The ordinariness of mental illness.

I never intended this blog to be about mental health. In fact I used to feel like a fraud, even as a psychologist.  I have never worked in mental health. I have no training in clinical psychology or even counselling.  I have never personally experienced clinical anxiety, depression or any other mental health issue, although I know plenty of people who have.

My first direct experience with mental illness was a stint of several years travelling country New South Wales and Victoria interviewing individuals who had lodged a WorkCover claim for 'stress'; more accurately known as psychological injury.  I met many people who were struggling with their emotional well being.  

Regardless of whether their illness was work-related or not (some were, some weren't), they were ordinary people who had been working in their chosen field; teachers, police officers, court workers, public servants. They lived in big cities and country towns.  They were parents and single people. They had hobbies. They played sport. They loved their families.  

They were just like you and I and at that point in time they were really having trouble staying on top of things.

There was nothing special or unusual about these people.  They were just like you and I and at that point in time they were really having trouble staying on top of things.  Many of them had no prior experience of mental illness. Some had little idea of what was happening.  Many of them lacked the kind of support they needed to get well.  

This was a real eye opener.  I realised that mental illness is not confined to any one group of individuals. It is not strange, or odd, or unusual. It is very, very ordinary and far more common than we may think.  

Did you know?

  • In each year, approximately one in every five Australians will experience a mental illness. 
  • Mental illnesses are the third leading cause of disability in Australia. 
  • About 4% of people will experience a major depressive episode in a 12-month period, with 5% of women and 3% of men affected.
  • Approximately 14% of Australians will be affected by an anxiety disorder in any 12-month period.

My experience made me realise just how few of us understand mental health issues (myself included) and how little we talk about it.  

These days I run workplace training courses in mental health for Communicorp Group.  I am humbled by the willingness of people to share their stories in these sessions. Ordinary working people leading ordinary lives.

Mental health needs to be an ordinary conversation, held by ordinary people.

I will keep writing about mental health, mental illness, happiness, resilience and well being. I want to do my bit to keep the conversation going and I applaud my fellow mental health bloggers who write from so many different perspectives. Together we can do more.