About Indigo

I’m a mad survivor artist, activist and academic based in Melbourne, Australia. On this site I share my stories of madness, trauma, hope, cynicism, rage, healing, shame, and creativity.

I am a survivor of child abuse, madness and forced psychiatry.

I remain outraged that the mental health system made my trauma worse by ignoring it, and then re-traumatising me all over again .

I wrote about these experiences in a paper called Russian Dolls and Epistemic Crypts (2022).

This outrage continues to fire me to speak out against the violence of psychiatry and to be an activist for change.

I am a recovery expert by experience.

After years of life as a revolving door psychiatric patient, heavily medicated, unemployed and without hope, I finally found a way out. It began with a therapist and a keyworker who saw my potential rather than my limitations, and helped me to find both hope and coping skills.

But the real recovery work came down the track, from my peers and counsellors, when I began to address the real issue: not a mental ‘illness’, but the impacts of child abuse.

My life was transformed by the hearing voices approach, by trauma counselling, and peer support.

These things put hope in my heart and that keeps me fighting for change as well. Because I know, absolutely, that we can do so much better.

  1. Hi! I am in the US (Michigan). We are in the process of developing a lot of groups. Oryx Cohen and Will Hall came to our state and trained 26 Peer Support Specialists in HVN group facilitation. My friend Rosie and I have been giving talks about the history, philosophy and practices of HVN. You can see the number of talks I’ve done on the website I created. I am also doing talks at service organizations (Rotary, Lions Club, Knights of Columbus) about the stigma of mi. My recovery is due to 3 serendipitous encounters with Ron Coleman. I usually give my story and then Rosie does the power point part of our presentation. Rosie has encountered some difficulties and can no longer work with me. I am not qualified to teach. I don’t have a degree in anything. I am not a certified PSS. I was the director of a library {with only 4 years of college and 14 years of experience and a professional storyteller {crowds don’t bother me} but I have no degree in anything {can’t pass math or science} but I have taken every Psych and Soc class available. Am I qualified to be doing these trainings? I read that you’ve been in charge of peers. So I think you are the best person to ask. Thank you for your time. I am so impressed with your website and your story. I really identify with you in many ways. Including my label. I read your story to our Stigma Busters group today at my psychosocial rehab center. It was so perfect. I have started 2 groups I facilitate 1. Even facilitating feels inappropriate to me. I love it though. We are there to support and love each other. It’s great! But am I overstepping my bounds? Take care, I look forward to hearing from you.

    • Hi Mary,

      Thanks so much for commenting – and it sounds like HVN Michigan is doing fantastic work! A few things I have to say to you:

      1. You are ABSOLUTELY qualified to be doing this work. Our most important expertise as peer workers comes from our lived experience, and our most important skill is our passion. Sounds to me like you have both in great quantities. Of course we can always build on our skills, but it sounds to me like you are very open to learning as you work.
      2. It also sounds to me like you have lots of qualifications anyway! 🙂 I know plenty of people doing work like you who dropped out of high school. Why are we always so much harder on ourselves than we are on others? *wry grin* (I do this to myself as well)
      3. Nevertheless, it’s always nicer for us and our audiences when there are a few of us, so keep your eyes open for people in groups who might be willing to join you in giving talks. It might take a while but if you’re persistent then you’ll find the right people in time.
      4. Remember that you’re not alone – there are hundreds if not thousands of us all over the world doing this work!
      5. If you worry about facilitating then why not ask your group how they feel about your style, and for honest but kind feedback on how you can improve? I always advise facilitators that whenever they are unsure, then ask the group. Remember that with peer work we have different boundaries, and it’s more than OK to be vulnerable and to ask for help from the people we are supporting. It can actually be really empowering.
      6. I’ll be adding more resources to this site over time for peer workers, educators and facilitators so stay tuned. I’ll be running training as well, but it’s probably a bit hard to get to Melbourne! Give me time though, and I also hope to get some online training onto the site that people can access from anywhere.

      Ron has made huge contributions to my own recovery, so I hear you. Hang in there Mary, and stay in touch! 🙂

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