Consumer Participation Officer
Inner City Health Program, St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney
“Mental illness is no longer a life sentence. The sun will come out and there’s a lot to enjoy.”
As he nears retirement, it’s easier to ask Douglas Holmes what he hasn’t done rather than what he has done over the course of his working life. What he has done makes for a very long list.
He’s come a long way for a young man who loved the t-shirt and thongs lifestyle of his native Newcastle in the Hunter region. Until the age of 42 he had a good career as a long-distance transport driver and union delegate, with a strong work ethic. Then Douglas was diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder. Since that time, he’s been a key participant in many developments in mental health, including the consumer and peer worker movements.
Douglas serves on a number of committees and boards of state and national mental health organisations, putting into practice the findings of a post-diagnosis vocational survey that identified him as someone who could provide advice to government, and work in education or financial management.
Inspired to improve the recovery journey for consumers and their families, Douglas has been a member and executive officer of Being (formerly the NSW Consumer Advisory Group) as well as a founding member of the Australian Mental Health Consumer Network.
For the past 10 years, he has worked as St Vincent’s Hospital’s Consumer Participation Officer, putting into action the policies he has worked on. He also works on a range of other projects, including the Hearing Voices Network NSW, which he helped to establish.
Douglas loves peer work.
“We see things from a different point of view that may not have been considered by the different stakeholders involved. There are many times that I can put in a point of view that will change the way a plan will go.”
Peer work is “about helping people to become productive members of society” Douglas says. He believes that it’s better all round for people to be working and paying tax, and contributing to their own superannuation.
In 2014 Douglas received the TheMHS Exceptional Contribution award in recognition for his “unswerving dedication to the betterment of services to support consumer wellbeing”.
His qualifications include the Diploma in Training and Assessment; Comprehensive Systematic Review Training; the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment; but not the Certificate IV in Peer Work—that’s because he helped develop the course.