SANE Australia Peer Ambassador, Felicity Smith, shares her lived experience of bipolar disorder, recognising that through support and understanding from people she has relationships with, living with this complex mental health issue isn’t a ‘life sentence’.
Mrs Smith says her network of close, supportive relationships has been critical to her feeling comfortable to share her experience and educate others.
As a mother, wife and full-time employee, Mrs Smith from Newcastle, NSW, says that having open communication with her husband, children, extended family, and work colleagues has been incredibly important to her.
“The support from those around me is amazing,” Mrs Smith said.
“My husband and I have very open communication about how I’m feeling day-to-day, which has helped me so much.
“He has even implemented some of those strategies at his own workplace to ensure his colleagues feel valued and supported, so they know that he cares about how they are.
Mrs Smith says she has been very open about living with bipolar disorder with her employer and work colleagues, and they now know some of the cues to look for if she’s having a bad day.
“My workmates know that if I arrive at the office and my physical appearance is different, like not wearing make-up, or if my outfit is a bit untidy, that I might be struggling that morning and to check in on me, or not put too much pressure on me that day.
“I’ve been open with them about living with bipolar disorder, but for them to learn, understand and be more educated in what I’m experiencing has helped a lot.”
Mrs Smith’s 19-year-old daughter also lives with bipolar disorder II and borderline personality disorder, and she believes her own experience with a mental health issue has helped to support her daughter.
“I take time to observe my daughter’s behaviour and interactions with people to see how she feels after certain situations, and have also taken time to understand and adapt to how she likes to be communicated with,” she said.
Mrs Smith says that of course there is still progress to be made, and it can be difficult when people aren’t as understanding.
“It can be frustrating when people assume because I take medication, I should be fine. Medication helps, but it doesn’t remove all of my bipolar symptoms.”
“It’s wonderful to hear positive stories like Felicity’s,” SANE Australia CEO, Rachel Green said.
“It is important that people living with bipolar disorder are supported by people around them, at work, at home and in the community so they can live full lives, free from stigma and discrimination,” Ms Green said.
“We want more people who live with complex mental health issues to experience support like this too.”
To learn more, and to participate in conversations about bipolar disorder with people with lived experience you can, visit SANE Australia’s dedicated web page for World Bipolar Day.
About SANE Australia
SANE Australia is a national mental health charity dedicated to making a real difference in the lives of people affected by complex mental health issues through support, research and advocacy. SANE’s vision is for an Australia where people affected by complex mental health issues live long and fulfilling lives, free from stigma and discrimination. SANE Support Services include phone and online counselling and online forums for people with a lived experience of complex mental health issues, their friends and family members.
The National Stigma Report Card is the flagship project of the SANE Australia’s Anne Deveson Research Centre and is conducted in partnership with the Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences at the University of Melbourne.
The National Stigma Report Card is informed by the Our Turn to Speak survey, which ran between October 2019 and March 2020. This survey captured the experiences of stigma and discrimination across several life domains from almost 2,000 Australians living with complex mental health issues.
For research findings and stories from people impacted by stigma and discrimination go to www.nationalstigmareportcard.com.au. To compare survey results from different life domains, mental health issues and demographics via the interactive online data explorer go to www.nationalstigmareportcard.com.au/data.