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

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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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When did you first seek help?

As part of Be Kind to Your Mind, we asked young people who've lived with mental illness questions about their experience. Here's what they told us.

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What does 'be kind to your mind' mean to you?

As part of Be Kind to Your Mind, we asked young people who've lived with mental illness questions about their experience. Here's what they told us.

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STIGMA: dismantled, revealed artists in conversation

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On Thursday 28 March, Julia Young, Curator at The Dax Centre, sat down with four artists from their current exhibition—STIGMA: dismantled, revealed to talk about their experience of stigma, self expression and art making.

Once the audience had indulged in cheese platters and drinks, they gathered around Cornelia Selover’s oil on board artwork, The complex heaven of a broken mind, to hear Simon Crosbie, Lucy Hotchin, Kylie Steinhardt and artist in residence Jessie Brooks-Dowsett participate in a Q&A style panel conversation.

“What are your experiences of stigma, and how do you feel we can dismantle and reveal it?,” Julia asked the artists.

“I think my own self stigma was my biggest obstacle,” Kylie said.

“Emergency room stigma from doctors, nurses and the medical system is the worst. That’s the part of the stigma that gets in your soul,” Lucy added. “The whole idea of doing well whilst experiencing mental illness—you can actually be in a state of flux and still be doing well in life.”

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Supporting Your Loved One Through A Panic Attack

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Twice a month, SANE Australia runs Topic Tuesday events on our forums. These are a chance for people around the country to come together in real time to discuss issues involving complex mental illness. Previous topics have covered everything from the side effects of medication to creating a safety plan, from supporting someone through panic attacks to sex and intimacy with a complex mental illness.

Topic Tuesday discussions are anonymous, safe, moderated by mental health professionals and free for users to take part.

The forum holds a space for a Lived Experience community and another for the Carers community and a monthly event is held in each side. In January we hosted “Supporting your loved one through a panic attack” in the Carers forum but with participation from people in both groups.

It was extremely informative to hear about panic attacks from both those having them and those observing them. Here’s a selection of perfectives from the event.

Many said the first time came as a shock:

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STIGMA: dismantled, revealed exhibition

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STIGMA: dismantled, revealed is a bold new art exhibition opening in Melbourne on February 15.

The Dax Centre exists to engage, inform and encourage conversations about mental health through art. It is home to the Cunningham Dax Collection, more than 16,000 artworks created by people with lived experience of mental illness or psychological trauma.

The collection was founded by Dr Eric Cunningham Dax, an English psychiatrist who moved to Melbourne to become chairman of the Mental Hygiene Authority in 1951. Dr Dax was a firm believer in the power of art therapy to help people with mental illness and psychological trauma. He introduced innovative art therapy programs into Victoria's psychiatric hospitals and salvaged thousands of artworks created within these programs when the hospitals began to be shut down in the 1980s.

 

In the early 2000s, the collection was expanded to include artworks created by artists and community groups living with mental illness in the present day. In 2018 The Dax Centre merged with SANE Australia.

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Parenting with Mental Health Challenges

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Topic Tuesday is a regular event on the SANE Forums where we host live discussions of specific mental health issues. Recently Belle from Parentline joined us to give advice for parents with mental health challenges. Here's some of her tips.

The life of a parent can be a busy and demanding one! You could be juggling so many potential stressors all at once, including work, family commitments, finances, and keeping up with your child’s school and social routines.

For those parents managing mental health challenges, you are managing not only your responsibilities as a parent, but your own mental health, and the complex and confronting emotions that can come with this delicate balance. No easy feat.

This being said, there are things you can do for yourself that can make parenting with a mental illness easier.

Be kind to yourself and mindful of self-expectations

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A Carer's Story

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Jo Buchanan looks back at how the role of carer has changed over the decades, and the progress we've made.

One of the most heartbreaking experiences when a family member develops mental illness is the change from someone we’ve known into a stranger.

When my sister was diagnosed with schizophrenia in the 1970s she was hospitalised for months at a time, so I decided to take on the care of my beautiful, fun-loving nephew. But when he reached his teens Joel began to change. Initially I thought his rebellious behaviour was the result of a mum who was mentally ill - it never occurred to me that my nephew was battling the same illness as my sister.

Back when I was caring for my sister and nephew in the 1970s and 80s, the medical profession seriously believed schizophrenia indicated a ‘split personality’ and was probably caused by ‘bad parenting’. 

Not only did carers shoulder the burden of caring for their loved ones - without any support from the government or medical profession - they were also accused of causing it.

So when a chance arose for Joel to join the Wilderness Program, a project designed to help delinquent teenagers, I jumped at the opportunity. The programme involved a healthy outdoor lifestyle in the bush with the emphasis on building self-confidence and self-esteem. I thought it would be the perfect answer.

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Tips for surviving Christmas

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Christmas. It's fast approaching.

For many Christmas is a wonderful day filled with family, friends, gifts, good food and good times. But for some people it can be a challenge.

Services close for the holiday break, health professionals go on vacation and there's a perceived social pressure that demands happiness and participation.

To help you through the coming days we asked people living with mental illness for their tips to survive the Christmas period.

Plan, walk and talk

Make sure all your medications are up to date. Use exercise, like walking, to help alleviate stress when you sense a trigger. 

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