Matthew was a finalist for Nurse or Midwife of the Year in the 2018 HESTA Australian Nursing & Midwifery Awards, recognised as a trailblazer in implementing new ways to treat psychosis patients.
Matthew introduced ‘The Maastricht Approach’ to caring for psychosis patients to his workplace, transforming the way people who hear voices and have psychotic experiences are diagnosed and treated. This leading international approach focuses on helping psychosis patients who hear voices better understand and make sense of the voices they hear, informing their individual treatment needs and helping them to more effectively manage their symptoms.
Matthew’s work has led him to become one of the most well recognised clinicians in Australia in facilitating the Maastricht approach.
More importantly to Matthew, it’s helping patients better understand and manage their illness.
“A new conversation, and emergent understanding, that psychosis is a common response to trauma is now happening in mental health settings and with the wider professional community,” Matthew notes.
“People who have accessed this alternative approach feel able to take more control of their lives by changing their relationships with voices. They can also begin to formulate an understanding of their realities and not concede to a disease-based model, if that isn’t working for them as a person.
“The approach has invited people to talk about their lived experience and the value of 'being heard' for the first time in the mental health system. They have become aware that they are skilful and can manage these experiences as survivors of adversity and trauma.”
Matthew’s patient-centred focus has helped break down misunderstandings often associated with mental illness. Witnessing people regain their sense of self and power is the measure of his success.
“The most rewarding aspect of my work is accepting and walking alongside people making sense of their realities as responses to life events, adversity and trauma in personal recovery journeys,” he confirms.
“This has led people to find meaning in life, safety in personal relationships and thriving as skilled survivors of trauma and social or emotional conflict, so they’re not left in a revolving cycle of mental health system ‘treatment’. On a daily basis, the opportunity to be with people as mutual teachers and citizens has been incredible. I’m seeing individuals begin to experience agency in their lives and over their own recovery journeys, emancipating them from the hopeless concept of disease, towards hopeful accomplishment in their own lives.”
Being named a finalist in the HESTA Awards is helping Matthew amplify the Maastricht approach across the South Australian community.
“It’s an incredible honour,” Matthew confirms. “I want to acknowledge that my work is a collaboration with the people whose experiences have been labelled as psychosis, but who show courage and skill in the way they live their lives.
“For the nursing profession to recognise the importance of this work is incredible. It’s based in the heart of mental health nursing as unique, autonomous, compassionate and humane work.
“I plan to help train and develop a community of volunteers to lead a space for people in distress, crisis or isolation. It will create a needs-adapted and strengths-based listening approach.
“The intention is to provide a service that can be replicated in any community in Australia. This would enable individuals, communities and networks to be empowered by sharing their needs as meaningful and valuable challenges that can bring us together.
“On a personal level, it is quite unreal to think that 20 years ago I was another ‘psychotic patient’ being given drugs to manage human distress. Then a nurse-led community invited me to connect with my own humanity and that of others towards personal recovery, including the privilege of being able to nurse in a human to human and loving way.”