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Dealing with the black dog

Every year, around one in five Australians suffer from mental illness. Only a third of those sufferers are likely to seek professional support or help. They are often abandoned by institutions of power, from the Australian government to University administration, and face ignorant and problematic attitudes from friends and family. The following seven articles from…

mental_illness

Every year, around one in five Australians suffer from mental illness. Only a third of those sufferers are likely to seek professional support or help. They are often abandoned by institutions of power, from the Australian government to University administration, and face ignorant and problematic attitudes from friends and family.

The following seven articles from Honi Soit’s archive touch on numerous topics from the broader mental illness discussion – from personal experiences, to scientific developments, to the failure of our own University of Sydney in meeting the needs of students with mental illness.

  1. Lost in the system

With a system full of hurdles, so laborious and unwelcoming, many students are put off. The process of reaching out for help can be incredibly traumatic, and if a student has a poor experience, they may be entirely dissuaded from seeking the alternative help that they need.

An exploration of the University of Sydney’s institutional processes for dealing with mental illness, reveals how it has failed to provide flexible or appropriate services for those students.

  1. Marbles

Coming out as ‘bipolar’ to your close friends is difficult, so Ellen Forney just decided to get it all over and done with publicly. Her latest graphic novel, Marbles, is not only a coming out story, it is also her quest to analyse the links between creativity and mental illness.

Cartoonist Ellen Forney speaks to Honi about her graphic novel – and her own journey through mental illness.

  1. Praying the gay away

“People who undergo reparative therapy have this conflict – they’ve been downloading messages into their brain from a very young age that tell them being gay is the very worst thing to be; it’s wrong, dirty, disgusting,” he tells me. “And when the therapy fails, it just adds another layer of damage – they feel they have failed because they’re gay, and then they’ve failed again because they haven’t reoriented.”

Conversion therapy, as it is called, are treatments that purport to “change” the sexual orientation of “patients” from homosexual to heterosexual. It is underpinned by an assumption that homosexuality is a mental disorder, and instead causes mental damage of its own by reinforcing the normality of heterosexuality and promoting harmful stereotypes.

  1. Mental health and the law

It is almost a cliché these days that legal education and practice have a severe problem with mental health among its ranks. The reality is that mental illness exists in the system, and although it is absolutely treatable, its systemic origins and effects are yet to be adequately addressed.

The metal health challenges facing law students are immense, and both the industry and education system have done little more than embrace these challenges as the reality of all “high-intensity degrees”.

  1. Reading the blood

We desperately need a method of detecting suicidal tendencies that do not rely on the capacity of the individual to recognize their own problems.

Scientific breakthroughs are allowing mental illness to be detected and diagnosed through blood tests, developments that will no doubt save lives in the future.

  1. Out of focus

Having Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity disorder, also known by the older term Attention Deficit Disorder, can itself be likened to driving an unreliable car. Great to drive, perhaps, once you get on the road. If you can get it to start, that is. All too often, the ADHD brain will just leave you turning the key in the ignition to no avail, stalled in the middle of the road.

ADHD is being increasingly diagnosed in adults, and such a diagnosis can often come as a relief.

  1. Weight Expectations: the pressure to be thin

The disturbing fact is that the mortality rate for people with anorexia nervosa is 20 per cent, or one in five, the highest of all psychiatric disorders and over 12 times the rate seen in people without eating disorders. The risk of successful suicide is also 32 times higher than that expected for major depression, in which deaths from suicide are 21 times greater than expected in the general population.

An estimated one in 20 Australians have an eating disorder. With a particularly elevated risk around university age, it’s on campus that services and awareness should be most prominent.