“If it wasn’t for the camp, I’d probably be dead by now. I know that.”
So said Kaylene Booth about the University of Wollongong’s award-winning Recovery Camp.
At times thoughts of suicide have come “very, very quickly” for Mrs Booth over the last 30 plus years living with bi-polar and depression.
After many years of being “misdiagnosed” the Dapto grandmother is now in a much better place and able to manage her condition through medication and exercise.
But above all the 63-year-old credits the Recovery Camp – where participants spend five days together at a therapeutic recreation camp in the bush taking part in a structured program of recovery-oriented activities – for “saving her life”.
Before her first camp visit, Mrs Booth had been in and out of hospital dealing with her condition and the effects of a car accident, which left her “paralysed for two years”.
“When I first went to recovery camp the longest I had been out of hospital was two years. I’ve now been out for eight years,” she said.
“I was extremely shy when I first went but the camp has brought me out of my shell.
“The camp is so good as you get to mix with other people, you get to do activities and you get to learn so much about yourself.
“I have been to 12 or 13 camps since it started. The change in the people who come and the change in myself is absolutely unbelievable.”
She has attended all but one of the Recovery Camps since the program was launched in 2013.
Activities can include a flying fox, a giant swing, rock climbing, archery, tai chi, bush dancing, orienteering, tie dying, team initiatives, a high-ropes course and an obstacle course.
Mrs Booth, Recovery Camp founder Dr Lorna Moxham and nursing student Chris Hinder will talk about the program at the Uni in the Brewery event on Wednesday, August 15 from 5.30-7pm at the iAccelerate foyer (building 239) of UOW’s Innovation Campus.
Professor Moxham, from UOW’s School of Nursing and leader of the Global Challenges ‘Living Well, Longer’ program, said that more than 400 consumers and more than 450 health students had taken part in Recovery Camp since it was established.
She said nowadays six camps a year were held and students from seven other universities attended the Recovery Camp to undertake their mental health clinical placement.
“We know the camps have a very positive impact on students, on consumers (people with a lived experience of mental illness), and on carers,” Prof Moxham said.
“Among consumers who have taken part in Recovery Camp it has led to a 67 per cent decrease in the length of stays in hospital, a 35 per cent decrease in emergency department presentations and a 37 per cent decrease in their use of community mental health resources.
“So not only is Recovery Camp keeping people out of hospitals and improving the quality of their lives, it is also reducing the financial burden on the overall health system.”