Thursday, 13 October 2011


Happy Mental Health Week everyone. If ever there was an intentional pun, that sentence was one.

Seriously wouldn't it be great if for one week all of those afflicted with mental illness just had it lifted for the week. So that the cloud of medication, behaviours, substance abuse, physical, emotional or other abuse and the ignorance of society at large was just magically erased and they could live and function as any other person.

I could give you all the stats on suicide, illness, depression, substance abuse, PTSD and so on. But I won't, I don't need to. I know as you do that the problem exists, so I am not intending to statistically verify it in this post, I just wish to share some stories.

Mental Health afflicts so many in society, across all classes, ages, genders and cultures. Yet it remains one of our biggest taboo subjects. I know many who snigger at another's misfortunes of depression or other mental illness and yet I KNOW they silently battle their own. It is these cases of glasshouses and stone throwing that make me not want to help some when the glasshouse eventually caves in on them. But that is not my nature and I help anyway.

It is also the people who should know better that grate my bones when it comes to this topic. My lovely friend and her husband very tragically lost one of their twin girls when she was 6 weeks old. 8 Years on we are all still crying over this event. No we are not pathetic and we are not wallowing in sorrow, we celebrate her strength that she showed in her 6 week battle - she was after all only 30 weeks old in total. It was my friends dad though who I feel said one of the most hurtful things. He is a mental health nurse. It was maybe 6 months down the track, could have been more and my dear friend was still hurting, depressed, grief stricken. I believe rightly so, there is no time limit on grief and she was functioning in life raising her other twin now home from hospital and her little boy. Her babies had arrived at 24 weeks that alone is hard to cope with, to see them have surgery several times and then loose one, no one should have been questioning her illness. Her dad basically told her to get over it, he couldn't understand why she was so upset, still.

He understands now, he sees how we all still feel and support this couple. I am sure if he could take those words back he would. No matter what the cause of a persons mental illness, they have a basic human right to dignity and respect.

A client of mine was sexually abused over a prolonged period as a child. It was violent and her mother the person who should have protected her, shunned her and hid the abuse as many did back then. It has had an untold impact on this woman.

 She has a borderline personality disorder, eating disorder, has been incarcerated for solicitation and theft; she has compulsive thoughts and behaviours, self harming and sexually projects a lot of behaviours and tries to masculinise her appearance, not because she is gender confused, but because she does not want to attract men; she does and they are always the kind that repeat the pattern of abuse. They rape her without full consent, but she won't report as they sometimes give her gifts or money or more than likely drugs. They physically assault her and now we suspect she has an STD, I am surprised she hasn't had one or more before.

Her primary case worker has a practice of disengagement with her and does not want to participate in trying to re-engage this client with mental health services. He thinks it is futile and time wasting. I think he does not care and is not fulfilling his professional duty.

It is our role in healthcare to do no harm, to protect and respect the choices also that our clients make. We are not saying this client can not have sex with men or engage in any of her harmful behaviours but I believe that we have a duty of care to protect this client from herself. Sexualised brutality is all she has ever known. It is like those who were institutionalised and then put out into the community. They floundered because they knew nothing of how to function in the everyday world. Nor does this client, her world is one of use and abuse, self punishment and harm. She needs to be shown the way out, she needs someone to help her navigate her way out of that maze in her mind. She will never be cured, but she is young and has a lot to offer.

My uncle was 40 years old when he gassed himself with carbon monoxide in his treasured ute in front of his treasured pet "Princess". Princess had to be put down, she could not be rehabilitated to re-home with anyone else. My uncle was a worksite union representative and his depression came on the back of some very strong workplace bullying and harassment in a male dominated industry. There was sufficient evidence so that when my tenacious grandmother took the international giant to court, they quickly settled the sum. Money won't replace his lost life. He never was able to get married or have children or finish renovating his house. All because his workplace did not take his mental health and the causative factors contributing to it, seriously.

So Happy Mental Health Week, buy the Big Issue if you are in Australia and support those vendors.
Here are some other resources too as provided by Women's and Children's Health Network, Child and Youth Health, South Australian Government.

  • Australian Infant, Child, Adolescent and Family
    Mental Health Association (AICAFMHA)

    Promotes mental health and wellbeing of Australian infants, children,
    adolescents and their families/carers.
  • Black Dog Institute
    The Black Dog Institute is an educational, research, clinical and community-oriented facility dedicated to improving understanding, diagnosis and treatment of mood disorders.
  • Men's Line Australia 
    Mensline Australia is a dedicated service for men with relationship and family concerns.(relationships, work, fathering, separation, stress) 24 hour, 7 day a week telephone helpline.
  • Reach Out!
    An Internet site providing information to young people experiencing distressing
    or complicated situations. 
  • Reach Out ProProvides access and advice for health care professionals on a range of technologies and online resources for psychosocial support and mental health care provided to young people.  
  • SANE AustraliaA National Charity helping people affected by mental illness. They have a large number of publications for sale.
Let me know if you know of or have tried others. The MOODGYM was also another good self help site for CBT. It can be found at

I am grateful for my inner strength and mental health and wish you all the best with yours. Remember if you need any help or know of someone who does there is always help out there just ask. 

This simple act of asking was what the recently successful national RUOK day was all about. See it here at

Thoughts are with all of those afflicted with mental illness, who are homeless and isolated due to this, one day I hope we make progress.  

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