What Vinnies does for mental health

The St Vincent de Paul Society across Australia is concerned with all areas of mental health but our primary focus is on the most disadvantaged; people with a severe mental illness.

Vinnies actively works to achieve greater acceptance for people living with mental illness by challenging community attitudes which stigmatise and ostracise people through ignorance and fear. We also work directly with those experiencing mental health difficulties, helping them to reconnect with the community through specific mental health programs.

A man smiles as he sits at a table taking part in craft activities and chats with a woman from the St Vincent de Paul Society.

How do Vinnies mental health programs work?

In Western Australia Vinnies offers a Special Works service called Vincentcare and through this initiative we are able to respond and support people currently experiencing a mental health illness. Vincentcare’s ethos is all about support with dignity.

Vincentcare provides accommodation and support for individuals experiencing severe and enduring mental illness including those who have a history of homelessness. Vincentcare staff assist and support consumers in their rehabilitation and recovery journey, enabling them to maintain optimum levels of wellness and improve their quality of life.

Vincentian Village offers high support to 28 consumers with 24 hour staff cover. Shared houses offer medium support to 25 consumers in six houses with part-time and visiting staff support and Vincentcare’s Independent units offer low support to 14 consumers in self-contained units with visiting support as needed.

The Vincentcare model of service delivery is non medical and founded on the principles of social justice and community inclusion. Individuals are encouraged to develop their independence and life skills in the program.

Whilst Vinnies runs the Vincentcare program specifically in WA there are very similar mental health support programs running in other states and we encourage you to contact Vinnies your state to find out how they can help you.

Bob’s story

Bob has been living at Vincentian Village for almost five years. He has a diagnosis of bipolar affective disorder which he has struggled with most of his adult life. Before coming to Vincentcare he moved between periods of homelessness and short stays with his family who were unable to cope with his illness.

When he first started living at the Village he had very poor communication skills – refusing to speak the majority of the time and remaining in his room for days on end. Over the years, Vincentcare staff slowly worked with Bob to draw him out and build to confidence to speak.

Over the past year, Bob has become involved in the Care Coordination program at the Village. This program offers intensive group work on independent living skills, resilience and social skills. It has helped Bob build a fuller understanding of his mental illness, develop skills to deal with its symptoms and he now interacts well as an active member of the group.

Barry’s story

The street entrance to Vincentian Village, a two-story brick building, which is bright and welcoming.

Barry entered Vincentcare when he was in his late 20s. He had just turned 20 when he became involved in a group, many who were drug users. Barry started using drugs as well and by the time he was 25 he was a full time user of many different drugs.

His family had distanced themselves from him and many of his friends had died from overdoses. Barry had started university but he had to drop out because he could not stay focused. He was diagnosed with drug induced psychosis. When Barry came to Vincentcare he was paranoid. He was very thought disordered and had a serious problem with thinking, feelings and behaviour. His speech was also disconnected from his thinking and feelings, making him withdrawn, hesitant and afraid to mix with other people.

Now 10 months later, Barry has moved from the village which provides individuals with medium to high support with their illness to a Vincentcare share house in the

community which offers low to medium support. Vincentcare has worked with Barry on his living skills and he participates most days of the week in groups that help him understand his mental illness. He is fortunate to have received immediate support and intervention leading to a positive conclusion that recovery can be quick with less long term disabling effects from his illness.

Two months ago Barry started working full time and enrolled at TAFE to study for an engineering diploma. Vincentcare believes Barry will be ready to move into his own place within six months. He is excited and careful as he knows he has been given an unbelievable second chance.

There are other mental health programs running in other states. To find out more about our mental health work click here. To support the good works of the St Vincent de Paul Society do something about it and volunteer or donate.

Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the people we assist.

Read more about the work Vinnies does with people experiencing mental illness