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Mental health patient becomes Australia's best mental health nurse

Matthew Ball profile picture
Once a mental health patient, now Matthew Ball is a leader in the treatment field.

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Twenty years ago Matthew Ball was trapped in an abyss of mental illness — now he's Australia's best mental health nurse.

For eight years Mr Ball fought through the treatment and hospitalisation routines of being diagnosed with psychotic disorders.

He continually heard voices, now believed to be triggered from complex traumas he experienced through his childhood.

Eight years after completing his psychotherapy, Mr Ball qualified as a mental health nurse.

"I met a nurse and with her inspiration I got into nursing and was always [planning to] go into mental health nursing," Mr Ball told ABC Radio Adelaide.

Listening to the voices in our heads

Matthew Ball accepting 2017 Mental Health Nurse of the Year award
Adelaide's Matthew Ball won the 2017 Mental Health Nurse of the Year award.

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This year, Mr Ball was recognised as the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses' nurse of the year for his work with people experiencing psychosis.

He founded the group Many Voice Collective at Christie's Beach, south of Adelaide and co-authored an eight-week rehabilitation curriculum.

Mr Ball uses what is known as the Maastricht approach.

"We try to make sense of and find meaning in people's psychosis and voice hearing," he said.

"We spend time with people and it's a lot about love, compassion and hearing people's stories."

Discovering what is causing the voices

It is estimated up to 6 per cent of the population report hearing voices — a symptom sometimes, but not always, associated with mental illnesses like psychosis.

Mr Ball said when people tell their story, they often discover the reason or what is causing the voices they are hearing.

He said 20 years ago nurses were doing more of the style of treatment he was advocating, but were now more target-focussed.

"We try our best in a system that is very strained, but perhaps we need to return to the basic values of mental health nursing."

Mr Ball said his voices had not returned — and his mission now was to help others live with theirs.

ABC Radio Adelaide

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