Stronger together: Narooma women unite against ice

STRONGER TOGETHER: Donna Falconer and Michelle Preston know the pain the drug ice can inflict on families and have started a Narooma support group.
STRONGER TOGETHER: Donna Falconer and Michelle Preston know the pain the drug ice can inflict on families and have started a Narooma support group.

Narooma woman Michelle Preston and Donna Falconer have been to hell and back because of the drug ice and want to help other families.

The women plan to start a network in Narooma to help parents and family members who are losing loved ones to the drug. They are creating a Facebook page called Ice … turning family pain into power.

They say there are little or no social services in town to help those struggling to deal with the ice family fallout.

“Families struggle to find contacts or services, so between the two of us, we can be the first point of contact,” Ms Preston said.

The network would help those realising a relative was on ice and would link them to support services.

“We hope to be there for each other because it is such a roller coaster ride,” Ms Preston said. “If we didn’t have each other, I would be off to the psych ward too.

“Families need to know they are not the only ones going through this and there is a horrible stigma attached to having someone you love on ice.”

The pair hope to work with the new Connelly Irwin Counselling and Consultancy Service in Moruya and be “suicide gatekeepers” in Narooma, “so we can help get people through their dark night”.

Ms Preston has a Certificate IV in mental health peer support through Richmond Fellowship of NSW and Psychiatric Rehabilitation Australia (PRA), now known as Flourish Australia.

Both women’s personal journeys have been horrific.

Ms Falconer is caring for three children under the age of 10 after family members became involved with ice.

“I’ll be 74 by the time this over, and nobody is there to support us; nobody has ever asked us ‘are you alright?’,”  she said. 

“There have been seven caseworkers and I never even knew there was respite care available. We are the ones left holding the bundle.

“I know of grandmothers up to the age of 76 being forced to care for grandchildren.”

Ms Preston’s close relative had been in and out of the mental health and justice system for years due to ice.

“He is currently in jail and it’s just a revolving door,” she said.

Both women want to make people aware of the health effects of being addicted to ice.

Ms Preston cried as she recalled her relative’s “loss of emotion and total lack of insight”.

“He just goes blank,” she said. “Having someone on ice in your life is literally like being stuck in quicksand – you never know what is going to happen.”

She had even found herself planning songs for his funeral as she was so sure his situation would end in tragedy. She said the saddest thing was to wish for jail time for a loved one to keep them safe.

The pair said the ice epidemic was a health issue and needed more support from all levels of government.

“Ice makes people so selfish,” Ms Preston said. “It is an illness, a disgusting illness and getting mental health support is damn near impossible. The government keeps ripping away money from mental health and drug treatment when they should be pouring it in.”

Every week, they said they heard of more people falling into the ice crevasse, losing family connection, housing and jobs. Domestic violence and court appearances were part of the journey. Psychiatric units were used when things reach crisis point. 

The pair draw strength from other grassroots support networks and campaigns, including “Doors Wide Open”, Western Australia. 

They said they would like to see a campaign started in Narooma and were disappointed the town missed out on the ice forums held in Eden and Batemans Bay. They said the Koori community struggled with the epidemic.

“A lot people want to speak up who can’t,” Ms Preston said. “We need to start a campaign in this town where we say no to ice.”

Addicts were often homeless.

The women hope to find a meeting place to hold regular meetings in Narooma.

“You worry you are going to judged, but (I) am so over it, I don’t worry about that and just want to be there for others,” Ms Preston said.

“There is help out there, just hang in there,” Ms Falconer said.

Call Lifeline 13 11 14, Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467, Kids Helpline 1800 551 800, MensLine Australia 1300 789 978, Billy’s Gift 0437 729 703.


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