COMBATING SOCIAL ISOLATION: CREATE
INTERVIEW WITH GREG WOOD
What inspired the establishment of CREATE?
Greg: The journey to manifest CREATE began when I worked on a series of jobs which eventually landed me a role at the Northshore hospital. I was immediately drawn to the atmosphere there and wanted to grow and do more in this environment. I eventually had the opportunity to work in a community hub that addressed issues relating to aged care, youth, and drugs and alcohol issues as a department of health workers which allowed me to learn and expand my skills.
The community hub closed down due to organisational changes and left me having to move around Sydney twice to maintain the provision of such services and to the point where there was little to no support. CREATE was birthed in the process of this shuffle as I had a deep passion to sustain the availability of mental health services to these groups and more.
Overall, our participants who are mainly people living with disabilities and our care community inspire me. Their stories inspire me. I am honored to listen and bear their issues with them. Their day-to-day lives inspire me and in return, I want to inspire them to a level where they become integrated into the community as independent, free-thinking, and not weighed down by the dark cloud that I also often experience. And until then, I want to infuse and keep alive hope that this is possible.
What are some of the main challenges that CREATE faces in today’s socio-political system?
There are several. One of them is an issue with the current health and hospital systems which always take the same sides over most issues. This results in the disregard of the mental health field, although it is required that it be given the same attention as other forms of disability. This makes it difficult for people living with mental health issues to access the same level of support available to people living with physical disabilities. Although this is gradually changing, there used to be a huge gap, which led us to prioritise mental health.
Also, as one of the main issues that CREATE is targeting is social isolation and stigmatisation of people living with mental health issues, it is important that we encourage the breakdown of barriers that reinforce these issues. Social isolation is a big thing in Sydney and in my opinion, it is mainly people living with a disability that keep the silo walls up to avoid discrimination, rejection and also to maintain the individual experiences that each group identifies with. It is time to bring those walls down while both maintaining and acknowledging the unique group experiences. Barriers only perpetuate the general struggles of people
living with disabilities.
One of our programs tackles this isolation through a weekly café gathering where carers and people living with mental health issues are able to dine together and mingle. We all look forward to these weekly meetings and have seen drastic improvements in our participants’ lives as they attend. It's wonderful!
What is unique about CREATE, and what support can the community contribute to addressing social isolation and stigmatisation?
It is essential to engage with and support people living with mental health issues in our sphere of contact and community. Encouragement and respect go a long way.
Also, to participate and/or provide support to CREATE Northshore’s work in Sydney, contact Greg Wood via firstname.lastname@example.org