I'm sick of the word of the "mental"

Trigger warning: This article could be triggering for some readers.

I wish there was another word to identify health issues that relate to illness of the brain other than ‘mental’.

My first introduction to the stigma of ‘mental illness’ was after having found my Mum. I was fourteen. Her untimely death meant that I would have to lie – ‘She had a brain haemorrhage’ was the explanation we were told to give.

30 years later, I had to stop lying. Genetic or not, I too had my life turned upside down by this insidious illness called ‘depression’. I’d suffered my fair share of the ‘trials and tribulations’ of life but nothing would compare to this. Medication that didn’t work for me; treatments that have left me with huge gaps in my memory; endless sessions with psychologists and the knowledge that if I couldn’t understand this illness, how could those who cared about me do. Recently, we had ‘R U OK’ day – a worthy sentiment, but not much help if you only ask the question once a year and are not prepared for the answer. Most people who suffer depression are acutely aware of being a ‘burden’ to those who care about them so most will answer, ‘I’m fine’.

In my experience, ‘depression’ is the most debilitating of all illnesses. I’ve experienced cancer – a breeze in comparison. What saddens me most is that 25 per cent of the population will experience this illness, yet, comparatively, little funding is offered to those who research it.

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It’s not all ‘doom and gloom’. Like many who suffer chronic illness, we either succumb or learn to live with it and live our lives as cheerfully as we can – for the sake of ourselves and those that love and care about us.

As we age, many will fall fowl of the ‘Black Dog’ – to one degree or another. Being sensitive to the changes in the mood of our friends; calling them just to have a chat; …….the smallest of gestures can make an enormous difference.

Today the sun is out; the sky is blue; it’s not too chilly and whilst I’ve got a bloody cold; my ankle is still giving me gip but is improving and I really need to have a shower, it’s a good day!

Time to make a coffee; sit in the sun for a little while; force myself to have that shower I’ve been contemplating and hope that someone reads my ‘blog’!


Lifeline provides all Australians experiencing a personal crisis with access to online, phone and face-to-face crisis support and suicide prevention services. If you or someone you know is at risk, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.