In 2009, Donna and her baby son, Ishmael, relocated to Sydney. This proved to be a catalyst for her mental health issues to resurface. Donna was living with friends in an overcrowded house, and only one month after arriving, she started to recognise she was becoming unwell. “I was getting very sick, very quickly,” remembers Donna. “But I had no one to turn to.” When Donna started having suicidal thoughts she knew she needed help. “There was no way I was in any state to look after Ishmael or myself,” remembers Donna.
Early one morning, distraught and at her very lowest, Donna called an ambulance. She was in the ‘danger zone’ and needed urgent care. Donna spent five weeks in hospital but with the negative environment and triggers still in the house she’d been living, she needed alternative accommodation for when she was discharged. Donna was referred to the Women and Children’s program (WCP) at Flourish Australia, which offers accommodation and support for homeless women living with a mental health issue and their dependent children. After viewing the accommodation and facilities, Donna knew this would be perfect for her and Ishmael. “But I wasn’t healthy enough to feel and know my worth as a person,” reflects Donna. “I believed there were other people who deserved this more than I did.”
But Belinda Jenkins, Manager of the Women and Children’s Program, didn’t agree and offered Donna a place on the program. “Walking into a place where no one knew me and within an hour and a half interview, they believed in me, has had the biggest impact on my life.” “They saw the raw, broken me,” says Donna. “And even though I was falling apart, they didn’t judge me.” “Belinda said, ‘We really believe there is something you can offer us – we believe we can learn from you as well.’”
Donna and Ishmael settled into their life and their new home at WCP’s Charmian Clift Cottages where Donna continued her recovery journey. “I began to believe in myself, “ says Donna. “Through my whole life, every time I got knocked down, I’d get back up again.” After four months, Donna was offered a place in a transition house and with a backdated disability allowance, was able to purchase furniture and white goods for her new home. Today, Donna has immersed herself in her local community, joining a church and volunteering widely. She is also doing some paid work with the WCP. “I began to believe what other people could see in me,” says Donna. “When I was unwell I couldn’t see my own potential, but others could. They knew all I needed was time and patience.” “I’m proud I’ve got up from things that others couldn’t. And I’m talking about suicide.” “I didn’t do this journey on my own, other people worked with me” says Donna. “But I was the one who had to keep getting up. And I continue to keep getting up every day.” “I want others to know that they’re going to grow, they’ll get stronger and they’re going to get above this. They’re going to walk on and they’re going to achieve things like I did.”