Partners in Recovery aim to break mental illness stigma

16 Jul

By Lana Wilding, Bond University Journalism Student

Janelle Reeves and Samantha Hall are using their experiences with severe mental illnesses to help break the mental health stigma in the Gold Coast community.

Both women are Ambassadors of Partners in Recovery, a Federal Government initiative that helps people with severe mental health issues find services available to help them.

Seminars around the Sunshine State named “Let’s have a chat” feature the women recalling their stories about dealing with mental illnesses.

The seminars comprise sharing tips about maintaining good mental health to prevent illnesses from recurring and sharing coping strategies for fellow sufferers.

Ms Reeves said they try to educate mental health sufferers that it is okay to take time for themselves.

“It’s okay to look after you, it’s not selfish, its self-caring,” said Ms Reeves.

The seminars have already had an amazing response from the community due to the personal touches.

“The reception I get from people when they hear what we are trying to do is amazing,” said Ms Reeves.

“People say I’m brave. I’m not brave. I’m more desperate to see change.”

The seminars also target people not living with mental illnesses but those wanting a better understanding of mental illnesses.

Ms Reeves believed the image surrounding mental disorders in Australia is unacceptable.

“I sometimes feel I’d be more accepted if I was in a wheelchair than with my mental illness,” said Ms Reeves.

“People in the community don’t want to think that there are imperfections in our brains.

“But I’m proud to be who I am and I want others suffering to feel the same.”

Both women agree the stigma around mental illness is slowly altering in Australia.

MS Hall recalled when she was first diagnosed with depression the stigma in society was that you just would not talk about it.

“If I acknowledged [my mental illness] it meant I was broken, when I wasn’t,” said Ms Hall.

“You just got told not to talk about it.”

Ms Hall said people in the community still do not completely understand mental illnesses such as depression.

“The word depression is thrown around too loosely, people think it is a feeling of sadness but sadness has got nothing to do with it,” said Samantha.

“You’d like to feel sad because then you’re actually feeling something instead of this complete and utter numb.”

Ms Hall hoped in the future that mental health education would start in primary schools.

“We want the education to start as early as possible, mental health education is so important,” said Ms Hall

“We need to put the phones down, put the iPads down and talk to our kids about what’s happening.”

For more information about Partners in Recovery visit the website

Partners in Recovery do not offer a crisis line. Call Triple Zero (000) or go to a hospital if you are in immediate danger



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