October is Mental Health Month in NSW, one month of the year dedicated to drawing attention to, and raising awareness of, mental health in the community, highlighting the importance of early intervention practices for positive mental health and wellbeing, and working to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.
This campaign popping up across my social media screens and newsfeeds, gifted me the opportunity to reflect on my good fortune to be able to use my professional skills (which are by no means medical or clinical!), to make a difference to those living with serious chronic mental illness.
I love my work, I’m fortunate to have great clients and interesting projects, but now and then a project leaves a permanent mark on you, impacts you personally and might even for a period be your ‘favourite child’. For me that was having the privilege to rebrand the Schizophrenia Fellowship of NSW to One Door Mental Health.
The world of mental illness was opened to me, I was educated and I found a new level of understanding and empathy for those living with mental illness whether it be themselves or a loved one.
I was stunned by the topline statistics I was reading. The fact that one in five Australians will experience mental illness in their lifetime. The fact that One Door alone, helps 10,000 people per year, not forgetting all the other incredible organisations across the country providing such vital support and services. The figures really start to paint the picture that this is a part of life that is quite possibly much closer to home (or work) than you may realise.
While working on this project and educating myself, a prominent name came up; Anne Deveson, a broadcaster, filmmaker, novelist and founder of SANE. Anne was also the mother of a young man who lived with Schizophrenia and wrote about her experiences with her son’s illness in ‘Tell me I’m here’. Anne’s book is brutally honest, it felt like I had been let into her family circle of trust and to be honest it was hard to read, it was exhausting and frustrating reading Anne’s struggles; I’m embarrassed to admit I took a break from the book, Anne certainly didn’t have that luxury.
Just as Anne opened her world, we had to open up the world of mental illness in order to deliver the new brand for One Door with the respect and authenticity it deserved. With us on the case, there wasn’t going to be a website page or piece of marketing that used photos of models posing as a consumer or carer, we used real people – real names, real stories, real faces. Consumers, carers and clinicians took a courageous step forward, agreeing to share their stories.
I was entrusted to hear and share details of their lived experience, their goals, their vision for the future of mental health care in Australia and help bust some myths about mental illness. My eyes were opened further and I was in such admiration of these people who divulged such personal, private information, in a world where there is still considerable stigma around mental illness.
One part of our work I still can’t watch without tears pricking my eyes and a lump forming in my throat, no matter how many times I’ve seen it, is the video we produced. The journey people with serious mental illness travel is tough and filled with challenges, I am so thankful that because of the passionate people at One Door and similar organisations, there are signposts of brightness and welcoming lights at the end of the road, and the end of the video could be positive.
This might be mental health month but every month is a good month to think about how you (and those around you) are doing and make mental health a part of regular conversation.
Image with thanks: One Door Mental Health www.onedoor.org.au