Ben grew up in a loving and financially secure family in the Eastern suburbs of Melbourne. Despite the debilitating effects of at least half a lifetime of mental illness and institutionalisation, Ben has very fond memories of going on regular holidays and camping trips with his family.
Ben’s family recalls that he particularly enjoyed surfing. Ben continues to have a love of the natural environment and being physically active. His story is evidence of the ability of people to recover from severe mental illness and learn new things even after the psychiatric or ‘rehabilitation’ institutions of the past may have discounted Ben’s life to a routine of medication and largely soulless activity.
More than 15 years of hospitalisation because of Schizophrenia has had considerable effects on Ben’s physical, emotional and mental health and his ability to do a range of activities, which most of us take for granted, for example, motivate, organise and prepare oneself for the day ahead and hold oneself in a manner that is socially acceptable. With some understanding of the effects of Ben’s illness and life history, supported by the supported accommodation where he lives, the staff at Out Doors have been able to encourage Ben’s interest in nature and physical activity.
Ben has participated in a range of camps and activities, including fishing and bushwalking. Initially Ben required some support from Out Doors leaders to dress appropriately and reminders about personal tidiness, but with more and more experience in these new groups and non-judgmental and positive support from staff and other participants Ben has been able to participate more actively in the programs he enjoys. A very memorable moment for Ben and his new friends at Out Doors was Ben successfully riding a bike – something he had not done since he was a small child and something some people may not have thought possible.
Ben continues to prove many people wrong.