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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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Is it okay to ignore Christmas?

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Is it okay to ignore Christmas?

Absolutely!

Is it okay to take the bits of Christmas that work for you and discard the rest?

Definitely!

And is it okay to enjoy the solitude of Christmas Day and indulge yourself without feeling guilty?

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5

OCD and Christmas

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SANE Australia's StigmaWatch recently received a complaint that a major retailer was selling a mug that said "I have OCD – Obsessive Christmas Disorder". Not only does this trivialise a complex mental health condition and the people who live with it, it's not even funny. StigmaWatch works with journalists and broadcasters to reduce stigma and sadly...
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Five ways to reduce stigma in the workplace

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Stigma is defined as a mark of disgrace that sets a person apart from others. It can occur due to misunderstanding as well as prejudice. For people living with mental illness, stigma can lead to a lack of support or compassion, leaving them feeling misunderstood and marginalised.   Stigma is sadly prevalent in the workplace. Many workers are r...
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Nine great books about living with mental illness

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Reading can be a tremendous source of solace as we navigate the ups and downs of life. Books that contain characters we relate to can provide a way to transcribe the messiness in our minds and understand other people's emotions. Mental illness can sometimes make it challenging to find the concentration required to read, but these nine books are wor...
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What is the DSM? Your questions answered

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The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) is used by clinicians and psychiatrists around the world to diagnose mental disorders and psychiatric illnesses. Published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) , it was first printed in 1952. It covers all categories of mental health disorders for both adults and children.   As you might exp...
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The importance of remaining curious as an online advocate

The importance of remaining curious as an online advocate
Online community spaces are vital places for health advocates to find a sense of connection, belonging and support. If you have an online advocacy platform, you are no doubt aware that audiences are as diverse as the needs and conditions they advocate for. It is therefore essential to recognise that there are inherent tensions in online communities...
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How to connect when you feel alone

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Despite the world's population growing rapidly, many of us feel lonelier than ever. The drive to connect with others and forge meaningful social relationships is an essential part of what makes us human. From a neurobiological perspective, we are wired for connection.   However, as a 2016 survey by Lifeline Australia revealed, more than 80 per...
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SANE's Cameron on How 'Mad' Are You?

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SANE Peer Ambassador Cameron was one of the participants in the two-part SBS documentary How 'Mad' Are You? We asked Cameron, who lives with schizophrenia, to share his thoughts on taking part in a series that questions society's assumptions about mental illness.

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