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Q&A with Heidi Everett

Why is responsible reporting about mental health important?

People with lived experience of mental illness must have a presence in the media to counter negative stereotypes. I believe that the those living with mental illness should be the people presenting a true picture of the Australian mental health system. Too often people with mental illness are presented as a social burden. This isn't the case. In my work as a lived experience advocate, I see all the brilliance and vibrancy of a damn cool community. Where does this get any airtime in the media?

What impact does a program such as StigmaWatch have on the public's perception of mental health issues?

StigmaWatch reminds us that the media are accountable for passing judgement on mental illness. Depression and addiction in footballers is not the parentheses around lived experience. I don't know any footballers but I know thousands of people with mental illness.

Why do you contact StigmaWatch?

I want the concerns of people like me to be taken seriously by the media. It is frustrating that people with lived experience have hardly any scope for an authentic presence in the media - it's as though we're seen as an unreliable source despite living our own stories. StigmaWatch are an important foothold in lived experienced advocacy, we'd have incredibly limited means of redress without you.

You have been a StigmaWatcher for several years. How do you think the stigma of mental illness has changed in this time?

I still witness stigma in society. This is because mental illness can still be viewed as an internalised medical condition to be treated by medicine or improved self-control. It's important to realise that it is not your fault that you hear voices or feel sad all the time. We need to change the way mental illness is viewed in order to reduce stigma.

Heidi Everett is a multimedia creative and lived experience advocate based in Melbourne. Her projects include Schizy Week Inc, Mojo Film Festival, Campfire Conferences and Discovery Club as well as public speaking and consultancy work. Learn more about Heidi at www.heidieverett.com.au


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