October 13, 2023

Get to know: Lila Coope

October is Mental Health Awareness Month. It is an opportunity to acknowledge the lived and living experiences of those impacted by mental illness – the consumers and carers – and those working in the field who are consistently raising awareness, having courageous conversations, and advocating for improved mental health and wellbeing for all.

Today, we feature Lila Coope, a Peer Support worker involved in Reclink, an exercise program from Northwest Area Mental Health. Peer Support workers are an important part of our Lived Experience Workforce. Their ‘lived’ expertise and insights help others access our services.

We spoke to Lila at a gym session with Kerry, a consumer, who says, “The program keeps me active. I find it motivating and rewarding. Working with Lila helps my mental health. I’m sleeping better and my whole life is improving”.

Q: Firstly, what’s your coffee order Lila?

Latte with one sugar, please!

Q:  Lila, how would you describe your role?

My role as a lived experience worker is to support and understand consumer needs, improve their quality of life and reach their goals.

Q: How did you come to this role?

I started as a volunteer with Northern Health. Over time a position in the Peer Support team became available and I felt I was right for this role, having lived experience of mental health.

I started working out at gym to help with my mental health approximately five years ago. The benefits were many – getting out of the house, gradually interacting with other people, motivation to lose weight, build muscle strength and feeling good about myself while achieving goals for my personal fitness. This in turn motivated me to offer support to consumers to help them interact with other people and meet their fitness goals.

Q: Tell us about Reclink? 

The program seeks to ‘link’ consumers of our service to healthy recreation activities to improve their fitness, health and wellbeing. Reclink is supported by our exercise physiologists and runs in collaboration with the Broadmeadows Aquatic and Leisure Centre. I have between three to eight consumers attending the gym program every Monday and Wednesday. My plan is to organise a walking group with the consumers on Friday’s. 

Q: What’s the most rewarding part of this role?

The most important part of this role is supporting and understanding consumer needs and understanding what challenges they face. Seeing the consumers participating and consistently attending the gym is rewarding. The consumers have built their confidence and feel that we understood their mental health challenges. They now say with confidence ‘I can do it’, and this is very rewarding for me. 

Q: What are some of the challenges? 

One of the challenges the consumers face is isolation. It is important to me to help break this barrier and provide a connection with their peers. Another challenge is helping consumers be consistent in their program. This can be hard when trying to break the barrier of social isolation. 

Q: Anything you would like to add? 

The consumers feel that the gym program is helping them with their routine, confidence and wellbeing on their journey to recovery. As a peer support worker, I understand that routine is very important but sometimes difficult for consumers living with mental health issues. This is why I am dedicated to helping and supporting our consumers.