a blog about mental illness and community

Archive for October, 2013

The Bipolar Wall

rainbow brain

Source: flickr

This is an illustration of the Bipolar Wall.

It’s like the Berlin Wall but depicted on a brain as a metaphor for mental illness.

With me so far?

This is how I look at it: the Bipolar Wall is the divide between ‘us’ (the chemically imbalanced) and ‘them’ (regular, non-pathological folk).

We have BIG communication issues.

Let’s face it, it’s hard to have a conversation about important stuff like self-harm and suicidal thoughts when there’s a bloody great wall between you and whoever you’re talking to!

Our voices can’t be heard. The messages get garbled.

Sometimes, it takes so much effort for ‘us’ to keep hollering for help and ‘them’ to keep shouting well-meaning questions and encouragement that both parties simply give up.

Communication breaks down.

And there you have it, the Bipolar Wall – the barrier to effective communication about mental illness; the obstacle to awareness, understanding and collaboration within the community.

To change the situation, we need to grab every sledgehammer we can find, break down that dastardly wall and get the dialogue going – from both sides.

Or we could interact online and foster a validating community where it’s safe to share personal stories of mental illness…

You can share your story, anonymously or otherwise, right here on savvy, willing & able.


Comic about real curves

Colleen Clark is an awesome illustrator from the US of A who enjoys drawing everything from fairy tale characters to Tina Fey.

One of her latest projects is a four-panel comic about the ‘body issues’ that plague individuals and society as a whole.

Colleen makes the statement that appearance shouldn’t determine a person’s self-worth. It ain’t healthy!

Everyone has so much more to offer the world than how flat their stomach is or what size pants they wear.

Colleen Clark 1

Colleen Clark 2

Colleen Clark 3

Colleen Clark 4

How about we focus more on people’s intelligence, compassion and wit (our own included) as opposed to ‘beauty’, weight, and how well we carry a suit?

Easier said than done, but the challenge will be worth it.

You can check out one of my previous posts on body image here.

Quote of the day

you'd never say it's just cancer

Source: flickr

Double standards much?

Depression, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder… All are legitimate illnesses.

Although psychiatric disorders manifest differently than cancer, they are no less severe.

Just as no one would choose to suffer from heart disease or a broken leg, no one would choose to struggle with clinical depression or anorexia.

Telling someone to “just get over” their mental illness is hugely invalidating and often makes the person feel much worse.

A little sensitivity really does go a long way.

You can check out one of my previous posts on stigma here.

Eating disorders on the web

Facts and stats are useful, but it’s more powerful to put a human face on experiences of mental illness.

That’s certainly the case when it comes to eating disorders.

The National Eating Disorders Collaboration estimates that up to 9% of the Australian population suffers from an eating disorder.

ED infographic

Source: National Eating Disorders Collaboration

But who are these people?

What do they look like? (For the record, most people with an eating disorder fall within the healthy weight range.)

How has their illness affected their relationships, financial status, physical health and hopes for the future?

In my Googling and YouTubing, I’ve found a number of excellent articles, videos and interviews that address these questions.

Thin is a documentary by US photojournalist Lauren Greenfield. The film focuses on the girls and women who populate an inpatient eating disorders ward.

The BBC documentary Living on Air is a bit dated, but it still conveys the emotional agony of living with anorexia and bulimia.

Then there’s a couple of intense, well-written articles on the subject of eating disorders on The Guardian’s website.

You can read ‘The truth about size zero’ here, and ‘What health professionals should know about eating disorders’ here.

Something that bugs me is that binge-eating disorder and EDNOS (eating disorder not-otherwise-specified) are often left off the radar.

People who are overweight, obese, or do not fit into the diagnostic criteria for anorexia or bulimia still suffer from a legitimate mental illness and deserve recognition.

As such, I was excited to find an informative video that focuses on one of the ‘lesser-known’ eating disorders.

These videos and articles are a good starting point for understanding eating disorders and identifying with the individuals they affect.

What are your thoughts?

Defeating Depression via MTV

Source: SoulPancake

Get a load of this!

MTV has announced it will air Life Continued: Defeating Depression at 7pm tomorrow to commemorate World Mental Health Day.

Life Continued: Defeating Depression is a 60-minute special produced by Rainn Wilson’s SoulPancake.

The documentary goes inside the lives of two young people from different parts of the US who have fought their way through severe mental health struggles.

It’s certainly not all doom and gloom though. The youngsters found hope and a path to recovery by seeking treatment and drawing strength from those around them.

The short doco responds to the fact that suicide is the third-leading cause of death among people aged 15-24.

It aims to empower viewers facing mental illness to get help or to support friends in need.

“Depression can be debilitating, and many teens and young adults are struggling to find their way to mental health,” Rainn Wilson said.

“SoulPancake is excited to partner with MTV to tell the brave stories of two college students who found their way out of the darkness. We hope this special can inspire viewers to seek help and support, and find the courage to heal.”

Reject Laguna Beach and watch Life Continued instead – at least on World Mental Health Day.

You can check out my post on the truth about suicide here.

Walk away from stigma

Source: Mental Health Association Australia

Today marks the start of Mental Health Week.

Mental Health Week is an annual national awareness event created to engage communities in activities which promote good mental health and increase understanding of the needs, experiences and issues concerning people with a mental illness.

It’s organised by the Mental Health Association Australia, and encompasses a wide range of initiatives throughout the country.

One major event is happening in Brisbane from 6:30am this Sunday at Kangaroo Point. The Mental Health Week Walk aims to raise awareness of depression and other mental illnesses.

So why not register? There’ll be live music, kids’ entertainment and a BBQ lunch to reward your support.

You can find a list of other Mental Health Week activities here.

Another great source of info and events related to psychological health – not just this week, but throughout the whole year – is the Mental Awareness Foundation.

It’s time to get out into the October sunshine and do something within your community to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness.

Not only is Mental Health Week an important initiative, it’s the best excuse you can get for boosting your own serotonin stocks.

Sketching stigma

Want to learn about stigma as it applies to bipolar disorder?

Look no further than this ace video from the research team at Crest BD.

While this clip focuses on bipolar, the three-tier model can be applied to any mental illness.

To use anorexia as an example:

  • Self stigma: not accepting the diagnosis of anorexia, internalising negative stereotypes, blaming oneself for being ‘weak’
  • Social stigma: other people in society expressing views that anorexia is not a legitimate mental illness or is all about ‘vanity’
  • Structural stigma: lack of employment and healthcare opportunities, unhelpful media images invalidating anorexia

With more short and sweet educational videos like this one, stigma doesn’t stand a chance!

NB: I got the idea for this post from a great blog I discovered yesterday, Marci, Mental Health, & More.

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