health

When her daughters were touched by mental illness, Sharene was at a loss for what to do.

Sharene Dearlove felt completely out of her depth as she watched her 20-year-old daughter “sobbing on the floor” and unable to bring herself to return to university.

Her eldest daughter, Morgan, had always been shy. She was compassionate and relaxed, always sure to put other people’s needs before her own. When she, in Sharene’s words, “just cracked one day,” the family had no idea how to react.

Speaking to Mamamia, Sharene said they had not seen this coming, and at the time had absolutely no idea what to do.

“There hadn’t been a history of mental illness in our family that we knew of. But once something like this happens, the stories start to emerge,” she reflected.

Morgan just "cracked one day". Image via iStock. 

When I asked what elicited the breakdown, Sharene reflected that it seemed to be a sense she wasn't "succeeding" in her uni course.

"I suppose that was because she felt like she might not be studying the 'right' thing," she added.

Since beginning her studies to become a disability development educator, Morgan had become increasingly withdrawn. Then one day, she was overwhelmed by a sense that she "couldn't do it" anymore.

“The self-doubt came and it wheedled its way under her defences," explained Sharene. Once the thought was planted, Morgan seemed unable to shake it.

Mia Freedman on how she manages her anxiety. Post continues below...

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She became increasingly isolated as her depression and anxiety worsened. She was unable to work, and couldn't perform day to day tasks like going to the shops. Sharene was at a loss.

First, they attended the local GP and Morgan was prescribed an anti-depressant. Sharene then sourced a local psychologist who specialised with young people, but learned that she was not taking any new patients.

That's when Sharene discovered headspace.

After an initial phone call, Morgan was set up with a counsellor and clinician. The medication she had been speedily prescribed by the GP, which by this point had presented a myriad of adverse side effects, was carefully reexamined. It was concluded that the medication was not appropriate for a woman of her age, and was not specifically for the issues Morgan was experiencing. Specialists then prescribed a new medication.

The headspace center connected Sharene to parenting courses for support, and even organised appointments with counsellors at Morgan’s university to help get her back on track.

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But that's not where Sharene's association with headspace ended.

Her youngest daughter, Georgia, suffered from anxiety beginning in early adolescence. It began with concerns about going to school and issues with friends, which Sharene interpreted as fairly normal. Yet over time, Georgia's anxiety worsened.

Georgia too sought help from headspace. As she finished high school and planned to move out of home, headspace worked through her anxieties and prepared her for the obstacles to come. Since, she has traveled to Africa and now lives interstate.

Today, Sharene still gets emotional recalling her daughters' lowest moments. As a mother, all she desperately wanted was to protect them from the overwhelming pain they were suffering.

"I still get upset talking about it," she told me, fighting back tears.

When she initially contacted headspace, Sharene expected it to be a "quick fix", recalling, "I thought, 'She'll go in for a few sessions and then she'll be OK.'"

To any parents of adolescents or young adults suffering from mental illness, Sharene said, “Expect swings and roundabouts, expect the highs and lows, and don’t always expect, like I did, that that first visit will get it sorted. Just take it as it comes." (Post continues after gallery.)

The greatest strength of headspace, according to Sharene, is that it is tailored toward young people. She told me how hard it was to "find a clinician who is young person-friendly", because they might have a different set of anxieties and fears.

"[At that age] they need to be looked after and be asked the questions they need to be asked," Sharene added.

Headspace also included their entire family, briefing them on what was happening, and offering a "bit of a pick me up about what to expect... It’s a whole family thing you’re dealing with. It doesn’t just affect one person."

When I asked Sharene what a life without headspace would look like, she said simply, "I wouldn't want to think about that".

For Sharene and her family, headspace has changed the course of their lives.

“As a mother you want to be able to fix everything yourself but my advice to anyone is to go and get help," Sharene says. She urges any mum to look for the warning signs, from becoming withdrawn, worried or irritable, to no longer doing the things they used to enjoy. 

So to answer the question, "What do you do with a 20-year-old sobbing on the floor?"

It's simple: you call headspace.

Tuesday October 11 is Headspace Day. Here are three ways you can support the cause:

1. Wear – Wear a headspace day “Access all Areas” wristband on the day. You can pick one up at any headspace centre or through one of their partners. You can also print one off here and make your own.

2. Share – Post your support on Facebook, Instagramor Twitter using the hashtag #headspaceday

3. Donate – Make a donation atwww.headspaceday.org.au

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