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Finding hope in a hopeless place: battling mental health in prison

Finding hope in a hopeless place: battling mental health in prison

Peer worker Glenn Broome helps prisoners find hope in Forensicare’s Ballerrt Yeram-boo-ee Forensic Mental Health Service at the Ravenhall Correctional Centre—and it can be as simple as a cup of coffee, and a chat with someone who cares.

After half a lifetime of battling his own mental health demons, Glenn Broome was determined to help others find hope.

“The early stages of my life had to mean more than just a bad experience,” Glenn said.

“I wanted to help the people who were wearing my old shoes.”

Growing up in state care and eventually spending five years in prison saw Glenn gain a lot of perspective on life—and with the help of a supportive and empathetic parole officer after prison, Glenn was given a second chance at life.

“I went back to school, completing a Diploma in Youth Work, a Certificate IV in Alcohol and Other Drugs Work, as well as mental health first aid, and a range of other group-work courses.”

Building his way up, Glenn worked as a manager of youth services, housing programs and residential care with Whitelion, while running mentoring programs for young people caught in the justice system. He also worked for the Victorian Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (VACRO) at the Metropolitan Remand Centre, as well as a Family Liaison Worker at the Melbourne Remand Centre.

Glenn even ran his own consultancy agency, helping small non-government organisations establish youth programs and mentoring.

But eventually, it all led him to Forensicare.

Finding Forensicare

Glenn began his role as a peer worker in Forensicare’s Ballerrt Yeram-boo-ee Forensic Mental Health Service at Ravenhall Correctional Centre (RCC) six months ago.

But already, he’s made a world of difference. As a peer worker in Ravenhall’s Tambo Program, Glenn’s job is to understand the men, how Forensicare’s multi-disciplinary team can help, and support them to engage in programs.

“With my lived experience of both mental health and prison, I can build rapport with them, and most of all, instill hope,” he said.

Instilling hope with coffee

Helping prisoners find hope is at the centre of everything Glenn does.

“Hope is all we have,” Glenn said.

“For many of the patients in prison, it’s about rekindling that hope, and encouraging them to use that hope to live better, more meaningful lives.”

“Hope is a key component of mental health recovery—for without hope, we have no purpose.”

Glenn began his Coffee Chat program only three months ago, and already, it’s taken Tambo by storm.

“Coffee chat is where we invite people from the community into the prison to share programs and services about how they can assist the men when they get out—over a delicious cup of coffee.”

Past speakers for the initiative include representatives from Deakin University, Wear for Success, Melbourne City Mission, the National Disability and Insurance Scheme (NDIS), Users Voice UK, State Parliamentarians, and even Forensicare’s own CEO, Margaret Grigg.

Next year, Glenn’s planned both male and female AFL players to speak to and inspire the men.

How Coffee Chats are helping men’s mental health in prison

Already, Glenn’s work is helping prisoners with their mental health recovery—particularly with their reintegration back into the community.

“One of the men who was recently released was helped by one of our previous speakers to find secure employment—which can be a big challenge after a sentence.”

“These connections are such important connections to make. They put a face on these fantastic services, and it really speaks to the prisoners.”

“It’s all about connecting that disconnect with the outside world when they’re in prison—and helping them to flourish when they’re released.”

And when they are released back into the community, the Tambo team continues to support them for a six-week period.

“We visited a consumer who was recently released. The team helped him set up his phone to receive emails, open a google account, and set up his voice mail.

“We took him shopping, explored where he lives, and what supports he’s receiving with his mental health, and how we can help support him.”

“He constantly thanks us for continuing to support him in the community. By visiting, we’re also helping him to transfer the trust we’ve made with him onto his new supports—so that as our withdraws, his new support increases.”

What the men say

Our consumers are our most important voices—because they’re the ones we’re helping.

“Tambo has really helped me,” one of our consumers said.

“I knew I had a mental illness before coming to prison, but I just took the medication. I never learnt what I had. And now, I know more than I ever did.”

“You guys seem to name what I’m feeling, and the lights go on—I get it now.”

“There’s jail, and there’s jail. But Tambo is so much more than that. I haven’t felt so good in years.”

Making a difference with Forensicare

Glenn says Forensicare’s support has made a huge impact.

“They’ve been amazing in supporting my work,” he said.

“I feel very privileged to be a part of the Forensicare team at Ravenhall. It’s inclusive, encouraging, and we’re great at communicating and checking in on each other.”

“Even as an employee with lived experience, I don’t feel isolated—rather, I’m part of the multi-disciplinary team.”

“I feel very blessed—and it’s a real reflection on how we work with clients. We have patient needs at the centre of our work.”

It’s a whole-team approach that makes Glenn’s work so successful—both from Forensicare, and GEO, who manage the Ravenhall Correctional Centre.

“Every positive comment the patients share is a team result. Any victories we have are shared by the whole team.”

“Prison is one of the hardest places to find hope—especially when you’re living with a mental illness. It’s a tough battle, but made all the more special when we can truly help people.”

Thank you to Glenn and our dedicated team at Ballerrt Yeram-boo-ee for making a difference.

Interested in joining the Forensicare team? Check out our Work With Us page.

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