Mental as

This week is Mental Health Week from 5th to 12th of October and today, Friday 10th October, is World Mental Health Day.

You know me; that’s just way too much of an opportunity for me to let it pass!

There have been some amazing efforts put forward this week by various agencies to improve our understanding of mental health conditions, treatments and the help available to every single one of us. In particular today’s theme is Schizophrenia so there will be a lot of information available about this condition specifically.

If you haven’t already seen some of these efforts come up on Facebook/Twitter/MySpace/ Instagram/email/TV/the streets, you may want to check out the Black Dog Institute, the South African Depression and Anxiety group, Beyond Blue, ABC TV, Headspace, lifeline or one of the many other groups, associations and publishers that have websites, social media presence and who are doing remarkable work to help us all.

Mental Health Week allows mental health issues to be brought to the foreground as a topic for discussion in workplaces, at home, in schools, TAFEs and universities, among certain ethnic, socioeconomic and cultural groups and generally everywhere.

I think the very much most important-ist place to talk about mental health is with yourself. What do YOU think about mental health? What are your fears, concerns, issues, problems with mental health? What do you know, and what don’t you know? Is it a personal issue for you; is it a family, personal, friend, colleague, acquaintance issue? What do you want, need, hope for, wish for about mental health? Etc…you can think up the questions.

The second most important place at discuss mental health is at home. Around the dinner table, in front of the TV, in the car on the way to school etc. If we are all too afraid to talk about it when it isn’t an issue for anyone important to us, how on earth are we going to be able to bring the topic into the house if and when it does become something that we need to talk about?! So start a conversation today. Do it. Just do it. For your future self, or family member, just in case.

Mental health week is a chance for the concerns, the issues, the requests for resources, the commendations of individuals and organisations to be heard. It’s also a time when each party puts forward their specific focus and area of interest.

So what’s mine? And what’s yours? I’d love to hear them, and I’m sure any of the organisations and even government bodies putting in a presence this week would appreciate knowing your opinion too. In fact you can pledge your promise to improve mental health and share it via the awesome R U OK? website or social media.

My dream is that every single solitary person in this lucky country would understand mental illness.

Or if they don’t understand it, that at least they would know what mental illness is, how it can treated, where help can be found and when to intervene to help somebody. That would make me so happy!

‘Mental illness’ is a vast and changing term but my dream is that at a minimum depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia would be understood or known by everyone. I know there are a whole lot of other disorders and illnesses that are equally important and need to be educated around, but this is my dream.

I want mental health education to start in the first year of high school as part of health, or English, or science, or SOSE, or PE, or languages or ANYTHING! I don’t care what bracket it’s taught under; I just want every child to know what can be out there for a friend, family members or themselves.

Since I have been talking about my mental health, a friend has contacted me to say her mother was undiagnosed with bipolar for her whole childhood and teen years and treated unsuccessfully for depression, which can be a common course. She wrote to say how glad she was that I got the right diagnosis so quickly (18 months didn’t feel quick, but it’s relative), and to say how much she wished it had been found out earlier in her mother, because it would have changed everything!

So consider this: some education to family members earlier in life may, just may, have changed lives!

I don’t want mental health to scare people. On my return to work, a health professional colleague responded to my statement that how I’d been off work with a nervous breakdown by saying: “Depression scares me! Sometimes I find my mood getting low and it freaks me out so I make myself be happy again. I don’t want anything messing with my brain”!!! This is a health professional! With clearly no more understanding of mental illness than a goose, which is very unfortunate!

We need everyone, and especially health professionals, educators and anyone dealing with the public, but we might as well go for ALL people while we are at it, to UNDERSTAND mental illness!

Not just read about it, swot it for exams, know the diagnostic criteria! We need people to know that depression doesn’t change your brain, yes it’s not nice but no reason to be terrified of it!

It’s not any more scary than diabetes which can kill or damage nerves causing severe pain, blind you, deafen you, make you prone to infections, put you at risk of stroke and heart attack!! That’s a LOT more scary to me than a serotonin imbalance that can be corrected with medication, counselling, time and support.

So here’s to dreams! And the tiny steps we can take to today, to start to get there!

*I’d like to acknowledge the slogan of the ABC’s fabulous efforts in broadcasting mental health education and issues for Mental Health Week as the inspiration for my title*

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Alone

Today I want to make a shout out to anyone and everyone who is battling mental illness alone.

Kudos to you! You are amazing! You are so much stronger than you realise! I don’t know how you do it but keep it up; you are an inspiration to me!

I don’t believe that I would still be here if I had gone through this alone. So many times in so many ways I have relied on all of the amazing people around me.

My husband of course being number one. He has been dealing with me for eleven years! Ten of those years I was undiagnosed with mental illness, and I’m not sure how much of my illness I had over that time but he has dealt with all of me and stuck by me and been my best friend, my biggest supporter, the most amazing listener, and just through and through amazing. I shudder to think of some of the things I put him through: hysterics, tantrums, intense nagging, doom and gloom, worry about everything and everyone, panic attacks, tears over anything and everything, and some pretty crazy manic episodes!!

My friends have probably been subject to some not so nice days with me too. Sorry about that! But their support has always helped me in every scenario and I wouldn’t be without any of them!

My team. My GP who is available all day any time Monday to Friday at short notice and without an appointment. My sweet psychologist who will fit me in any time Monday to Saturday and who calls every now and then just to see how I’m going. My relatively new psychiatrist who has given me his mobile number to call any time! That’s pretty amazing! The local CATT team who are only a phone call away. The workplace counselling number that I can call 24 hours a day. Lifeline, Helpline, Suicide Callback line and all the other fantastic services that can be called from anywhere anytime and are truly fabulous!

My colleagues. I don’t see them much but when I do they are so friendly and concerned and encouraging that it really touches my heart and I want to get better so that I can get back to work and pay them back for all their kindness.

Family too, everyone in their own way doing what they can to help me keep going.

I’m so glad for each and every person who has helped me keep on going and made me keep trying and made me want to keep living and fighting!

I might not have thanked you face to face, I might not have let you know how awesome you are but I know it and one day I hope I can show you how important you are!