Scott Ludlam, an Australian senator, has become a mental health warrior by taking time out to treat his depression and anxiety. He joins the ranks of many people before him who have also challenged stigma and discrimination.
Is there a responsibility for those with mental illness to share with others? I know I feared I’d lose my job, lose any respect I did have, and lose my personality to a mental illness label. So I struggled on. Challenging societal “norms” is not easy and usually there are repercussions.
When I had a mental health workforce participation support worker I still couldn’t negotiate flexibility. My worker recognised I needed part-time work but the employer refused this despite the job being written with me in mind.
In an employment environment of high competition for jobs, having a mental illness is perceived to interfere with productivity, seen as an unacceptable risk.
By comparison Ludlam’s position is being held for him to return to when he can. Let’s hope this inspires employers to see that all workers deserve similar opportunities to fight their demons.
Now that I am unemployed I have opened up to many people at times because it was impossible to disguise. As I will discuss in a future post people often do not understand the nature of a chronic illness, which leaves me feeling defensive and guilty. A dear friend of mine says I don’t have to feel the need to explain everything about myself. It’s private and should remain that way for most people. Yet I feel I need to explain my failures, stagnation and my life situation.
This is not what a warrior is about.
Brave troopers are loud and proud, confidently saying “I accept me. I accept my unique journey. I encourage you to learn more.”
I am not there yet, but I’m getting there.
In a climate where attitudes range from misinformed to highly judgemental privacy remains an important part of the armoury to deal with your own mental health issues.
We should not be ashamed of our struggles and as more high profile people come forward and give dignity to the pain, and provide facts, they will hopefully help to dispel the myths and encourage empathy toward those who have this invisible disease. With greater public acceptance, people with mental illness will find it easier to accept themselves and work on recovery.
This piece was subsequently published in The Mighty under the title “Why Scott Ludlam’s Leave is Important for the Mental Health Community”