Having a Mental Health Model

Being diagnosed with a mental illness can be a scary and overwhelming experience. Many people struggle receiving a diagnosis and can be in denial for some time. Some people feel that a diagnosis is a label that doesn't accurately represent their life experiences, and would rather focus on their mental health in a holistic way. For some people after years of suffering and getting the wrong treatment, getting a diagnosis can be a relief.
No matter what your diagnosis experience was like, it's fair to say that for most people who are newly diagnosed, it's a life changing experience which requires them to rebuild their lives and learn to live with their condition. How do I know this? Because it happened to me.

I was in the prime of my life when I got diagnosed with a mental illness. I had just moved interstate to start my dream job when I suddenly became unwell. My parents took me home, where I was admitted to hospital and eventually diagnosed with a mental illness.

I fought my diagnosis for a good couple of weeks. How could this be happening to me? Mental illness happens to other people! I'm very ashamed to say this now, but I thought people with mental illnesses were crazy, scary people. There was no way I was one of them!
The stigma that was attached to mental health was now attached to me. I believed that someone with mental illness would be sick forever and could definitely never work, have a family or live a "normal" life… which left me very scared for my future.

It wasn't until one of my treating doctor's pulled me aside one day and confided in me that he too, had the same mental illness as me and that I could live with it and eventually I'd be alright.

I can't express how much that meant to me. He was the first person I had met with my condition and instantly it helped me remove some of the stigma I had put on myself and others with mental illnesses.

Since that time I continued to learn of and learn from other people who have mental illnesses. Reading books, researching online or watching mental health documentaries is mostly how I connect to others with mental illness. It has helped me feel less alone and more supported on my recovery. Learning how other people cope with symptoms and the self-care strategies they use can be really helpful. Although every suggestion others have may not work for you – just knowing that there are people out there who understand what you are going through can be a massive support. It can also help to remove the stigma surrounding mental health, help us to feel accepted and inspire us to be proud of who we are.

Your mental health role model might be someone you know, or it might be someone you've never met, in fact most of my mental health role models are famous people I've never met.

Have you heard of Osher Gunsberg? I love him because he hosts one of my favourite reality tv shows, The Bachelor, but also because he is very public about his struggles with mental illness. Osher has written a book about it called Back, After The Break as well as discussing his mental health regularly on his podcast The Osher Gunsberg Podcast.

Another good book I have read about mental health is First, We Make the Beast Beautiful by Sarah Wilson. Sarah has a lot of good tips in her book about managing stress and anxiety as well as explaining why our bodies experience these feelings – helping the reader to see some mental health symptoms as a normal part of life.

My last tip for a good book is literally anything by Matthew Johnstone! His books are excellent, especially for when you are unwell and unable to concentrate for too long to read a big book. Matthew's books such as I Had a Black Dog and Quiet the Mind are short picture books that so accurately describe common thoughts and feelings that we can experience when we are unwell.

There are so many great books, resources online and many services in the community. A quick google search will help you find books, blogs, forums, documentaries, podcasts, services and support groups that might inspire you or a loved one to learn more about your mental health condition.

So if you or someone you love has just received a diagnosis or has been struggling with their recovery – try and find a role model who can help guide the way and help you feel less alone..

And of course, here at LETSS all of our trained peer workers are here to support you (and those around you) when you need it.

Call us from 5pm – 11:30pm on 1800 013 755
Or webchat: www.letss.org.au

By Jolene Bloggerhead

(Image by Duy Pham)

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