Cameron is a passionate and articulate advocate for people to be seen in their wonderful entirety.
In Cameron’s case, a diagnosis of Schizophrenia is just part of his story.
‘I will happily answer any question and talk about my illness, but I won’t let it define me,’ he says. ‘It happens every day. You see celebrities who are battling something terrible, be it physical or mental. They lose their identity. They suddenly become a representative for their cause and that becomes their whole life.’
Cameron has delivered talks to a variety of audiences including HR managers, keen to understand the best ways to work with people with lived experience of mental illness.
In 2014 he travelled to Canberra with SANE Australia CEO Jack Heath to help launch SANE’s online Forums. He gave an address to the Federal Health Minister, and spoke about the Forums on ABC ’s Radio National breakfast program.
‘The inspiration to be open about my illness came from my upbringing,’ Cameron explains. ‘I made friends who were open and honest. My brothers were always incredibly open about stuff. It was mainly about providing an open and safe space. My parents certainly created that with their social environment.’
‘At the other extreme, I’ve seen families who unfortunately live in an environment of guilt and fear and it defines them. It seems like they live lives of constant suppression.
‘I’m not saying everyone should be talking about everything, but anything I can do to help understand and alleviate fear and mythology can only be good.’
Cameron says he experienced shocking bullying at school in early primary years. ‘He took away my friends, he took away everything,’ Cameron says of one bully. ‘Kids are so susceptible to bullying.’
‘There had to have been happy times, but the fact is I remember so much of the bullying that it overshadowed so much of the happy memories.’
He was again bullied and harassed at his job at an advertising agency, quitting that job. He believes this and the childhood bullying contributed to a breakdown in 2001.
Cameron worked at a bank in data administration but after 10 years he had the chance to pursue his creativity, professionally. For the past few years he has carved a new path as a photographer, novelist and screenplay writer. ‘I wrote the screenplay and the novel while I was at the bank. ‘I used to write for 20 minutes every lunch time.’ He has high hopes for the screenplay and the novel, but ‘I haven’t sold them yet’.
Cameron says the diagnosis of Schizophrenia has shaped his life to the point where he wouldn’t want to change who he is. ‘It has given me such an incredible amount of creativity to think of things you just wouldn’t normally think of, to make connections you wouldn’t normally think of.’
He says he feels blessed for the opportunity to learn. ‘Do the benefits outweigh the negatives? After 13 years they’re starting to. I am more than happy to write about or talk about where my head was at when the breakdown occurred. It’s what I’ve learnt from it – that is the ultimate goal.'
Cameron’s message is clear. 'A thought for anyone who reads this? It gets better. Trust the idea of medication. Trust the idea of what doctors are doing. The main thing is breaking down the fear and mythology, especially within yourself.'
He says we have come some way in our attitudes and approach towards mental illness.
‘We’re talking now. When I started at the bank in 2003, depression and anxiety were just blipping on the radar. People were just starting to talk about mental health. Fast forward 10 years and bipolarity is headlining network television.
‘The fact that Schizophrenia has been the topic of World Mental Health Day – Living with Schizophrenia – means it is finally out there. Let’s talk about it.’