Developing a better mental health response

October 4, 2016

Dr Christine Palmer, Lecturer, Flinders University, SA, Australia

Mrs Yorker Williams, Teacher, Education Queensland

The 2016 STOP Domestic Violence Conference will be held over 5-7 December at Mercure Brisbane, QLD.  Dr Christine Palmer and Mrs Yorker Williams will present at the conference on The Long and Winding Road Recovering from the impacts of domestic violence’.

Dr Christine Palmer and Mrs Yorker Williamspresentation aims to inspire delegates to reflect on the ways in which childhood trauma reverberates through a person’s life, impacting in the present without conscious awareness.

When we work with people struggling to make sense of their experiences, we sometimes have the parallel experience and also struggle to understand. This paper is co-presented by the mental health nurse and the person with lived experience of domestic violence and describes the development of mutual awareness as we walked alongside each other and tried to make sense of troubling symptoms and experiences.

When we began working together we initially focussed on was on what was happening in the present, and while there were significant improvements, we were also continually challenged by new demands that inevitably resulted in further losses. We spent years unravelling the losses and traumas while confronting traumatic events that had occurred in adulthood. When eventually the light shone onto the emotional and physical abuse and domestic violence experienced as a child, it became clear that the powerlessness experienced as an adult mirrored the powerlessness experienced as a child. When working through the early abuse, we were both profoundly challenged by the visceral re-experiencing of threats that occurred during flashbacks. What we had earlier labelled as panic attacks being completely immobilised and unable to speak, swallow and at times breathe we later realised were dissociative experiences. This paper reflects on the recovery of one woman whose journey is worth sharing.

Overcoming the disempowerment arising out of childhood abuse and domestic violence is an important part of the journey of recovery. This is important work that we need to embrace as part of our role as mental health professionals in collaboration with those who are experts by experience.

Christine Palmer is now a Lecturer in Nursing at Flinders University who previously worked collaboratively with general practitioners to provide primary mental health care under the Mental Health Nurse Incentive Program.

Yorker Williams is a secondary school teacher with a Masters degree in Education. She is also a person with experience of major depression and the psychological effects of trauma.

For more information on the 2016 STOP Domestic Violence Conference and to secure your registration, please visit the conference website.


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