Centre a saviour for Ipswich family
WHEN Tania Wilkinson's son Nicholas suddenly stopped going for his daily run she knew something was wrong.
At first she brushed it off, hoping it was a normal part of teen growth.
But Nicholas became paranoid, refusing to go out of the house because he was "worried people would recognise him".
Nicholas was hearing voices and started telling his mother stories about people she knew didn't exist. He needed help.
After seeing a specialist in December Nicholas, now 20, was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
His dreams of going to university after his gap year and becoming a nurse were suddenly shot down, as his life became a rollercoaster of treatments and therapy.
But now Nicholas is on the way to regaining his life and independence.
He's living at the Gailes Community Care Unit, the only rehabilitation centre for people recovering from mental illness in the area, which was officially opened this week.
There are 18 one bedroom apartments in the complex where people have access to 24 hour support and group sessions to help transition back into everyday life.
It's more than 50% full and staff are yet to process a list of people waiting to move in.
For mum Tania, a former mental health nurse, it's been a struggle to step back and let her son face some of life's realities alone.
However, she says for the first time since Nicholas became sick, the joyful, curious child she raised is slowly returning.
"He's actually smiling again whereas before, he couldn't," Tania said.
"Now he's looking forward to everyday things like cooking dinner."
This isn't the first time Tania has watched someone she loves start disappearing into their own mind.
Nicholas's father also has schizophrenia, but his condition went undiagnosed and he left Tania when Nicholas was one-year-old.
"I thought it was drugs," Tania said.
"But when I look back I can see he was like Nicholas.
"When Nicholas's father and I were together I knew he was sick but he wasn't the kind of person who could accept help."
Nicholas knew he needed help.
The turning point came when Nicholas confessed to his case manager that he had put a knife to his own throat, thinking it was the only way to "make it stop".
After that he was admitted to hospital.
The centre operations manager Michelle Giles said the supportive, home-like environment gave people the confidence they needed to move back into their community.
"These programs include peer support and working with families and carers on skill development and information surrounding independent living, vocational support, activities of daily living and budgeting," Ms Giles said.
If your family needs help phone Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Headspace on 3280 7900.