The circus in Patricia’s head started when she was a small child growing up in Sydney.


“Even before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder I always knew something was wrong,” she says. “When I was very young I used to take days off school because I felt unwell, and from eight onwards I was hearing voices.

“Fortunately my mum was schizophrenic so she always understood where I was coming from. She’d allow me to stay at home and rest.

“To be honest she was my best friend.”

Patricia still experiences anxiety, depression and the occasional schizophrenic episode but has learnt to manage the highs and lows.

“When I was young it was just Mum and I who were affected but a lot of illness runs through our family and for my brother and two sisters, unfortunately it has hit later in life,” she says.

Drugs and alcohol

By her late teens Patricia had turned to drugs and alcohol to help cope with her mental illness, which ultimately left her bedridden.

“I was just a nightmare to know but luckily I met a GP who referred me to a psychiatrist, and as a result my condition was finally properly diagnosed,” she says. “So it was at that point that I got away from the drug dealers and moved back home, where my parents took me in and gave me all the help in the world.

“I went to Alcoholics Anonymous and with the support of older people in the group I was able to give up drink and drugs. I stayed with that group for 15 years and from the age of 26 I’ve been clean.”

Patricia only moved to NSW’s Northern Rivers when she was 40, initially on holiday.

A new home

“I had a breakdown in Byron Bay and the ambulance took me to Richmond Clinic in Lismore – and I’ve stayed here ever since.

“Some of the staff have become very close friends and continue to look out for me, they’re always checking in to see how I’m going. With their help I’ve been able to avoid another breakdown for 20 years.”

Patricia joined the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in 2017. She says it has made a really big difference to her outlook on life – especially with consistent support from Lorna, her Social Futures Local Area Coordinator.

“I’d been used to getting support through self-help groups involving people with similar mental health issues to my own, but my NDIS-funded carers are mostly all people with families from the mainstream and it’s just a much more positive vibe.

“I knew I needed the change to help with my recovery but I didn’t know how to go about it. Now that I’ve made the change I just feel I’ve entered a whole new chapter of my life. The NDIS came just at the right time.”

Out and about

Patricia’s support workers complement her existing social and church networks by taking her out for community activities, and also help maintain her flat with cleaning and maintenance as required.

She’s also able to use her plan funds to access therapeutic support and now goes on group tours with local NDIS provider Hart Tours.

“Once a month I go out with a group of old ladies (I’m the youngest one there!) and they are all so nice. We do a whole day tour in the bus going to places like Kingscliff, Mullumbimby, Pottsville, Ballina and so on – it’s just great getting back out into the countryside again.

“Now I’m thinking of volunteering and even looking for paid work – I’m only 63 after all!

“I thought I was going to become one of those weird people that you see around and now all of this has happened, it’s just been so positive and exactly what I needed.”

“I thought I was going to become one of those weird people that you see around and now all of this had happened, it’s just been so positive and exactly what I needed” (Patricia)

Patricia’s NDIS supports have helped her:

  • Re-engage in mainstream community life
  • Access therapeutic support
  • Go on group expeditions
  • Consider volunteer or paid work

Social Futures is a National Disability Insurance Scheme Partner in the Community.
Our Local Area Coordination services connect participants to the NDIS in regional New South Wales.

To contact your nearest LAC call 1800 522 679

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Social Futures is committed to the continuation of delivering support services in a safe, practical and innovative way while navigating COVID-19.