Joy Peters regularly heads bush to give people the necessary skills to assist mentally ill members of their community.

Story by Kevin Boyle and Photos by Will Caddy

Joy Peters is a foot soldier in the battle against mental illness in rural Australia. As a recipient of a Hollie Jackes Memorial Scholarship, Joy runs Mental Health First Aid courses in rural communities several times a year. Her quest is to take the ignorance, prejudice, superstition, fears and myths associated with mental disorders, and replace them with awareness, education and knowledge. Her message is plain and clear: “Mental illness is like any other physical condition, and just like some physical conditions, such as a broken leg or pneumonia, it can be successfully cured, or at least treated, so that the mentally ill person can live a happier and more constructive life.”
Joy, who lives in the northern rivers district of New South Wales, has a diploma in human and community service and a degree in social science. Her interest in mental health arose from her work in the community for both government and non-government organisations and through community development projects. “I was a youth worker with at-risk and homeless young people as well as being a juvenile justice officer working with young offenders and their families,” she says. “There were also many young people with disabilities, and I worked with them and their families to improve their future.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #46

Outback Magazine: Apr/May 2006