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10 December, 2020

A place to belong for mental illness survivors

YOGA, fitness classes, art classes, cooking classes, computer classes, gardening, bingo, music lessons, social support, rehabilitation and plenty of laughter and companionship are on offer for people with a mental illness, at the Junction Clubhouse Cairns.

By Tanya Murphy

Junction Clubhouse members Sarah-Jane Deron, Matthew Scicluna and Cynthia Yeatman show off paintings they produced at the clubhouse.

The Junction was started in 2014 in Cairns, and is one of hundreds of clubhouses around the world which aim to rehabilitate and assist people with a mental illness in a safe, non-clinical environment.

“The Junction provides a safe place where members can belong, form friendships with like-minded people, and support each other,” said clubhouse director Leonie Shawcross.

“The clubhouse is unique in that it accepts members on a walk-in basis, with the only prerequisites being that you have a lived experience of mental illness and believe that recovery is possible.”

The clubhouse has more than 200 members who attend voluntarily whenever they need to. Many attend every day to get support and find meaningful ways to fill their day, and enjoy a cooked lunch from the clubhouse kitchen.

“The Junction is open from 8.30am-3pm to give the sense of a workday - members nominate themselves for tasks to support the function of the organisation, such as helping with cooking, cleaning and answering phones for example,” said Ms Shawcross.

“The Junction also has three recovery coaches who help members with their individual goals, whether that means finding housing, managing finances, applying for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) or getting a job.”

The Junction also specialises in NDIS support for people with mental illness.

Weekend social activities and outings are also organised by the clubhouse.

Ms Shawcross said this year’s COVID-19 lockdown was a huge challenge for people with mental illnesses as it made it difficult for them to access services.

“During lockdown the Junction developed an outreach service where we took food and assistance to members in their homes, which proved so successful that it has continued after lockdown,” she said.

“It highlighted a need for outreach to help members who don’t have the confidence to come to the clubhouse.”

The Junction is funded by Queensland Health and the Primary Health Network and the building for the clubhouse was donated by the Mangano family.

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