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Lived experience panel

Our lived experience panel includes a variety of speakers with lived experience and those with family members with lived experience of healing mental illness with psychedelic medicine

Annie Mason

Annie is an educator with a wide range of experiences including classroom teaching K-12, Special Education and Student Wellbeing. She was a Principal for over 15 years, worked as an Educational Consultant and lectured at a leading Australian university. Annie has travelled extensively, working in Hong Kong, the UK and Middle East and has a special interest in Gender Equity, Social Justice and Women in Leadership. Annie has been volunteering in Thailand and Cambodia for a number of years, working to support educators and establish schools.

Annie’s life has been deeply impacted by her daughter who suffers from PTSD and depression following a childhood trauma. For 15 years as a mother, she has journeyed with her daughter in the painful search for treatment.  She has seen the devastation of the illness on her daughter and her family and is now an advocate for significant change in the way Australia cares for young people who suffer with mental health issues.  Annie also offers support to other mothers who are trying to come to terms with mental illness in their families. She is lobbying for a new approach to Mental Health admissions in public hospitals and is a strong advocate for the legal and ethical rights of those with mental health issues.

From her extensive study, Annie believes that MDMA assisted therapy gives hope to her daughter and is astounded that this treatment is not available in Australia. She is aware that with current treatment in Australia her daughter has only a 5% chance of recovery.  Annie will continue to challenge the government, Health authorities and regulatory bodies when she believes their decision-making to be biased, misinformed and regressive.

Michael Raymond

Michael served as an Electrical Engineering Officer and Avionics Technician in the Royal Australia Airforce for 16 years. He was medically retired with PTSD, Anxiety and Depression. For years he had tried conventional psychotherapy and anti-depressants, but after years of battling his trauma, he lost hope and found himself on the brink of suicide. Luckily, his partner at the time encouraged him to consider Psychedelic-Assisted Therapies, and venture to South America for a traditional Shamanic plant medicine healing retreat. The experience was so healing and transformative that Michael has since become an advocate for Psychedelic Assisted Therapies and a spokesperson for Mind Medicine Australia. Michael’s story can be found in MMA’s book of Psychedelic Healing Stories.

Kerry Soorley

Kerry is a nurse of 44 yrs, mother of four and grandmother to nine, specialising in palliative. She had suffered depression, addictions and suicidal ideation all her life. “Trauma by omission”Gabor Mate calls it. Forced adoption of first child and death of her father during pregnancy at 16 just escalated her mental health issues further including suicide attempt and hospitalisation. Every antidepressant, therapy, book, course and seminar all failed and just left her feeling hopeless and wanting to die even though she was so blessed. At age 58 she had opportunity to try DMT. It reset my brain and gave me, joy self love and connection for the first time in my life. Its not called the God molecule for nothing. She is committed and passionate to helping others get benefits of psychedelic therapy in a safe environment and sees great potential for palliative as well.

Steve Ball

Steve is a New Zealander who lived in Sydney before relocating to Amsterdam. He’s a Chief Technology Officer working in software development. As someone with Complex-PTSD since the age of nineteen, he pursued all conventional options for treatment within the health system but found that talk therapy was re-traumatising and antidepressants exacerbated his dissociative symptoms. In 2020, after reading the research results of MAPS’ clinical trials for treating PTSD with MDMA and similar studies with psilocybin for depression by Imperial College London, John Hopkins Medicine and Harvard Medical, he decided to undertake psychedelic-assisted therapy with MDMA. Over two sessions, he experienced a life-changing resolution of his childhood trauma and a full cessation of the debilitating PTSD symptoms that he had carried for 34 years. He no longer meets the diagnostic criteria for PTSD and has become an impassioned advocate for making these powerful healing life-saving medicines available to other sufferers.

Simone Dowding

Simone is currently the CEO for Storytowns a national podcast and tourism tech company. Voted top 50 Business Woman for 2020. She is a successful entrepreneur and CEO, who for 13+ years founded and led an award winning wholesale distribution company with 50 staff and six sites across Australia. She has also recently worked in senior management for World Vision Australia as the Head of social enterprise. Simone was responsible for the start up and international scaling of Change Coffee that contributed all sales to the global economic empowerment of women. Simone is a consultant business lecturer for Melbourne university and Monash. She is also a passionate Mental Health Advocate, business mentor and national speaker on Spiritual Leadership, having studied with the Dalai Lama in his monastery in India and living with indigenous tribes of the Amazon. A teacher of meditation, yoga and Buddhist philosophy, Simone runs ‘Feel Good Retreats’ Australia wide.  Simone also holds a degree in Psychology, and is currently a fellow of the Centre of Sustainable leadership.

