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I had the privilege of speaking to a group of 50 or so people on R U OK? Day in 2013. I presented the Black Dog Institute’s “Breaking Down Depression and Building Resilience” 1-hour Community Presentation.
It was wonderful to be able to share my mood disorder experiences, some heart-wrenching and others heart-warming. I believe it is so important that people hear about ‘head and heart health’ from someone with a lived experience of the reality and daily impact depression and bipolar can have on people’s lives. It allows those who might otherwise be silent about their challenges to take steps to get the support and guidance essential to great head and heart health. And for those who might have family, friends or colleagues living with a mood disorder it offers an opportunity to hear about the rollercoaster of experiences a person with a mood disorder might be living with in a more objective way opening a space for greater compassion.
After the presentation I spoke with a large number of people who expressed their appreciation of the content and they spoke of the difference and significance hearing about my lived experience and how I and those around me have fared on my journey over the last two decades. One member of the audience who suspects her sister may have bipolar disorder emailed me afterwards saying that:
I haven’t spoken with her (sister) for quite some time – your talk has prompted me to call her and check she’s ok with a little more sensitivity and compassion – so thank you so much for that!"
Is it time to provide your colleagues an opportunity to hear from a person with lived experience of mind health matters?
This kind of action and shift in perspective is what speaking openly and comfortably about mind health is about for me. For those of you who might not know how to start the conversation here are some tips…
- privately let them know you’ve noticed some differences in them and that you are concerned for them;
- allow them the space to respond in their own time;
- allow plenty of time to listen to them when they are ready;
- allow them to set the tempo of conversations and actions;
- let them know that you get what is happening for them is real, even if you don’t understand it yourself;
- offer support and assistance based on what they want and need; and
- respect that each person has a right to choose how to take care of themselves.
Remember the old adage, ‘you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.’ No matter what you think should be done, a person has to be ready to seek help for themselves (there’re exceptions: when a person has a suicide plan or are talking about one).
A great resource is The Black Dog Institute’s website www.blackdoginstitute.org.au
Because your Mind Health Matters…