10 October 2019, Adelaide – The theme for this year’s World Mental Health Day is ‘Do you see what I see?’, with the aim to:
- Challenge negative perceptions of mental health.
- Encourage people to shine a positive light on mental health.
- Make a way for people to seek the support they need.
At batyr, we want to amplify the voices of young people in order to smash mental health stigma and increase help-seeking rates in Australia. It has been proven that sharing lived experience stories is the most effective way to change negative perceptions of mental health.
Aki shares her mental health journey and talks about what World Mental Health Day means to her.
My name is Aki and I am currently in my second year of university studying marketing.
My lived experience with depression and anxiety started in middle school and became worse over the years through traumatic life events. This included abuse and sexual assault from my teens into my early 20s.
I wasn’t formally diagnosed and given treatment until recently, so it was a very tough journey. It always felt like I had a dark cloud over my head that I couldn’t shake and that I was never really my “true” self.
Last July, I shared my whole story, for the first time, to a group of people when I participated in a batyr Being Herd workshop.
The workshop was the first time I was with a group of young adults who understood what it felt like to live with the stigma and struggles of mental ill-health. I shared my story in a safe environment and felt an overwhelming amount of positive support that helped me to take a big step forward in my mental health journey. It was also at that point when I knew I wanted to become a speaker and continue sharing my story with others who were struggling or had similar experiences.
Aside from receiving treatment, being able to share and talk about my struggles has played a huge role in my recovery.
Did stigma prevent you from reaching out for support?
Before moving to Adelaide last year, I was living in Singapore, where mental health stigma is still pretty prevalent. I felt ashamed and weak that I was struggling with my mental health and made it my life’s mission to ensure that no one would find out about what I was really going through every day. I felt as though I was living a double life and I was terrified that someone would one day find out about the truth. It was an irrational, but very real fear that eventually took a toll on me. I never opened up about my struggles because I thought if I could ignore them, they would just go away.
What do you wish someone knew about what you were going through?
I wish they knew that it is more than just about “feeling sad”.
The feeling of being depressed is very paralysing and exhausting and sometimes the mere thought of having to go through another day can be painful (almost like heartbreak) in a sense. It’s difficult to put into words, yet the thoughts/feelings are very real and all-consuming.
Some days are harder than others and it can make you feel like you’re taking two steps back.
Tell us about a moment or conversation you had that ‘shone a light’ on the challenges you were facing and encouraged you to reach out. What was that moment like?
It was the first real, raw conversation I had with my current partner. He listened to my story, cried with me as I told it and make conscious decisions to be more aware of my triggers in order to make my recovery easier. It was the first time I felt safe outside of a therapy setting and that’s when I knew I was ready to share with others too.
Moving to Australia was also a big turning point for me because it was the first time I talked about what I had gone through outside the walls of therapy. I began to discover myself again (through hobbies, friends, uni) and felt like I was leaving my past behind while starting a new chapter in my life. Though I’m still working through my mental health, I don’t feel like I’m speaking about my trauma in the present tense. I feel as though I have found a great support network in the people I’ve met and that has greatly improved my mental health.
How do you challenge misconceptions about mental health and encourage positive conversations?
Mental health is an incredibly complex thing, and everyone has their own story, how they cope and how they’ve persevered. I think by slowly getting out there and telling my story at my own time and being more open about my struggles, I’ve been able to have those difficult conversations in a more authentic way.
What is your pledge for World Mental Health Day?
My pledge for World Mental Health Day is to take the time to refocusing my energy into being more mindful about my own mental health. As a student, it is easy for me to get lost and caught up with everything else; so much so that I’ll end up neglecting my own mental health in order to achieve what I need to.
If this story has brought up strong feelings for you, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.