Introducing Deborah

LELAN, Masters of Social Work Placement Student

LELAN recently welcomed Deborah Wandel to the team as a placement student. We are excited for Deborah to start in this role as she works on a project to create a South Australian “Rights in Mind” booklet based on the Scottish version. 


Below Deborah answers some questions to introduce herself.


Who Deborah is:


Hello my name is Debbie, though you can call me by my real name Deborah (I’m quite ok with having the name of an ancient female leader).


I’m fascinated by people’s stories and how these stories shape our lives. I am a radio podcast addict. I am also a hopeless op-shop addict, love riding my bike and am a single parent of a vivacious and clever 6 year old girl who keeps me on my toes and makes me laugh. 


I am a Social Work student and have just started my final placement with LELAN.  


 What drew me into Social Work was a growing fascination with the power of communities and of the stories that shape our lives and a growing frustration with conventional psychological and medical approaches to dealing with human suffering that zero in on individuals to label and blame them (I once was a psychology student!)


My own experiences of crisis and mental distress 4 years ago lead me to become involved with GROW, a peer support group organisation for mental wellness whose entire knowledge base developing over 60 years is from lived experience and continues to be re-shaped by lived experience.



It is the people who have been or are “in the thick of it” who really are the experts in how to get through and grow and thrive through crisis, trauma, mental distress and injustice.


At GROW there have been people who were permanent full time medical patients (and condemned to remain so by medical “experts”) but have come out the other side to help others in crisis to thrive, even to be paid to do it as peer workers (“Fieldworkers” in the old fashioned lingo of GROW). Nothing has helped me to grow in my journey through crisis more than the lived experience knowledge I’ve picked up at GROW. I have been involved in leadership as a volunteer in a local GROW group for 2 years.


 One favourite saying from GROW is “You alone can do it but you can’t do it alone” – this is it – getting somewhere in life, especially through crisis, requires not just the effort of individuals but requires the work of community – and this includes all the services and organisations those in distress find themselves in. If gross power imbalance (injustice) is allowed to prevail in these places it keeps some people down – while the rest are missing out on what these people could bring to community life if they were not excluded – so much knowledge and potential creativity lost. That is a “lose-lose” situation.
Martin Luther King Jr used to say “injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere”. 



How Deborah felt starting with LELAN:


A little nervous but excited and so grateful for the opportunity! Could it be any better than this – collaborating with others with lived experience of mental distress, trauma or injustice to inform and change the way things are done for consumers of Mental Health and related services and organisations!



What resonates with Deborah about LELAN:


Aside from what I have already explained about my background in GROW.


 I am really excited about increasing the participation of people in the decisions that are

made about their lives that there should be, as much as possible,

“nothing about us without us”


I would say that even in those situations when we may not be able to have a direct say in the decisions made about our lives without compromising safety for others or ourselves, still the procedures followed must be informed by lived experience knowledge – always respect, always dignity. I say there are no “beggars” who “cannot be choosers”.


Also the idea about collaboration and co-design sounds so much more interesting than just working alone – though admittedly I am yet to have a go at this – it is early days – writing this on day 2!


Deborah’s hopes and thoughts on her project:


My hope for this project is that the end product will be done in collaboration with those with lived experience of what it is like to be a user of Mental Health services and organisations and that the end product will be designed to be appealing and understandable (as much as possible) to both users and providers of the sector.

Yes I hope that the end product will raise awareness of the rights of Mental Health Service consumers currently under law in South Australia and hopefully even prompt conversations about what rights in this area should be protected by law in South Australia.



Connecting with Deborah:


Deborah will be with LELAN Tuesday, Wednesday & Friday. She can be contacted via .