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The reality of stigma surrounding mental health issues – Q&A with Jenni.

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Meet Jenni.

The reality of stigma surrounding mental health issues – Q&A with Jenni.

Jenni is a creative, positive person who believes that “the glass is always half full.” She enjoys sharing her mental health journey with professionals, carers, the general public and with others who have a lived experience of mental health issues.


Jenni is a SANE Australia Peer Ambassador. She has lived with a diagnosis of schizo-affective disorder for over 20 years. Schizo-affective disorder is a mental health condition marked by a combination of schizophrenia symptoms, such as hallucinations or delusions and mood disorder symptoms, such as depression or mania.

In this Q&A guest blog, Jenni shares some of her experiences about the everyday impact of stigma surrounding mental health issues and why she feels so strongly about changing attitudes and educating others about complex mental health issues.

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Visible: How art has helped me express my mental health story

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For many young people, the transition to adulthood can be uncertain and overwhelming. Add to that a feeling of isolation and disconnection, and it’s no surprise this is the time where people are most likely to face mental health challenges. 

SANE Australia Peer Ambassador Jess has recently co-designed a new project called Visible.

Visible is a creative collaboration between young Australians experiencing mental health challenges, and artists. These partnerships have produced an insightful collection of creative expressions that share the real experiences of mental health challenges faced by young people. The aim is to change how mental health is seen and spoken about across Australia, and create a culture that’s more accepting and understanding. 


Here's what Jess had to say about the project:

"My Visible expression tells the story of the long-term impacts of childhood trauma and adversity. More specifically, it tells the story of the events leading to my suicide attempt and how a chance encounter after the fact changed my life and the way I relate to my complex mental illness forever. 

By and large, the highlight of Visible for me has been working with my artist and collaborator, Anna. Anna and I are great buddies now and support each other's artistic endeavours and growth. I will always be grateful to Visible for bringing Anna's kind, and very authentic energy into my life. She told my story with such richness and consideration. I don't think I have ever felt more seen, heard or held by another person in my life. 

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Anxiety remains my friend, and not my foe.

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In SANE's COVID mental health series, Anita talks about living with anxiety. She shares her thoughts on the challenges facing healthcare workers during the pandemic and importance of self care.

Anxiety has been my friend in life, and at times, it has been my foe.

Anxiety is a normal and often healthy emotion. It allows us to focus and pay attention to detail, it motivates us to complete tasks well and to take action when we’re challenged. However, disproportionate levels of anxiety can lead to excessive nervousness, fear, apprehension and worry. Left unchecked, these symptoms can lead to panic attacks, characterised by feelings of impending doom, and physical symptoms which include heart palpitations, sweating, poor concentration, sleep disturbance, irritability and muscle tension.

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Top tips for coping with anxiety during COVID

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As part of SANE's COVID mental health series, one of our Help Centre counsellors shares their top tips for coping with anxiety. 

Does uncertainty make you anxious? If you’re like most people in Australia, you’ve been dealing with uncertainty and change because of COVID. If this has caused you anxiety, you’re not alone. It’s natural to experience challenging emotions during a pandemic! But, if you’re finding you can’t get a break from anxiety, stress and worry, it’s important you have strategies to help you get through. 

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Reflections on coping with COVID-19

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Back in March 2020, who would have thought we’d still be waging the war against this microscopic enemy, five months later?  

When the restrictions were first imposed, I (perhaps like much of the population) went into the whole experience with a sense of both awe and ignorance. It seemed such a novel experience to listen to the Prime Minister and the Chief Medical Officer almost on a daily basis, followed by respective ministers of the states and territories. I felt then that the proposed stage 2 and stage 3 restrictions made little impact on my life – due, in part, to my living arrangements and personal habits.

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Media reporting on mental illness, violence and crime needs to change

media_photographers Brett Sayles/Pexels, CC BY 4.0

The media is a key source of information about mental illness for the public, and research shows media coverage can influence public attitudes and perceptions of mental ill-health.

But when it comes to complex mental illnesses such as psychosis and schizophrenia, media coverage tends to emphasise negative aspects, often choosing to focus on portrayals of violence, unpredictability and danger to others.

These portrayals can give an exaggerated impression of the actual rate at which violent incidents occur. In reality, such incidents are rare and are often better accounted for by other factors.

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COVID 19 … Enough to make you want to pull your hair out!

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During Covid-19 we've heard the concern about the impact the pandemic is going to have on people’s mental health. It’s enough to make you want to pull your hair out. I have found myself thinking a lot about people who literally pull their hair out. People with trichotillomania. “Tricka what?” you ask. Trichotillomania comes under the umbrella of Body-focussed Repetitive Behaviour Disorders.

Treatment of trichotillomania can be hard to find, but people find ways of managing the disorder and living with the impact it has on their lives. People with trichotillomania go to great lengths to disguise the damage from their hairpulling, and many find it incredibly anxiety-provoking to tell another person about their experience or seek help.

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COVID weight gain jokes can harm people with eating disorders

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In SANE's COVID mental health series, Sophie talks about the impact of 'quarantine-15' jokes. She warns they can harm people living with eating disorders and offers her advice.

If you have been spending more time on social media throughout the COVID lockdown, you definitely aren’t alone. Social media platforms have been a well-established part of western life for over a decade and the variety of avenues grows by the year.

Some have been problematic and potentially even harmful. In this instance, I’m talking about the memes and jokes that emerged about weight gain in quarantine.You may have seen them too – jokes about signing up for weight loss shows, statements about gaining the “Quarantine 15” and even before and after images of a photoshopped barbie doll.

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Care farming: creating community in nature

Liz-Everard-and-Julia-Westland Hocking Fellow, Liz Everard, and Flourish Australia Mental Health Consumer Representative, Julia Westland.

Liz Everard, 2019–2020 Hocking Fellow, reflects on how COVID highlighted the potential of nature-based interventions.

When I started my Hocking Fellowship project in late 2019, I intended to research a number of therapeutic or care farm communities that exist in the United States and Ireland. My aim was – and still is – to explore how this model of care could be provided in the Australian context. Unfortunately, the COVID pandemic has put my travel plans on hold. 

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My life with schizophrenia: 'I’m here to do my best and make the most of my life.'

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SANE Peer Ambassador Greg Ralls is a professional engineer, husband, father and author, who lives with schizophrenia. He shares some of his experiences in this Q&A guest blog.

When were you diagnosed with schizophrenia and what was your first reaction?

A psychiatrist made the diagnosis in 2005. It was a while coming, as the symptoms first surfaced in 1997 and my first-episode of psychosis happened in 2000, during which time I found myself deeply in crisis.

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