Graeme Sudholz

Graeme was a farmer and earthmoving contractor for 35 years, until both he and Annette purchased and this consolidated their Relationship & Sexuality counselling and workshop business.

Graeme has spent all of his life dealing with severe childhood trauma, starting from the moment he was born. (His mother suffered from untreated and undiagnosed Post Natal Depression, which controlled her. Sadly, in this place, she tried on numerous occasions to end his life. This created and left behind intense body-held trauma and terror that occurred before any cognitive memory. Even though he tried, on several occasions to ask questions to his parents, everything was vehemently denied, with very blunt and shaming responses. These intense emotions controlled every aspect of his life, yet his parents espoused how loved and lucky he was. This left massive doubts, shame, insecurities and confusion on top of already significant trauma.

MDMA sessions, combined with Psilocybin have introduced a very bright light at the end of a 64 year long tunnel of darkness. These sessions have enabled Graeme to not only connect with but to also accept, understand and release the body-held trauma in a safe way. Having quality integration practises has been essential in dealing with his trauma release. In his last mental health check with his GP, PTSD didn’t show up.

For Graeme, this has added a whole new level of understanding in dealing with complex PTSD and the darkness of depression. His partner of 20 years, Annette is also dealing with childhood trauma at the hands of her father, and during both of their individual processes, they shared sessions together, which added another level of healing of deep seated wounding and mistrust in intimate relationships with their opposite sex partner.

As a result of this seemingly impossibility of healing, Graeme has become an advocate of psychedelic-assisted trauma depression therapy.

Van Humphries

Van is first and foremost a heart-led man who lives through an intention of self-responsibility.

He was gifted the opportunity to live a childhood dream as a professional Rugby Union player in Australia and abroad over 13 years, and as a professional coach over 7 years nationally.

Van worked in a theatre support role for Orthopaedics and devices for three years on retirement and fell passionately into Permaculture organic farming and its synergistic relationship with nature and cycles.

Navigating childhood experience around poverty, scarcity, lack and abuse, and as an adult through physical injuries, the loss of a child, sister and brother, he has felt divinely guided through his polarising experiences towards a place of radical love and acceptance.
Van’s life has been deeply shaped with what was an initial curiosity with health and well-being related to performance that drew him to natural modalities that include breathwork, ayahuasca, psilocybin, CBD, THC and cacao. He credits these treatments with changing the course of his life.

Today, Van is blessed as the custodian of 2 beautiful children and an opportunity to share all these modalities through service in Rugby Union, breathwork facilitation, ceremonial guide, stress and performance mentor and regenerative agriculture farmer.

Blake Worrall-Thompson

Blake is one of Australia’s leading lifestyle and performance coaches. Having spent the last 17 years finessing his unique and innovative coaching style, Blake provides his clients with the skills to propel and prosper in their lives.

The awakening transformations and fast growth of Blake’s clients has seen him work with thousands of people from a vast array of backgrounds. Forever challenging the status quo and society’s norms, Blake’s non-judgemental and open minded approach allows him to delve into areas many are afraid of which brings with it wisdom, methods and learnings to go with his radically honest approach.

I’ve been keen to be involved with MMA and love the work they do because of my strong passion for mental illness and for the impact it has on people’s wellbeing.

I’ve had a family history of mental illness and addiction and as a coach working with a number of clients struggling with mental health I’m always looking for ways to help them improve and fast track their results.

Catherine Deveny

Catherine Deveny has been a comedian, writer and speaker for 28 years.

She’s the author of ten books and the creator of the enormously successful Gunnas Writing Masterclass.

Deveny published over 1000 columns with The Age newspaper, has appeared on Q&A five times and appeared in the Emmy Award Winning SBS documentary ‘Go Back To Where You Came From’.

Deveny is dyslexic and almost failed HSC English with 51%. These days her work appears on final year 12 English exams.

She’s a proud feminist, atheist, and commuter cyclist. She also has bipolar disorder and many of her loved ones suffer and manage mental health issues.

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