely with the Richmond Wellbeing team to bring the consumer perspective into their programs. She assists with recruitment and makes recommendations towards policies, procedures, staff training, marketing material and information packs, all based on her experience as both a service user and survivor.
Andris Markovs was born in the difficult circumstances of a refugee camp after World War 2 to parents escaping the brutality of war-torn Latvia before arriving in Australia as a child in the 1950s. Subsequently, he became an award-winning architect and performing arts production designer working in Europe. In the 1980s, he made sea change from the corporate world of London, to Sydney, and then to Albany. There he established a successful restaurant and tavern, got married, raised a family, became a local government councillor and got strongly involved with his community in this regional centre for many years.
Andris has strong lived experience of hands-on ‘mental illness’ issues through his personal recovery pathway after a diagnosis with Bipolar Disorder Type 2, struggling with problematic alcohol and drug use, suicidal ideation and involuntary psychiatric admission.
Later, he also cared for his teenage daughter when she was struggling with methamphetamine induced psychosis, eating disorder, and depression. Having found the conventional medical treatment available to him in a regional centre inadequate to meet his needs at the time, he began exploring complementary treatments and management strategies beyond the biomedical model such as yoga, reiki, meditation, tai chi and mindfulness.
Having rediscovered a sense of personal well-being and learned what helps him to manage his own continuing recovery, Andris has sought to continue his journey as a passionate, lifelong learner and to constructively share his lived experience of recovery mindfully for the benefit of fellow travellers, university allied health students and the wider community, particularly CaLD and disadvantaged people. Since his own mental health diagnosis, he recognised a fire in his belly for contributing to positive change in the suicide prevention and mental health sector including a committed and active involvement in advocacy, legislation change and education.
To this end, he has drawn on and clearly articulated his personal lived experience through taking on roles as a consumer representative on committees / groups; in consultation processes; through delivering training presentations; and in print and radio media stories about his mental health experiences.
Retraining, he gained a TAFE Diploma in Health Services and established a non-government men’s health advocacy and health promotion service in Albany. He also applied his skills as a trainer and facilitator to delivering accredited training in mental health literacy, suicide prevention and workplace wellness.
Amongst his current roles, he is an inaugural board member of the Recovery College of WA; a member of the University of WA School of Population and Global Health’s ‘Consumer and Community Advisory Group’; and a sessional lecturer at Curtin University’s School of Occupational Therapy, Social Work and Speech Pathology. He’s a qualified Lived Experience Educator (Curtin University), a member of the National Register of Mental Health Consumer and Carer Representatives and this year became a member of Lifeline WA’s Lived Experience Advisory Group.
Marisha’s journey is an inspiring story of resilience and commitment to recovery. It is a story of a mother and grandmother who, in the face of many personal challenges, has drawn on mental health supports for herself, and as a significant other, to care for her partner and family members’ mental ill health experiences.
Today in her role as a volunteer Peer Support Worker with Cyrenian House, Marisha shares her lived experience and recovery story to inspire and support many other consumers, staff and the wider community. Marisha states actively seeking “support and connection” is key to her mental health recovery.
Marisha identifies her mental health journey commencing with depression when she was very young, in response to trauma and domestic violence in her life. Becoming a parent at the age of 16 years old, Marisha came to understand that education was key to supporting her and her family’s mental health, so attended as many courses she could to gain skills and tools to support mental wellbeing.
When her third child was born with a congenital heart disease, Marisha was diagnosed with post-natal depression. It was a significant time for Marisha and her family. In her own recovery process, Marisha also supported other parents on a similar journey at HeartKids, where she experienced the connection with others as healing.
Later, following a work injury, serious depression and agoraphobia set in. Then when becoming pregnant again, Marisha chose to cease mental health medications so not to harm her baby. In this process, she discovered that actively reaching out and seeking on-going support was vital to maintain her and her family’s mental wellbeing.
Marisha described a pivotal moment where she chose to “take charge” of her mental health and “reached out and clawed” her way back.
For many years Marisha had a job, owned her home and was raising five children, living a typical suburban Perth life. But all that changed in the space of just 18 months. Following a 20 year relationship breakdown and other extenuating circumstances that led to a deterioration in mental health, Marisha became addicted to methamphetamine late in life, was soon homeless and was eventually sent to jail. Her mental ill health was at crisis point.
During the 23 months alone in prison, Marisha summoned all her previous recovery experience to support her mental health at this time of crisis. Marisha self-advocated wherever she could and reached out to Cyrenian House services by accessing an in-prison counseling program. Upon release, on-going stability and well-being was achieved back in the community through support from Partners in Recovery (PIR).