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Hocking Fellowship brings BPD into spotlight

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2014 Hocking Fellowship recipient, Sonia Neale, is calling for more understanding of Borderline personality disorder (BPD) from governments, health services and the wider public in a newly-released report.

‘Borderline personality disorder is a mental illness that is often ignored or misunderstood. Thankfully some States and Territories are now seeking alternatives to treat people in BPD crisis rather than attending Emergency Departments,’ she says.

The aim of the Hocking Fellowship is to promote better mental health for all Australians through advancing public knowledge of mental illness.

Sonia, a mental health peer support worker from Perth with a personal experience of BPD, used the grant to travel to Europe, the United States and Canada to observe and learn from leading international treatments of BPD.

BPD is a mental disorder where people experience frequent distressing emotional states, difficulty in relating to other people and self-harming.

People living with BPD are often misunderstood because of the anger and rejection they display, they are usually labeled as ‘manipulative’ or ‘attention seeking’.

‘I hope this report goes a long way to alleviating the stigma, discrimination, lack of support services, lack of inexpensive and accessible therapy that people with BPD often experience. 

‘My over-arching vision is to see that Borderline personality disorder will be seen by the entire mental health industry as a treatable and recoverable mental illness and therefore will no longer hold the distinction of being a diagnosis of exclusion,’ she says.

SANE Australia CEO, Jack Heath, says the Fellowship is a unique opportunity to empower those affected by mental illness.

‘As the inaugural Hocking Fellow, Sonia has done an outstanding job both as a researcher and an ambassador.  We are thrilled that the Hocking Fellowship will help translate Sonia’s drive and lived expertise into real, practical benefits for people living with Borderline personality disorder,’ he says.

The Hocking Fellowship Report 2014 outlines Sonia’s journey to met with over 20 different organisations and individuals with varying expertise on the disorder, from the US director of the film If only we had know: A family guide to BPD, Kevin Dawkins, to members of The Haven Project, from Colchester UK. It presents a comprehensive set of recommendations for action in Australia.

Sonia is now part of a working group, The Haven Interest Group, who are lobbying to set up a safe place for those with BPD going through a crisis in her home state of Western Australia.

‘When a person is in a BPD crisis and is in danger of self-harm or completing suicide, this is an emergency. Instant, empathic help is crucial at this point.’

‘This will be designed as an exclusive one-stop shop for people with BPD and their loved ones,’ she says.

The Hocking Fellowship Report 2014 can be viewed online.

Applications are now open for the Hocking Fellowship 2015 to Australians, like Sonia, who are active in the mental health field and want to help improve treatment and support for those affected by mental illness.

See details and application form at the SANE Australia website

Applications close on 31 August 2015. The successful applicant will be announced in November 2015.


Last updated: 17 May 2021
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