‘Every day is a good one’: behind the drug addiction fight

 

EVEN on his day off Gold Coast clinical worker Mark McMenamin spends hours on the phone, managing crises and helping those suffering from addictions and mental health issues.

"People need to be motivated, and that motivation isn't always consistent, so you jump and do what you can straight away," the chipper 66-year-old Drug ARM employee says.

For more than two decades Mr McMenamin has been working with the Gold Coast's most vulnerable as a dual diagnosis worker in substances and mental health.

Each day he meets clients, accompanying them to court or hospital appointments, representing them to the Department of Housing to discuss breach notices, or even family counselling.

A self-described optimist, Mr McMenamin likens the two elements of his work to a chicken and an egg.

"My clients are usually using substances in an unhelpful way, which is making their mental health conditions worse.

"The discussion usually is a chicken or egg story, were the mental health issues contributed to drug use or was it the otherway around?"

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Mark is a clinical worker for Drug ARM. Picture: Jerad Williams
Mark is a clinical worker for Drug ARM. Picture: Jerad Williams

Mr McMenamin jokes that he considers himself a "triple threat", growing up in an Irish, Catholic and alcoholic home.

"My father eventually died from alcoholism, so there is an understanding."

In his view alcoholism has been a constant on the Gold Coast through his working life, while other drug trends change.

"It is a legal drug people use, and it flows right through the community. So I think more people are touched by it than those with illicit drug addictions, which tend to be an underground activity.

"Fantasy and other occasional drugs tend to trend in and trend out."

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Despite the issues on the Coast, Mr McMenamin said the region was no different from any other town of its size.

"What does make the Coast stand out is we are blessed with the number of services people can connect to. There is a lot of variety compared to other places, but there will always be a need for more.

"We as a society still judge and stigmatise mental health and that still needs to change. It is far more common than you can imagine.

"I also think people should know that addiction is treatable - no matter what it is.

"You aren't scarred for life, these are dangerous conditions that do have a potential to take your life but you can stop."

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“It is a very special career” Gold Coast clinical worker Mark McMenamin shares his view of working with those with addictions. Picture: Jerad Williams
“It is a very special career” Gold Coast clinical worker Mark McMenamin shares his view of working with those with addictions. Picture: Jerad Williams

As a witness to the depths of Gold Coast's drug problem, Mr McMenamin stills sees every day in a positive light.

"I think they are all good days.

"Even if someone who had a nicotine addition and was smoking 20 a day knocked it back to 15 a day that is a win. They achieved a goal, they could have been smoking for 40 years so it is very humbling to be able to assist clients with that.

"Being able to brainstorm with people in challenging times about what their best option might be is an enormous privilege, particularly when you get a breakthrough and they can celebrate the work they have done.
"It is a very special career."

Originally published as 'Every day is a good one': behind Coast's addiction fight