'Helping people take control of their treatment and recovery' – why an advocate loves her roleSenior IMHA advocate Katie Long Davidson
Giving directions about mental health treatment is a new experience for many of the people for which Katie Long Davidson advocates. Her aim is to make it a positive one too.
Seeing how hard her mother worked as a social worker, Katie Long Davidson swore she’d never be one.
Katie is the first to admit now that she loves her job as one of our advocates and that her mother, who always thought her well suited to welfare roles, is having the last laugh.
She found her vocation through an arts degree that led to policy work for a Department of Human Services complex care team, followed by a more hands on role as a case manager working with homeless youth.
‘I worked with a number of young people who were refugees and the resilience they had had such an impact on me,’ she said. ‘They had goals and ideas about what they wanted their life to be and regardless of being homeless they still pursued their goals and some achieved them.’
That role often involved her advocating on their behalf for access to mental health services.
‘They needed that extra support and involvement of people who were going to be able to work through that journey with them and manage the complexities,’ she said. ‘People had really mixed experiences; some felt it was helpful and others had different ideas about treatment.’
Katie now spends most of her time helping people to more involved in having their say about their treatment and recovery and says her experience engaging with the mental health system in her previous jobs has prepared her well for her current role.
Taking people at face value
Her approach and advocacy is directed entirely by those using the Independent Mental Health Advocacy service and based on experience and knowledge of services for potential referrals.
‘In the mental health system you’re usually told what you should have, and what will work for you so to be able to direct someone as to what you want to happen is a pretty new experience for them.
‘We’re very much led by the people who come to us for help, so if they want to give their history and story, we’re very happy to hear that and that can be helpful in advocating for them, but we take people at face value.’
The relationship generally begins with a phone call, perhaps followed by a meeting with a psychiatrist or case worker where Katie will put forward her client’s preference for a type of treatment or otherwise.
‘Some people just want me to be there and they’ll do most of the talking and some people want to tell you beforehand and let you do the talking,’ Katie said.
Most of the advocates in the team have at least ten people in their caseload and speak to them every week during the period of helping them have a say in their treatment, Katie said.
Her clients have ranged in age from 19 to 70- something. Several weeks ago, she helped one person who was an inpatient secure the right to have no compulsorily administered medication.
Satisfaction and a recommendation
‘I love the work,’ Katie said. ‘The most enjoyable part is that you get to make connections with all sorts of people that you might not otherwise meet – people from diverse backgrounds and experiences.
‘Feeling like you can assist people to take ownership of their mental health treatment gives you a lot of satisfaction.’
Asked how she would recommend the service to people facing compulsory treatment, Katie said:
‘The service is one that will listen and really hear and understand your experiences of mental health and work alongside you to try and achieve the change you want in your mental health treatment.’
Reviewed 23 July 2021