Clients of Red Cross, Bonnie Willis and Christie Brown.
Clients of Red Cross, Bonnie Willis and Christie Brown. Allan Reinikka ROK160218aredcros

Rocky woman's courageous fight back after losing everything

CHRISTIE Brown used to get her nails and her hair done every week.

She would go out for lunches and enjoy the odd coffee or shopping date and lived, what she considered, quite comfortably.

However, her world turned upside down when after the death of her daughter from meningococcal in 2003 and the abandonment by her husband of 18 years, she lost everything.

Ms Brown's friend Lorraine had been attending Red Cross for some time when she convinced her to come along.

"She mentioned me to her case worker and I broke down,” Ms Brown said.

"My life was actually really good and then out of the blue my husband of 18 years decided it was over and I just went downhill.

"I had depression and PTSD from losing my little girl... I have two types of PTSD plus anxiety.

"Without this place I'd just be sitting at home alone in my room.”

As soon as Ms Brown began seeing a case worker through the centre, her life began to change.

"I got to self-refer for a year and then I was with my GP who wasn't really listening to me; it was just pills, pills, pills,” she said.

"My caseworker took me to a new doctor who absolutely understood me.

"That has helped; having a relationship with my new doctor, my case worker, they were there to help me with stuff like child support and Centrelink.

"Without them it's daunting. It's too much.”

Now every time Ms Brown walks through the centre's doors she feels a weight lift off her shoulders, knowing that "no-one is going to judge”.

"It's somewhere for us to come when we're alone because everyone is fighting the same black dog,” she said.

"We all got here through different things but no-one is better off or worse off, we're all equal... some people just need extra love and support.

"There are people we can talk to here; there's a psychologist, a Centrelink lady, a free hairdresser on Friday and free financial counselling.

"They also take us on outings to places like the beach and the gardens and do barbecues.”

Ms Brown has also taken up one of the roles of a Cook Up cook, where she and two other clients cook meals for their "big family” of "about 30 people” with food supplied by Red Cross.

"We have done food safety training through the centre... that was free,” she said.

"It's just something for us as clients so we're not doing anything and we're actually helping.”

When Bonnie Willis came to the centre, she "wasn't in a good place at all”.

"I was suicidal and I'd had a number of suicidal attempts,” Ms Willis said.

"I was cutting and taking tablets and had been in a mental health ward.

"I've luckily had the support of my mother... she's the one who got me into Mental Health and then they referred me to here and I've been getting better ever since.

"Without this place I'd be climbing the walls.”

Ms Willis found a "family” and "new friends” within the centre who could "lean on each other”, and her mental stability quickly began to improve.

"[Coming here] stopped me from being suicidal,” she said.

"I'm not a risk to myself any more or to others. It's all because of here.”

There is a motto they use at Red Cross: nothing about me without me.

This means there is no talk of anyone else without their presence.

There is no talk of drugs, religions or war.

Everything is equal.

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