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"Lived experience cannot be gleaned from a book, it is a visceral knowledge."

People talking about mental health

"Nothing about us, without us" is a common request among people living with complex mental health issues. But all too often, systems and processes are designed without partnering with people with lived experience.

Ahead of a recent event hosted by the Parliamentary Friends of Mental Health, we asked our SANE Ambassadors three key questions about the mental health system in Australia - and let politicians in Canberra know what they said. Here* are some of their answers ...

Question 1: What have been some of the challenges you’ve faced in accessing formal support (i.e. from a health professional or community service) for your experience of complex mental health issues?

"The biggest one for me has been the financial challenges of accessing formal support. There is very little low-cost/no-cost accessible support for adults of the age of 25 with complex mental health issues. A few years ago, I found myself in a situation where I needed to leave full-time employment to focus on my mental health. This left me with a significant decrease in income, having gone from a full-time paycheck to unemployment benefits. My parents were not in a position to support me financially, and often my need for formal support was a lower priority to everyday living expenses such as rent, bills, food etc."

"Aged mental health is an issue I now face. Public facilities for those with a mental illness, and who are aging, are grim. They don't have rehabilitation as their goal and tend to see people through a negative lens. Older people with a chronic mental illness are not sexy, don't garner as much attention as young folk and are perceived as a nuisance."

"This is a very interesting question to me as I think the challenges can vary so dramatically depending on your life situation. I am in the very privileged position of having financial security, a supportive partner and network and even at my most unwell I am articulate and able to communicate my needs, opinions, etc. (except for a few episodes). And even I have found it challenging to find the right service or service provider.

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'More than the baby blues' - we could have died without private health insurance

Anita-with-baby

Guest blog by Anita Link, originally published on her blog, Thought Food.

Have you ever had a moment when your answer to a question determined whether your life imploded?

I have.

It came five days into parenthood. I was lying on the floor in my maternity hospital room crying because I was trying to outrun a jaguar chasing me towards a cliff. Things were starting to go very wrong in my brain.

In the following months, when my mind warped and writhed in the grip of psychosis and later catatonic depression, and when what started out as postnatal psychosis turned out to be a first episode of bipolar 1 disorder, I could not imagine things being worse.

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Brisbane boy hosts 24 hour fundraising climb after brother's struggle with OCD

Rohan climbing

What were you doing in Year 12?

Brisbane student Rohan is putting all of our teenage selves to shame by organising an ambitious fundraiser for SANE Australia, with a goal of raising $5000.

"I decided to run a 24 hour climb-a-thon at Kangaroo Point cliffs with a team of 12 climbers" he says.

"The reason I chose this is because my older brother has struggled with anxiety and OCD for many years, which also led to a period of addiction to a medically prescribed drug. I have seen first hand the impact of this on the individual, their family and friends and know how important it is for so much more research to be done to support mental health awareness and issues. I found SANE Australia and like the work they are doing, so I decided to make a difference through supporting them."

Rohan (second from left) and a group of climbing friends

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How to talk to a mate about their mental health

Two-Tradies

It can be hard for men to open up and talk about how they are feeling. And this can have serious impacts on their mental health and wellbeing. 

August is Tradies National Health Month, and it's important that men working in a trade not only have support to maintain their physical health - but that their mental health is a priority too.

Research by the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that men are three times more likely to die by suicide and twice as likely to have a substance abuse disorder.

So how can men reduce this gap and improve their mental health?

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Poem: What was the best thing someone said or did to support you?

Aki

This poem was written by young ambassador, Aki, about her experience of being supported while dealing with complex mental health issues.

There was a time I believed, ‘No man is an island’

(except for me).

Said island floats in the depths of my mind,

It tethers me to the bed; I’m shackled and confined.

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Guest blog: Sometimes it's hard to speak

Artist Joanne Morgan gives us an incredible insight into her life, and how it informs her art. You can view Jo's work (along with a range of other talented artists) at The Dax Centre until June 7th.

 

My name is Jo and I am an artist with a lived experience of cPTSD, schizoaffective, agoraphobia and autism.

There have been several times in my life when due to trauma I have shut down my level of communication and ranged from being dissociative and non verbal to selectively mute and only verbal enough to ensure my safety. It has been during those times of silence that my art has become my salvation.

