As a species we have passed down our history and knowledge through stories, teaching others of the experiences of those who have gone before us and it is this premise that is behind a new group of women coming together to improve mental health and wellbeing.
An intrepid group of African women across the suburbs of Perth have come together to launch a range of social activities as a way to prove mental health and overall wellbeing through the ‘Courageous African Women Network’.
The network is a partnership initiative between the African Women’s Association and local not-for-profit mental health and wellbeing organisation, Richmond Wellbeing.
The initiative has a vision to establish a network of active women coming together to share stories, skills and support in a culturally and socially safe environment.
Richmond Wellbeing and the network are also using the classes to promote enhanced mental health through physical activity and counselling services. Activities also include workshops and training covering areas such as parenting, life-coaching, sexual health and safety, and other important lifestyle issues.
Yvonne Johnson, Chairperson of the Courageous African Women Network, says it is different for women to accept common mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, but when they come together and share their experiences it changes the atmosphere.
“… When they meet with other women and begin to talk about some of their experiences then they can share knowledge and learn different ideas on how to deal with those issues affecting their mental wellbeing,” she says.
“It is important to provide services for women to get together and share their experiences and learn from each other different ways to address issues affecting their mental wellbeing.
“For instance, sometimes women find it difficult to discuss challenging behaviour of their children with strangers, but when women get together and build relationships and trust through shared experience they can gain new cultural ideas to deal with issues differently.”
Support of the Courageous African Women Network is an outreach initiative of Richmond Wellbeing’s Partners In Recovery (PIR) program.
Neil Guard, Richmond Wellbeing Chief Executive, says the PIR program was first introduced by the government to address the deeper challenges existing within the mental health system and to develop a genuine collaborative and cooperative approach by service providers.
“Through our Partners in Recovery program we aim to assist the Courageous African Women Network to nurture strong, confident, empowered women who have a positive vision for their futures and the future of our local communities. It’s also a great way to address issues such as depression amongst a very isolated community group,” he says.
“Life challenges and mental health issues affect people across all ages, nationalities and cultures. To positively impact overall health and wellbeing across these diverse demographics we need to encourage people to share their messages and experiences of acceptance and recovery.”
Written by Danielle Hanrahan