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Margaret's mission

Margaret Blackwood had a personal mission - to help her son through a life-changing illness. Her journey led to benefits for many MIFQ members.

Margaret refused to stand by and watch isolation engulf her child and others like him.

“We were just coming to terms with the schizophrenia, and through (MIFQ) I decided to get something going that would benefit my son, and other people’s children too,” said Margaret.

“We needed to recognise that it wasn’t an illness you just needed tablets for.”

“I was a newcomer and I was a bit pushy, but I came up with this idea for camps, and the others on the women’s auxillary were happy to let me get with organising it, so I was made Chair of the Camp Committee.”

“I got in touch with the Department of Recreation and asked if someone could come along to the next meeting – and it took off from there.”

The first camp was at Tallebudgerra in 1989 for about 50 people.

“There was a lot of hard work involved, and really it was a little hit and miss in the early days, but we had a wonderful time.”

By the time the second camp was organised staff from the community clinics had joined the committee.

“It was a big achievement to bring the people from the clinics and (MIFQ) together – prior to that there had been a divide.”

“It was an important breakthrough to get them together in a different environment to talk about what people needed.”

For the first camp, MIFQ members had paid their own way, through a weekly collection, but Margaret decided they should get help funding the camps.

“I worked out the cost and went to see Professor Harvey Whiteford who, in 1986, had established what is now the Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research, and we managed to get a small grant to cover the cost – later we even had enough for a recreation officer.”

The camps continued to be held twice yearly and as well as providing recreation for people living with schizophrenia, they gave respite to carers and were seen as a useful exercise in breaking down barriers.

“Perhaps it wasn’t the best thing we could do. The advice was that we shouldn’t have them together and that they should be going on holiday with other people who didn’t have schizophrenia.

“But it was the best we could do, and for years people came so they could be among people that understood them.”

The work on the camps went on to win a Bronze Medal at The MHS Learning Network conference in New Zealand, and after some prompting Margaret also accepted a life membership with MIFQ.

 “It’s the young men and women that I have met over the years who are fantastic,” said Margaret.

“ I think they are the bravest people, and it is important that they do get support, that they can fit into society and have a reason to get out of bed every morning.”

Over the years, the camps started by Margaret and other founding members have evolved into our MI Break program. Held twice annually, they continue to support people living with mental illness.

stories margaret