October 9, 2016 – Thoughts on mental health week and awareness

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week in Australia!

Unfortunately I’m not really excited, but let me explain why.


It seems like every second day something new pops up on my Facebook feed about an awareness day for some mental illness or suicide or suicide prevention or depression or anxiety or BPD or PTSD or OCD. Awareness, awareness, awareness. We are awareness-ed out. We are so aware that we’re not even paying attention anymore. What does awareness even mean??

I’m disappointed in our government for championing awareness with breakfasts and fun runs and RUOK Days, because if it is that important to Canberra, where is the funding? I’m aware (haha get it?) that so many things need funding, but how many dead and depressed and anxious bodies can we shove under the rug before their legs start sticking out?

The biggest problem is that mental health funding depends on outcomes. Did you know that an outcome can be as small as getting out of bed? Booking an appointment for the next week even though you’re not sure you’ll be alive then? Telling the truth to your doctor because you finally feel like you can trust them? These were my outcomes. These were the biggest things for me, the things I was proud of. But these outcomes are hard to quantify on an excel spreadsheet so we cut the funding. Give us results that we can measure or get out of here.

I wish Malcolm Turnbull and Sussan Ley and the Department of Health would actually talk to people experiencing these things, I wish it doesn’t take a loved one’s death or illness before we can really see how bad this is. I wish headspace and beyondblue and Lifeline could use their money for more than keeping their heads just above the water in this ocean of drowning people. I wish people reaching out in desperation wouldn’t be turned away or hung up on or put on a huge waiting list but this is where we are.

I don’t have an answer. But if you see a sign on the road that says “BE AWARE: STEEP CLIFFS AHEAD”, you don’t keep driving in the same direction. We cannot keep driving in the same direction.

But it’s fine, don’t worry. Because at least we’re aware. Right?

(Take care my beautiful friends. I love you and I’m right here with you, always.)

16 thoughts on “October 9, 2016 – Thoughts on mental health week and awareness

  1. Beautifully written, and oh so true. Even here in the states it’s the same. Thank you for getting out of bed when it was impossible. You gave us Motivating Giraffe and his friends and great words to get through those tough times.

  2. Hi ! You hit the nail on the head with this post! We are awarenessed out! Time for the governments to fund mental health and other health concerns more . I could care less about sending people to Mars and other ridiculous government spending.It’s an old saying but it’s true: if you haven’t got your health ,you’ve got nothing.Here in Canada the Federal government is trying to cut health care spending. What a dumb thing to do especially with an aging population.Hope you are well . Thank you for the Giraffes ! Take care!

  3. Similar problems here in New York. The subways and streets are filled with the homeless mentally ill. Basically when the large institutions closed in the 1970s, mentally ill people were just ejected into the streets with maybe a prescription and little or no follow up services or programs. You’d think a city like New York and a country as rich as the USA could do better by its mentally ill citizens but every day you read about somebody who dies. Some commit suicide by cop. The police are often not trained to deal with psychotic people so they shoot them dead. Some unfortunates jump in front of the subway trains. Certain death.

    I was hospitalized last year for mental exhaustion and depression for two weeks at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, New York. Kings County Hospital is part of the Health & Hospitals Corporation (HHC). HHC hospitals are the worst in New York City. They tend to service minorities and immigrants two disenfranchised groups who get the worst possible health care. I have to say that those 2 weeks were more traumatizing than the illness. The doctors solution is to fill you full of drugs. Haldol and Effexor in my case. Horrible experience!! I just said and did what they wanted so I could be released. I was afraid every day. You see things in the mental health wards are so scary that you never want to return or deal with the mental health system every again.

    It is going to take a coalition of family, community, faith based/religious systems as well as the government to tackle this problem, do away with the stigma and prevent further deaths.

  4. I live in Canada, on the West Coast. I read your blog and then I saw your illustration with Motivating Giraffe. Your illustration brought tears to my eyes. I agree with you. Our provincial politicians should be ashamed how they have pushed mental health under the carpet. I know too many people who have resorted to drastic measures because they saw no way out. I don’t have answers but I believe we need to keep the conversation going because one day somebody has to listen. My parent’s generation, who survived the war, never spoke of such things. We have to remove the stigma.

  5. I love everything you said and what all your followers said! All so very true, but are we the only ones who are aware? It is hard to believe we are so still so lacking in good mental health care for anyone suffering.

  6. YES, I don’t think I’d realised you’re a fellow Aussie but 100% with you on this. According to the Libs (for any USA folk reading this the Australian “Liberal” party is actually the conservative right-wing party), a mere 10 clinical psych sessions in one year ought to have “cured” me from my anxiety disorder and depression. Sorry, but after 30-40 sessions spread out over a number of years and I’m only now just starting to feel human again and even then there are days where I have to fight to get out of bed.

    Don’t even get me started on how I feel about Turnbull et al’s shaming and financial exploitation of the poor, homeless, minority groups, refugees, mentally ill, disabled, students etc. They’re happy to take 35-40% of my husband’s income in taxes but as far as I can see they line their own pockets rather than channelling it into the health and quality of life of the people they’re bleeding dry. *takes a deep breath* As you can probably tell I think Australia’s rampant devolution into a cold, unfeeling nation of neoliberal capitalists is unhealthy for our population.

  7. You go Giraffe! Nailed this one on the head. Currently in Japan where ‘person entry’ is the very mundane way of notifying commuters that another sad person has taken their life, so their train will be delayed. Giraffe helps 👍.

  8. Such a great point! I live in the US, but we’re inundated with “awareness” and never seem to get anywhere if we don’t have statistics or special interests to support the need. Mental health is definitely a major issue. Another one that comes to mind, that you probably already know about, is the world’s inability to see giraffes and endangered species. It’s frightening how unaware the world is about the potential disappearance of one of the most amazing animals to walk this earth. If you’re unaware of this, you can check out the Giraffe Conservation Foundation website: https://giraffeconservation.org/

  9. Sadly true. Our Government is lacking in so many basic decent things, understanding, empathy, willingness to listen. Not sure the other lot are any better either. Sigh.

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