Central Coast ARAFMI voiced feedback to Central Coast Council about mental health carers and people impacted by trauma and mental health issues, as part of Council’s preparations of the Draft Disability Inclusion Action Plan, 2021-25.
When considering accessibility and inclusivity for the approximate 61,000 Central Coast residents living with disabilities, it is important to recognise that all people living with disabilities, as well as their carers, can be impacted by emotional, psychosocial and mental health issues, according to ARAFMI.
Central Coast ARAFMI’s feedback to the Council included that more action needs to be taken to remove the stigma and invisibility surrounding mental health issues.
Communities also need to consider the vulnerability of family and friends who support people impacted by mental health over a lifetime.
Feedback highlighted the invisibility of mental health carers and lack of support for carers in a way that is meaningful for them.
Carers communicated that they often felt they were caring for their loved ones with a disability alone and unfunded.
Families and their carers were often unidentified and unsupported because of the stigma associated with mental illness, as families and carers may conceal their role as a carer.
Central Coast ARAFMI Family and Carer Program Coordinator, Cath Rowe, said that supports such as the NDIS serve people with disabilities, and focus on the person living with a disability while the carers, who are usually family members, are becoming increasingly burned out and unsupported.
“Carers remain in the shadows of their loved one’s disability; our community does not see the true picture.
“If we are genuinely being inclusive, this means being inclusive to all,” Rowe said.
The current Central Coast Council’s Disability Inclusion Action Plan is a four-year plan that seeks to identify ways that local residents and visitors living with a disability can experience greater accessibility and inclusivity into mainstream services, facilities, information and support.
In 2014, the NSW Parliament passed the Disability Inclusion Act which helps to ensure that our government and our community consult, involve and plan with consideration for those living with disability to ensure a fully inclusive society.
Central Coast ARAFMI Peer Support Worker, Erin Higgins, said the plan acknowledges that people living with disabilities have value to give, and allows them to contribute to the Council’s plan.
“It also shares an increased awareness that disability is both physical and mental,” Higgins said.
Higgin’s story is included in the Central Coast Council’s Disability Inclusion Plan 2021-25.
Her story can give hope for others who experience an invisible disability.
Higgins shares how she can use her own lived experience of mental illness to help others who have faced similar challenges.
Central Coast ARAFMI continues to promote the mental health of carers, individuals and whole families.
Although good progress has been made in developing an inclusive and accessible community, more needs to be done.
Particularly in hearing the voices of children who are carers, and because living a meaningful, inclusive life can significantly improve conditions such as clinical anxiety and depression, to a degree that rivals medication.
The Central Coast Council Draft Disability Inclusion Action Plan 2021-25 is available for community feedback until September 13.
Central Coast ARAFMI encourages carers and people impacted by mental health living on the Central Coast, if possible, to speak up and offer their thoughts on the proposed plan.
The plan can be viewed at https://www.yourvoiceourcoast.com/all-projects/disability-inclusion-action-plan.
Media Release, September 2
Central Coast ARAFMI