Understanding mental illness

MENTAL illness is silent and often very misunderstood, and one Gawler resident hopes that speaking about her own experience will help change that.

Tracey Seys, who has resided in the Gawler Supportive Care mental health facility for the past year, said there is often a negative stigma surrounding mental illness, however since taking up residence at the clinic she has come along in leaps and bounds.

It is for this reason she encourages anyone who might be struggling to reach out for help.

“It is a lot easier now because people know; they don’t look at me and just see this weird and strange woman that forgets things, and doesn’t cope very well because I have really bad anxiety issues,” she said.

“I have been sick since I was a child, but when I was a child, ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder), and stuff like that, wasn’t diagnosable.”

Miss Seys said battling mental illness has been, at times, lonely and dark, and been misunderstood by herself, people close to her, and people in the wider community.

“When I was 14 things started to turn, and I left home and I have been on my own ever since,” she said.

“I had my first baby at 17, so I pretty much just had three years to learn and do everything on my own, so it was pretty full-on.”

Miss Seys said drugs became an escape, with addiction and medical episodes taking up almost half her life.

“If I hadn’t got the help from GSC (Gawler Supportive Care) when I did, I would probably have ended up dead,” she said.

Gawler Supportive Care executive officer Erin Heysed said common stereotypes of people with mental illness include them being dangerous, weak-willed or unpredictable, which is often untrue.

“People with mental health challenges are often treated differently, as people fail to recognise it as being a medical disorder, and rather as something that the person can choose or control,” she said.

“Mental health issues have been long misunderstood by the public, unfortunately.”

Miss Heysed said there are various warning signs, such as feelings of sadness, irritability, anxiety or
social withdrawal, to name a few, and the sooner individuals seek help, the better.

For support, visit a local general practitioner or call Lifeline (13 11 14), Suicide Call Back Service (1300 659 467) or Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800).

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Growing up in Roseworthy and attending Kapunda High School, Laura joins The Bunyip in June, 2016 whilst completing the final year of a double degree in Journalism and International Relations at University of SA. This is Laura's first role as a Journalist following a stint at Gawler Council in the Communications Department. She will cover the news in the Playford and Mallala council regions. Outside of work, Laura enjoys anything health and well-being related, and can be regularly seen shopping for fresh, healthy produce at local markets.

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