New mental health program gets young people back to real life

ENABLE graduate Hiro Kojo shows off one of her paintings to the Minister for Mental Health Bronnie Taylor. Mrs Taylor today commissioned Hiro to produce an artwork for her office.

Young people are getting tailored mental health care in their own homes thanks to a revolutionary approach being rolled out by Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD).

Minister for Mental Health Bronnie Taylor was at Redbank House in Westmead today to see the results of the program, which gives patients up to 10 weeks of assertive, daily follow-up care while they transition out of hospital back into their regular lives.

Mrs Taylor spent time speaking to the team and 18-year-old Hiro Kojo, who was supported by the program after stints in several mental health facilities including Redbank House.

Mrs Taylor spent time speaking to Hiro about her mental health journey and future plans, including her dream of becoming a theatre nurse.

“This innovative program ensures young people get the support and tools they need in recovering from an episode of acute mental ill health,” Mrs Taylor said.

“I’m delighted to see the passion of the team behind the project and honoured to meet a wonderful young lady who has turned her life around with their support.”

The program, titled ENABLE, is designed for young people with severe mental health issues including self-harm, acute suicidal ideation, mood disorders and psychosis.

WSLHD Perinatal, Child and Youth Mental Health Services clinical director, Dr Ash Padhi, explained the idea is to empower young people and prevent them returning to hospital.

Mrs Taylor admires one of Hiro’s installations with ENABLE staff (from left) psychologist Jordan Gorham, occupational therapist Nicole Di Losa, clinical nurse consultants Shanice McCormack and Elissa Yoo, and child and youth mental health operations director Sumithira Joseph.

“While a young person is in hospital, they are protected from the real world and surrounded by comprehensive support. This helps them to recover but it doesn’t fully prepare them for the reality of returning to everyday life,” Dr Padhi said.

“This program aims to tackle the barriers to leaving hospital, including the fear of the young person and their family that they won’t have adequate support in the community.”

Hiro is among those to have benefited from the program, having initially been treated in Redbank House during a high-risk period in her life.

ENABLE supported her successful transition to supported accommodation within the community and she is currently studying nursing at TAFE.

Hiro uses sensory toys as an outlet for her anxiety, including the zipper bracelet (pictured) supplied by WSLHD occupational therapist Nicole Di Losa.

“Everyone at Enable is great. They’re funny and brutally honest, which is good. I feel more comfortable talking to them than anyone else,” Hiro said.

“The DBT therapy is teaching me self-care, how to manage the extremes of my emotions and relationships, and healthy release and relief.”

A talented artist, Hiro’s work has been featured on a Coles reusable tote bag and adorns the walls of Redbank House. Mrs Taylor today commissioned Hiro to produce an artwork for her office.

ENABLE was funded by a $663,000 NSW Health grant to enhance community provision of mental health services. WSLHD has allocated $166.8 million to mental health treatment in the 2019/20 budget.