I established A Path To Follow in 2010; motivated by my experiences with mental health challenges, both personally in family, and professionally, managing family and allied health services.
I experienced depression as a young person and then again after becoming a parent. We then faced the challenges of my son hospitalised for severe anxiety and depression. Before A Path to Follow I worked leading professionals in mental health, family and allied health services. This included support services for children, young people, adults and families, supervising clinicians and leading various portfolios, including Child Safety and Family Violence.
I have the appropriate and unique blend of professional and lived experience in mental health to support those experiencing related challenges. My journey mirrors thousands of others. It includes stories of immense support, of great love and encouragement to get better. But also of struggles against stereotypes and stigma; about depression, about medications, about what people living with mental health challenges can actually achieve, feel and experience in life.
With expertise in assessing risk to self, to others and family violence, I take threats to life seriously. I am experienced in developing and implementing Child Safe Standards, consult for agencies in this area and hold the Child and Young Persons’ Safety Officer at Ormond JFC. After the death of two of our son’s classmates to suicide within 12 months of each other and then the trauma of watching our son withdraw from life and attempt suicide, I became involved in launching and Co-Chairing a local Suicide Prevention Network; South Eastern Suicide Prevention Network.
I have been outspoken and candid about my own mental health journey. I would like to see a world where there is no stigma associated with experiencing or seeking support for mental health challenges. This world would prioritise prevention and early intervention of mental health challenges, reducing the need for and allowing the capacity to provide customised mental health response for those who require it most.
A Path To Follow started as a small volunteer initiative. It has organically grown over the years and I launched it as a small business in late 2019. My very first volunteer event was a celebration to thank my community for their support in my recovery from depression while raising awareness of what happens behind closed doors in relation to mental health. With the support of family and friends, $1000 was raised for SANE Australia.
Since our first event I have focused my passion to positively impact youth mental health. This was borne from my personal desire to ensure my boys, and other young people like them, grow up as part of a community where professional and personal support is readily available and engagement with such support not stigmatised.
In 2014 I raised almost $10,000 through an art exhibition and auction for the Early in Life Mental Health Services (ELMHS) at Monash Health. ELMHS is a service where young people who are experiencing emotional, behavioural or mental ill health can receive help. Unfortunately, like most public health services, ELMHS remains chronically underfunded. Our donation provided the necessary sensory equipment to support the recovery of young people.
I was further impassioned by the journey our son went through. Our experience of the mental health system, at all levels, left our son further traumatised. It set us on a battle we are, as a whole family, still finding challenging today.
My long-term goal has always been to establish a mental health model using lived experience and like age peer support. A model that offers services in prevention, early intervention and customised support. Motivated by long wait lists for those very few mentor programs in the area, the current limitations of our mental health system to support families and the unique needs of young people when it comes to mental wellbeing support, APTF’s four program streams were developed.
To read more about Kirstie’s professional experience, see attached resume.