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 that 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.
Caddie shares her mental health journey and talks about what World Mental Health Day means to her.
My mental health journey began after a humiliating online stunt my ex-boyfriend elicited. Photos from my social media accounts were leaked and linked to horrible fake news and gossip accounts.
Normally, these stunts don’t reach far, but, in my case, I found myself the target of a viral, international cyberbullying campaign.
This led to me being held hostage by isolating depression and crippling anxiety. I was so afraid to leave my house, to go to school, to answer my phone, for fear that someone would recognise me and harass me. I pushed my friends away as I thought they believed the awful things being said about me. I sought help from a lawyer who blamed me for apparently provoking my ex.
Recovery for me meant re-building my self-esteem. I finally reached out to friends for support. I decided to be vulnerable, to take off my mask and show what was really going on. They listened, and they supported and stood by me as I sought justice. I met a therapist who taught me strategies to help with rebuilding my self-talk. I almost began believing the awful things people said about me, but at last I was challenging them with the truth – my truth.
Did stigma prevent you from reaching out for support?
The truth is, stigma didn’t prevent me reaching out for support for mental health: victim blaming did. I felt as if no one was listening to my side of the story. I felt like no one was listening to me; that I was alone; that I was worthless.
The victim-blaming I experienced made me feel disenfranchised, almost as if I didn’t have the right to feel the way I did.
What do you wish someone knew about what you were going through?
The first thing was how utterly isolated I was feeling; how alone.
I couldn’t go home from school or work and feel relieved that I wouldn’t have to see my tormentors again – they were in my own home. Sending me abuse text messages, disgusting emails, putting hate mail In my letter box.
The second thing is that I wish my tormentors, the keyboard warriors who terrorised me daily, could have seen what impact their words had on me. I was just a young girl who should have been worrying about other, meaningful things. That was a time that I should have been enjoying life, and now I will never get that time back. I wish they had thought twice about what impact their abusive messages had on me.
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 a letter from my mother. My mother lived In another state and wrote me a secret letter that was handed to me from a friend. My mother Isn’t someone to talk about emotions too much, but in this letter she really opened her heart to me.
She told me she could hear me; that she was listening; that she understands. She wrote about her own struggles at my age, and how she once too wished for a better life, and to leave. She told me that because of me, she held on. That although I may not feel worthy, I may not feel valuable or worthy of love anymore, to her I was so worthy of love and life and happiness.
She reminded me that my worth was not measured by external things, or what others had to say. I was created entirely with love, and was born deserving of that the day I was born, and still do now. Nothing has changed. Her letter saved me.
How do you challenge misconceptions about mental health and encourage positive conversations?
Perhaps it’s being transparent within my circles has helped. I don’t like hiding anymore and try to employ a somewhat “#nofilter” approach to conversations and have seen this spark momentum in discussions. It just takes one person to listen, and another brave person to bear their soul and say, “Hey, actually, I get It andnd I’m here for you.”
As for challenging misconceptions, again, being transparent with others has been key. But, perhaps too, being honest with yourself and asking Socratic questions when negative self-talk comes up. Challenging misconceptions about your own mental health Is just as Important as challenging others.
What is your pledge for World Mental Health Day?
I pledge to go deeper within my circles, with my friends, my family and my peers, to know them, and to show them that I care for them.
I will do my best to provide a safe and supportive environment where they can feel listened to and cared for, and hopefully, safe and happy.
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.