UnitingSA’s GP Access program has been providing psychosocial support for people with mental health challenges for almost 20 years.
Without it, Anna doesn’t like to imagine what her life would look like today.
“It was like I was drowning and I couldn’t see the light,” she says.
“There were times when I became so isolated I couldn’t even answer the door but UnitingSA kept persevering.
“I honestly don’t think I would still be here if it wasn’t for the support of the program.”
It was 2004 when Anna first came into contact with the team at GP Access.
Aged in her 30s, she had escaped an abusive relationship in the Gold Coast and moved to Adelaide with her three-year-old daughter in tow.
She arrived with little more than the clothes on her back and had to rebuild her life.
“I was a real mess – mentally and physically,” she recalls.
“I didn’t have a car or any furniture. I didn’t have a job.”
Anna eventually secured a rental property in Woodville but a series of events proved it wasn’t a safe environment to live in with her daughter.
Her mental health started to spiral and she didn’t know where to turn.
Anna met with her GP, who recommended mental health support and referred her to GP Access.
She was soon meeting with her first support worker, Phil, who quickly realised that as well as mental health support, Anna required a safer home for her small family.
Phil helped connect her with UnitingSA Housing, which was then known as Portway Housing Association, and over time the team was able to secure her an affordable home.
In addition, Anna was connected with other UnitingSA supports, including financial counselling, food parcels, blankets, and access to the No Interest Loan Scheme to buy kitchen appliances and a mobile phone.
“Having all of that support connected through the same organisation was amazing,” Anna says.
“They guided me through a time that was really difficult.”
Through GP Access, Anna met with her support worker weekly for help to get to medical appointments, undertake shopping, and connect with other services to support her health and wellbeing.
She also became one of the first participants in the GP Access excursion group, which involves monthly outings to destinations across South Australia. Some months, the excursions were the only time she felt comfortable leaving the house.
Over the years, Anna started to be able to participate more in the world around her, rather than feeling the need to isolate herself.
But she will be the first to tell you that the fluctuating nature of mental health means recovery is not a one-way path.
“It took a long time trying to climb out,” she explains.
“It’s like I would dig a hole and try to climb out, and then dig a deeper hole and try to climb out.
“But UnitingSA never gave up – they just kept on persisting and each time they would encourage and push even harder to get me out of it again.”
Anna’s support workers have changed over the years but she says they each had the ability to help her push forward, despite setbacks.
Last year, her final support worker John helped her transition from the GP Access program to the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
“John is like a brother to me and even after I transitioned to the NDIS, he still held my hand when I needed it,” she says.
“There was always someone I could call. In absolutely every avenue, I had support.”
These days, Anna is pretty happy with her lot in life. She has downsized to a comfy unit, recently reconnected with her sister, and enjoys going for walks, pottering around the house, doing crosswords and cooking.
And despite having exited the GP Access program, Anna has an open invitation to join in the monthly group excursions – something she readily accepts.
“I love that group, I will definitely keep attending,” she says.
“Everyone is like family.
“My life is so much better now – I am finally out of that hole – and it wouldn’t have been possible without UnitingSA.”
Need help now?
If you require urgent mental health support, or are experiencing a mental health emergency or crisis, please get in touch with one of these support services.
Lifeline: 13 11 14 or lifeline.org.au
Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467 or suicidecallbackservice.org.au
Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636 or beyondblue.org.au/forums
1800RESPECT: 1800 737 732 or 1800respect.org.au
More resources can be found at the Mental Health Coalition of South Australia website.