This week, 7-13 October, is Mental Health Week, which aims to improve awareness and interest in mental health and wellbeing.
Warning: The following story deals with suicide and may be triggering for some readers.
The prevailing message around mental health is alarmingly simple.
In light of recent research by the Australian Bureau of Statistics that found suicide remains the leading cause of death in young people, we tweet and comment and rally with a four-word solution: just ask for help.
Help-seeking, especially in the early stages of suicidal thinking, is a crucial part of suicide prevention. It’s no exaggeration to say that asking for help saves lives.
But the distance between asking for help and actually getting the right help is rarely paved with a clear, linear path. It’s rocky and sometimes steep, and often veers in discouraging directions before a person can see a promising destination.
At 25, Honor Eastly found herself feeling like she wanted to die. At that point, she’d been asking for help for 10 years – and getting appointments with mental health professionals intermittently. Over the course of that decade, she’d seen five different psychiatrists.
“Something was wrong and getting worse but they had no idea why,” she says in her ABC podcast No Feeling is Final. “All my efforts towards wellness had been intense but my stay was unyielding.
“My doctors and psychologists were at a loss. All agreed that I needed to see a psychiatrist. Now. But the process of finding one was chaotic at best.”
Honor describes the cruel dichotomy that exists in the Australian mental health system. “You’re always in one of two camps. Either the ‘you’re not that f*cked up’ camp or the ‘woah, red alert, crazy lady coming through’ camp. There really is no in between.”
“If you’re in the ‘not that f*cked up’ camp in Australia, you can get 10 subsidised sessions a year with a psychologist, and this works for a lot of people, which is great. And then there’s camp ‘crazy lady coming through,’ the kind with case managers and social workers and police interventions and hospitals and community treatment orders – bureaucratic speak for forced treatment. Things that cost a lot in terms of money and time and resources.
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Since we launched the six minute trailer episode I have been overwhelmed by the response, yes of people sharing it, but also of people slipping into my DMs and telling me the rawness of how it connects with them already. People having a good cry at work, on the tram, at the library. People feeling feelings. I have even gotten to hug a few of you in real life since. Quite a few people have been asking me things like “should I listen to this?” And “should my friend / aunty / brother listen to this?”. So I wanted to give a bit more info about the kind of show it is so people can make that decision for themselves when it starts saying hello to the world on a Monday (holy shit ???????? ) This is not a graphic show. As in, there’s no detailed description of any suicidal or self-injury behavior. We do try to explain what it feels like to experience despair, hopelessness. Early on when we were thinking about how we’d approach this our Executive Producer, aka Pod Dad @joelbwerner came up with this analogy about black holes (he’s a massive science nerd and we love him for it). You can’t observe a black hole by looking at it. You have to observe the space around a black hole, and see what’s happening *there*, to be able to see where the black hole is. That is the approach we’ve taken in this show to suicide. We talk about all the things that happen around the experience of suicidality, as a way of describing the experience of suicidality in contemporary life. And that’s because a big part of what we’re exploring in the show is what it’s like to feel really hopeless, and how the world responds to that despair. So it means we don’t focus on the graphic things, but the ways in which your life changes through crisis, how your relationships change, how your outlook changes. The subtle, nuanced things that can only be known by being there. (continued in first comment)