The stigma of mental Illness

                The stigma of mental Illness

This is an extremely interesting topic and I thank Ariah for inviting me to a guest blogger, it’s a huge honour to contribute.

When I think about equality, many issues spring to mind and it’s extremely hard to focus on all that it conjures. I’ve been a critical care nurse so equality in the health care system is an issue that I’m extremely passionate about. I’m a wife and mother of two beautiful children and am 39 years of age. I’ve had many jobs such as a beauty therapist, retail representative, critical care nurse and a project manager for indigenous health. My biggest challenge by far is being a mother and dealing with chronic pain and depression.

I’ve been experiencing chronic pain now for 26 years, the last of these years were spent in bed, 22 hours a day. The last five years is when my pain started to rapidly increase and as a result, I began to lose the use of my legs. Despite having numerous tests, treatments and surgical procedures, no one knew what was going on! At one stage I was tested for multiple sclerosis - MS. Facing the future of living in a wheel chair while my kids were only 4 and 6 years of age was extremely confronting and a frightening thought. I had absolutely no idea how I was going to face the pain and not be able to use my legs day in and day out for the rest of my life. How the hell was I going to do this! I had previously attempted suicide twice in my early twenties, and I recognised suicide as my only way to  relieve myself of the pain and free my family of this burden. I reached crisis point and, much to my own disgust at the time, I chose to live and get the assistance that I needed – I couldn’t deprive my children of a mother and a husband of his wife, even if she was broken goods despite me desperately wanting to die.

Upon reflection, although I received the required crisis intervention for my mental health - I felt ashamed that I required this crisis intervention. Even in front of the crisis team that visited me one morning, I felt that “surely these people are judging me” and “I’m now going to be completely broken off from society because I’m officially a nut bag and no one is going to want to deal with me”.

I was so upset that I needed this crisis intervention, I felt weak and pathetic. Despite my broader family knowing that I suffered from depression I was certainly hesitant to inform them that my mental health had deteriorated to that extent. Why did I feel ashamed of this? I certainly wasn’t hesitant to talk of my physical illness. So this conjures the question........why are people ashamed to
talk of mental illness and to reach out for assistance particularly when it is so common with one in five people living with a mental disorder.

There have been massive improvements in relation to reducing the stigma of mental illness in recent times. However, I feel that the stigma still remains for many reasons, many of which are derived from a lack of understanding in the wider community. People are often scared and don’t know how to communicate and interact with people who are suffering from a mental illness. There is also the view that people with an illness such as depression are not capable of interacting and contributing to  society, this is certainly how I felt. People can deal with physical pain but not someone’s mental anguish. 

I want to start a conversation by posing the question WHY. Starting a conversation will be a sure fire way of educating people on mental illness, thus continuing to break down the stigma.

Love, Lowanna Lowes

Australian Pain Society
Beyond Blue

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