Declan shares his story for World Mental Health Day

10 October 2019, ACT – 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.

Declan shares his mental health journey and talks about what World Mental Health Day means to him.

I’m a sports fanatic, a proud Canberran, and a trivia enthusiast. When I was 16, I started to realise that, for a long time, I hadn’t felt the way I used to. I wasn’t as happy; I was snapping at my friends; and I felt pretty anxious about everyday activities. It went on for quite a long time and it affected some of my close relationships and friendships before myself or anyone around me identified an issue. 

While in year 12, I built up the courage to see the school counsellor, and subsequently my GP.  I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, put on the correct medication and managed from there. Since then, I’ve had struggles with mental health, but it’s a lot easier knowing what resources are available to me when I am struggling. 

I have a great support network of friends that I look to for support, and they also can use me as support when needed. I find a sense of satisfaction in sharing my story because I want to be able to help others who are in similar situations.

Did stigma prevent you from reaching out for support?

It certainly did – I didn’t think my mental health was an issue and no one could identify the cause of my erratic behaviour. It wasn’t until I saw a counsellor and unpacked my emotions that I identified the issue at hand. I think if I had reached out earlier I would have been able to manage everything a little bit better. I think even throughout the journey of mental health, even when you have great supportive networks, you can still be heavily affected by stigma. For example, it can be difficult to take a day off work for your mental health, or to cancel plans with friends for your mental health.

What do you wish someone knew about what you were going through?

I wish people knew how hard it is to reach out and ask for support sometimes, especially when you’re at a low point. Sometimes you feel really down and don’t want to ask for help or support because you’re scared of being a burden to those around you. It’s nice to have people around you who will support you or do little things to help.

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?

Throughout my interactions with mental health, I always like to ask myself the question, “What advice would I give to a good friend?”. With respect to my mental health, I always advise people to take care of themselves as much as they can, whereas I don’t do the same for myself. When I was first asked this question, it shined a light on the fact that I was being so critical about my own struggles. I realised I was not following through on the advice I would give to friends, and I needed to take my own advice and take care of myself.

How do you challenge misconceptions about mental health and encourage positive conversations? 

I try to encourage positive supportive conversations regarding mental health by listening to those affected to learn how we can support them most. After all, we don’t know how someone is being affected by mental health so we should listen to them about how they can be best supported. Often people can provide solutions to mental health that are not helpful and make the person feel worse than before. It’s important to be supportive and positive in these conversations about mental health.

What is your pledge for World Mental Health Day?

I want people to know that they’re not alone. Whether its long-term or short-term, it’s okay to reach out for help. Seeing a psychologist to check in on your mental health can be like seeing your doctor for a cold and should be treated the same way. My pledge is to encourage people to check in on their mental health. Even if you consider your mental health to be perfect, you can still sit back and reflect with others about the good and bad things in your mental health. Our ability to be open and reflect can help to reduce the stigma around mental health.

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.