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After navigating through numerous personal challenges, ELGP Alumni, Hayley Harris, now uses her own life experiences to become a passionate advocate for mental health awareness. She uses her voice to bring about meaningful change and the principles she believes in.

Hayley believes that good leaders encompass qualities like love, kindness, and gratitude, which she incorporates into her own leadership approach as well. What an inspiration!

Meet Hayley in her own words…

I’m Hayley Harris.

I am a mental health trainer, facilitator, lived experience speaker, advocate, and community leader. My journey has been shaped by a deep commitment to mental health advocacy, driven by my personal experiences with mental health challenges, including episodes of psychosis and severe depression and anxiety. With the support of my local community, mental health organisations, and my family, I was able to build a life I love.

Throughout my life, I have volunteered in various sectors, including Youth Services, Aged Care, Community Services. Currently, I am employed with MIFWA (Mental Illness Fellowship of WA) and also serve on the board of CoMHWA (Consumers of Mental Health WA).

My purpose is ensuring that lived experiences voices are heard and supported to drive change. 

Tell us how being involved in one of our leadership programs has helped you? What changed or shifted in you as a result?

Participating in the Emerging Leaders in Governance Program (ELGP) in 2022 was a transformative experience for me. Prior to this program, I had struggled with the concept of leadership and had never identified myself as a ‘leader.’ However, ELGP provided me with an opportunity to explore and embrace my leadership potential.

Through the program, I gained increased confidence and developed practical skills that were crucial in successfully applying for a board role. ELGP helped me recognise my value proposition and understand board governance. Additionally, I was able to create a board resume, which ultimately assisted me in securing a position on the board I currently serve on.

Being a part of ELGP not only broadened my perspective on leadership but also allowed me to see the impact I could make from a leadership standpoint. It empowered me to make meaningful contributions to the mental health community and pursue my passion for driving positive change.

Tell us about a project/cause/organisation you’re involved with and what you’ve learned about creating positive change?

In June 2023, I started the Bring Back PHaMs advocacy campaign, aiming to reinstate national funding for Personal Helpers and Mentors (PHaMs) services in Australia. PHaMs was instrumental in supporting people with severe mental health issues. PHaMs was funded by the Department of Social Services for over 10 years and funding was provided to the non-government sector (NGO) to engage personal helpers and mentors.

Unfortunately, due to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) prioritisation, the government withdrew all funding for PHaMs, leaving approximately 629,000 people without vital mental health services.

Having been a consumer of PHaMs myself, I experienced firsthand the life-changing impact it had. Before PHaMs, I was in a state of despair, isolating myself and struggling with severe anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. Thanks to PHaMs, I regained hope, set goals for my future, reconnected with friends, began studying at Tafe, and engaged in volunteer work. Had I not been received the timely support from PHaMs, I may have reached severe crisis requiring hospitalisation or needed psychosocial support for the rest of my life.   

The campaign strives to ensure that essential mental health services are accessible to those who need them, emphasising the significance of early intervention and support in mental health recovery. Bring Back PHaMs are asking community members to sign our petition, to share the campaign in order to raise our profile and to tell their story of using PHaMs or the impact of not having access to PHaMs. www.bringbackphams.com

Since launching Bring Back PHaMs I have had the opportunity to meet with Emma McBride Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention and Assistant Minister for Rural and Regional Health. Additionally, I will be collaborating with CoMHWA who have enlisted their systemic advocacy team and national networks to help drive the campaign.

What is an important leadership lesson you’ve learned along the way?

A crucial leadership lesson I’ve learned is that a leader is not just someone who directs and commands, but someone who finds potential in people. Leadership encompasses qualities like love, kindness, and gratitude.

Additionally, I’ve recently realised that leadership and legacy are connected. The decisions I make now may have a lasting impact on those who come after me. So, I sometimes face tough choices for the greater good, ensuring that I don’t set negative precedents for future leaders. This can be as simple as not responding to work emails outside of hours, or saying no to opportunities because I’m the only speaker not being paid, I’m not making these choices for me, but for my successors who shouldn’t have to hear “but Hayley did it so why can’t you?”

How do you take care of yourself?

One of the most important self-care practices I’ve learned is the power of saying no. 

I’ve learned that saying yes out of guilt or pressure leads to resentment. By prioritising my well-being and being honest about my limitations, I ensure that I can show love and compassion to others while looking after myself and also participating in projects I’m passionate about. 

Saying no may not always be easy, but it’s an essential aspect of self-care for me.

 

 

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