Breaking Free – September 2022

From the editor

Welcome to the September edition of Breaking Free. As we head into Mental Health Month, we reflect on how we can better understand ourselves and those around us, and how our experiences can impact us. Our lead article encourages us to take a more compassionate and understanding approach to mental distress by asking the question “what happened to you?” instead of “what is wrong with you?” How can we as a community approach mental health differently? How can we always consider the possibility that the way a person reacts or presents might be related to the effects of previous trauma and life experiences?

Blue Knot Day, our national awareness day is less than a month away and our theme this year is Nurturing Mind, Body and Soul – Exploring What You Need. We will be sharing a range of resources throughout the day which we hope will help educate and inspire us all to reflect on our wellbeing. It is important for us to do what we can to take care of ourselves, but this is often not easy, especially if you have experiences of complex trauma. Everyone is different and our needs can change over time. We hope you can join us on the day or review our resources later to see what resonates with you.

We are providing two free webinars on the day for survivors and those who walk alongside. We encourage you to pre-register as spaces are limited. We will be sharing more information in the lead-up to Blue Knot Day, so please follow us on Facebook and on our webpage for the latest updates.

Until next time, take care
The Blue Knot Team

Reflections on Mental Health Month

As we approach mental health month in October it’s timely to reflect on the relationship between experiences of violence, abuse and neglect, often repeated, often extreme and often ongoing and… mental distress. The reality is that adverse experiences in childhood, as a young person and/or as an adult have an impact on us as human beings – on our biology, activating our ‘stress response’, and on us emotionally and psychologically. People with experiences of complex trauma can present in a range of ways, which, in a biomedical frame are seen as symptoms and behaviours, and which, in a diagnostic frame, are grouped together to form diagnoses. While this frame has its place, it benefits from the addition of a psychosocial frame, as we are unique individuals – human beings who experience all sorts of events along life’s journey.

As the World Health Organisation states… ‘levels of mental distress among communities need to be understood less in terms of individual pathology and more as a response to relative deprivation and social injustice’

So when we ask ourselves the question: ‘what happened to you’ rather than ‘what is wrong with you’ (the guiding tenet of being trauma-informed) we are seeking to understand the circumstances of people’s lives and their experiences during their lives in the context of their culture, background and unique situation. Because without asking the question we are unable to begin to understand the origins of mental and emotional distress. The reality is that people experiencing mental distress are having reactions, including ‘stress reactions’ as a result of their experiences or in the context of their experiences – whether repeated violence and abuse, social exclusion, discrimination or oppression or a combination of these experiences.

Traditionally people with mental illness have been viewed through a ‘them and us’ lens rather than one which understands the human condition i.e. that we all can be and are vulnerable at different times in our lives and experience adversity, and that vulnerability and experiences of adversity are part of being human. Being vulnerable is not something to be ashamed of or stigmatised but something to be understood and embraced. Similarly, being abused or neglected or exploited or subjected to violence i.e. being a victim is not the person’s fault. It is never okay to blame the victim and expose them to further shame, or to shun them, deny or minimise their experience. And so too, experiencing mental or emotional distress is something to be understood and responded to with compassion and acceptance, not dismissed or labelled without taking the time to understand a person’s journey. So as we approach mental health month, what can we, as a community do differently?

What can you do?

In 2021 Complex Trauma Spotlight Report National Mental Health Commission, commissioned a report which was a collaboration between Blue Knot Foundation and BEING – NSW Consumers Inc.

The report recognised the significant need of greater awareness and understanding of the often chronic and largely unmet needs of people living with the long-term impacts of complex trauma. It highlighted the gap between the needs of people with lived experience and systems’ and service capacity to meet them, to support healing and recovery, minimise experiences of re-traumatisation and to be heard, respected and supported to live meaningful participating connected lives.

Complex Trauma Spotlight Report

Showcasing the Power Threat Meaning Framework

“The Power Threat Meaning Framework can be used as a way of helping people to create more hopeful narratives or stories about their lives and the difficulties they have faced or are still facing, instead of seeing themselves as blameworthy, weak, deficient or ‘mentally ill’.

The framework was co-produced by a team of senior psychologists, people with lived experience and leading mental health survivors and activists, funded by the Division of Clinical Psychology.

It provides a different perspective on why people can experience different forms of distress, confusion, fear, despair, and troubled or troubling behaviour. It is an alternative to the more traditional models based on psychiatric diagnosis.

To purchase your copy of the Overview of the Power Threat Meaning Framework go to Blue Knot’s shop:

Blue Knot Day – Thursday 27 October 2022

Festival of Healing

Nurturing Mind, Body and Soul – Exploring What You Need

This year Blue Knot Day’s annual Festival of Healing will focus on the theme “Nurturing Mind, Body and Soul – Exploring What You Need”.  We will be delivering a range of resources and information through our social media channels, which will cut through the buzzwords, and provide you with real and practical information that you can implement.

All too often as a survivor, or as someone supporting a survivor, we can neglect our own wellbeing. Nurturing our mind, body and soul is not a one-size-fits-all, and we need to discover what works for us.  Blue Knot Day will explore a range of methods and topics to help you on your wellbeing journey.

Part of our program for the day will include two webinars which cover the importance of having compassion and empathy for ourselves and others, and how to draw on our own resources and have agency over our own wellbeing.  Both webinars require pre-registration, so if you would like to join us on the day, please register using the links below.

Most importantly we encourage you to take part and share with your own community in the lead-up and on the day. Share your thoughts on how you nurture yourself and support your own wellbeing, and use the hashtags #BlueKnotDay

We will be providing more updates on our program leading up to Blue Knot Day, so stay tuned for more information from

Webinar 1: Compassion and Empathy – 11am

This one-hour webinar reminds us of the importance of compassion and empathy, and how we create space to show compassion for ourselves and others. It demonstrates ways we can start to grow compassionate moments for ourselves to build the capacity to heal.

It will also explore how, if we’re in a caring role, we can experience compassion fatigue and why caring for self is key.

Join us for this webinar on Blue Knot Day and take some time to reflect on your own wellbeing.

27-Oct-2022 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM AEDT, Online
Register for Compassion and Empathy Webinar

Webinar 2: Building connection to body – 2pm

This one-hour webinar explores the ways we can start to safely connect to our bodies. It is important to acknowledge that each person has agency over their own wellbeing, by having internal resources to draw upon. It can support our capacity to regulate and co-regulate with others.

Join us for this webinar on Blue Knot Day and learn more about ways to create space to start to feel safe in our bodies.

27-Oct-2022 2:00 PM to 3:00 PM AEDT, Online
Register for Building Connection to Body Webinar

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