Current stats indicate that in each year, approximately one in every five Australians will experience a mental illness. (Mindframe Media Facts & Stats) With this in mind, it becomes increasingly important that we support open and honest dialogue about mental health and how to promote recovery and wellness for people experiencing mental illness.

CHESS have been working in the Mid North Coast and Clarence Valley communities for over 20 years, mentoring and supporting people living with mental ill health and disability. We put the call out to our staff to share with us the best piece of advice they would give to someone recovering from mental ill health. Here are 5 tips from the experts:

Joel Aitken

Joel is Manager of Disability & Mental Health at CHESS. Joel assists staff to maintain quality of service so we can provide our community with the support they need to live independent and fulfilling lives, beyond the impact of their disability or mental health condition.

“My tip for people living with mental ill health who are on their recovery journey, is the call to get back to basics. ‘Back to Basics’ is a concept I find very relevant to people as it supports the holistic idea of ‘Healthy Body, Healthy Mind.’ Clearing away the clutter and focusing on fundamentals really helps to maintain resiliency and self-agency.

Making sure you’re eating, sleeping, exercising, managing your finances and socialising all contribute to your baseline health. Parallel to this is making sure you visit your GP on a regular basis and access clinical supports, like a psychologist when you need it.

Despite whatever is happening, always retain your own power to make changes and be the director of your own life.”

Deborah Snow

Deb is a support facilitator for our Partner in Recovery (PIR) program. PIR assists people to recover from a range of long term, complex problems associated with severe and persistent mental illness.

“The best piece of advice I would give to people recovering from mental ill health would be to focus on what you can control and take your recovery one day at a time. If you’re having a ‘bad day’ try not to feel that you have gone back to the beginning of your recovery journey, a ‘bad day’ isn’t permanent and doesn’t mean that you will stay in this state.

You have had the resilience, strength and skills to make small steps towards progress before and you still have that power within you. Take time to recover and don’t judge your progress on anybody else or anybody else’s expectations – it is your recovery journey.”

Sue Read

Sue is a Specialist Employment Worker for our Personal Helpers and Mentors (PHaMs) program. She has a strong connection to the Kempsey community where she works and is passionate about helping others find their purpose, build hope and resilience throughout their life journey.

“Advice I would and do give someone in recovery would be to stay connected to all supports, and understand who is supporting you with what. Once I connect with a person I encourage them to know where they are, and where they want to be. I also encourage the person to know their rights and responsibilities. Every journey is individual, every recovery is different. The choices you make matter and have an effect.”

Josie Collins

Josie is a PHaMs Caseworker in our Grafton agency and is passionate about supporting clients on their journey to recovery.

“My top tip for people in recovery is to give yourself time. When recovering from mental ill health it can be a long and bumpy road, you need to embrace it, accept it and be patient with it. Unfortunately there are no overnight instant fixes, no magic wands and no genie in a bottle that is going to grant us three wishes. Be patient and allow yourself time, because recovery needs time. Time to find the right supports for you and your needs, time to reach your goals no matter how big or small, time to re-connect with your passions, time to heal, and most important time for self-care. We often can forget to do things for ourselves that we enjoy. Be patient and kind and give yourself the time.”

Karen Vidler

Karen is a CHESS PIR Peer Worker, based out of our Kempsey agency. Peer Workers are people who identify as having lived experience of mental ill-health and use this common experience in their roles to inspire hope and recovery in others.

“My journey has taught me that no matter how well I may or may not be, some of life’s many hurdles are inevitable. They have no regard for timing, and they do not discriminate. So when something in life hits me, it knocks me down and I fall. It’s all about how I get back up again.

By no means is this easy, it’s hard, scary, challenging but that glimmer of hope, that crack of light can again become a guiding beam. I remember that I am Karen, the mother, the grandmother, the loving partner and proud Peer. For me, going to work, on-going education and training, healthy social life, sense of purpose and a relationship free of abuse are some of the key things working together to keep me mentally well and support my on-going recovery and growth.”


CHESS are the local experts in non-clinical mental health recovery practices. If you are living with mental ill-health or entering the NDIS we have supports to help guide you towards recovery.

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CHESS Marketing Manager Heather is passionate about bringing NGO's into the future through digital marketing and brand storytelling. A big fan-girl of fantasy fiction, Heather enjoys switching off from the virtual world with a good book and a hot cup of joe.