My quiet solitude has been my vehicle to the discovery of another language. And it has given me time and space and a stillness that has allowed me to sit, sometimes painfully, sometimes peacefully with my thoughts and feelings. It has given me a language that did not live in my head. It lives in my whole. During times of silence it has rumbled inside of me and tossed and turned until it moved through my hands onto a page or a canvas or a sculpture or an installation into a story without words but filled with meaning. It is my safe language that secretly begins its transition from my mind to my hands and into the world with the freedom to develop uninhibited, unrestricted, unmonitored and not threatened in fear of what it might reveal.

In that quiet private space where an image has the freedom to grow unscrutinised and in the safety of my silent language it thrives and matures before my eyes into my truth that wakes me from my deep disconnection into an awareness that sits solidly within me and anchors me to my present and I feel it through the finger tips that conveyed it, through my body that supported those hands and the mind that, free from the constraints of illness allows me to speak my truth. 

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The dangers of speculation in the reporting of suicide

As a follow up to her first guest blog, Jennifer from Mindframe takes a look at why the media must be careful when speculating about possible suicide incidents.

While we know that excluding graphic detail helps minimise risk to vulnerable people the circumstances around their death doesn’t tell us anything about why a person is vulnerable in the first place. This is why speculation is not advised in the guidelines.

Speculation is the act of assuming, or forming a theory without firm evidence. We know suicide is extremely complex and it is incredibly difficult to clearly associate one single factor being the cause of a suicide death.

The cause of suicidal thoughts or feelings of hopelessness, is more often than not, caused by many different factors. Many areas of someone’s life is likely to be acting as a source of stress, so to say that the last impacting factor of someone’s life was the sole causing factor, is inaccurate.

The way suicidal thoughts impact the mind is different for each person. Speculation around the cause of a death, backed up by memorialising, romanticising or glorifying the issues can appear to someone who is experiencing similar life stresses, that suicide is an option.

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Schizophrenia Awareness Week 2019: Recovery is possible

Established in 1986, Schizophrenia Awareness Week (SAW) aims to reduce stigma towards people affected by schizophrenia, bust myths, and promote help-seeking by people living with schizophrenia and their carers.

This year, Schizophrenia Awareness Week will be held from the 19 to 26 May 2019. This coincides with the week of World Schizophrenia Awareness Day (24 May).

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Mourning, Coffee - A guest blog by artist, Bill Hawkins.

bill1._20190523-062109_1 Bill Hawkins

Artist Bill Hawkins gives us an incredible insight into what it is like to live with mental illness, and how he has found light in art therapy. You can view Bills work, along with a range of other talented artists at The Dax Centre until June 7th.

Oh… why did I say yes to writing a blog post for Sane Australia?

I cannot be bothered! I can barely get out of bed, let alone write something. From the moment I woke up I felt terrible, I wish I was still asleep. Sitting on the cusp of lucidity, half-awake was when the metamorphosis began…

As soon as I became fully conscious I transformed into a cockroach. Commands from a higher being bled into my world, an internal daemon dictating actions to my recently animated corpse.

This spirit screams hideously terrifying things into my ears, tremendously sickening things, absolutely ghastly things like; “Get out of bed”, “Put on clothes”, “Finish that article you have been putting off” and the worst command of all… “Go to work!”.

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Reporting on suicide incidents responsibly with Mindframe

We spoke with Jennifer from Mindframe, about how the media should be reporting on suicide to ensure it is safe, responsible and accurate.

What are the rules on reporting suicide?

We know through centuries of observation and hundreds of research articles, that discussing suicide can be harmful if too much information is given. This applies not just in news media, but in entertainment media as well.

As any good storyteller will tell you, be it on page, stage or the big screen – there is great skill in being able to paint a picture that invites a reader to imagine the finer details for themselves. Whether a story is to entertain or inform a reader, evidence demonstrates that discussing the loss of life by suicide can be harmful to people who are vulnerable.

Currently there are no set ‘rules’ around this but we do have well-supported guidance, which helps us understand how we can minimise harm and copy-cat behaviour. People who are experiencing thoughts of suicide are at a higher risk of being negatively impacted when there is graphic detail of how someone has taken their own life. Using stigma-free language and information that is void of explicit detail can still tell a story and is a safer way to present the topic of suicide.

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