Not so nice: Razer on ABC's guileless Mental Health Week

In news that is unsurprising but may bring comfort nonetheless: no one listens to a fucking thing I say. I am culturally useless. If required to describe my critical influence, I would say it hovers somewhere between all-girl naughties pop sensation Bardot and a piece of dog shit. If I had any more force than a single case of canine waste, or even just as much as the lyrics to the song, Poison, then someone at the ABC would surely have had a good, hard think about the intellectual virus at the heart of its mental health promotion and made it a bit less offensively sick.

I wrote last year on Daily Review about how counterproductive the ABC’s Mental As week was and, honestly, I was deceived for a moment by a volume of page views and correspondence into thinking I had “made a difference” or “started a conversation” about appropriate communications surrounding mental health.

Of course, this is delusional thought and I have nothing to blame but my own lavish self-involvement for daring to suppose that “making a difference” or “starting a conversation” is likely within the parameters of popular media. Popular media is generally only popular when it tells people what they already want to hear which, in the case of the ABC’s week of broadcast, which looks set to be even more guileless and shit than it was last year, is this: it’s really important to be nice.

I mean. Of course, it’s important to be nice when it comes to mental health. In one’s personal sphere, being unpleasant to someone experiencing mental illness is stupid. Of course, unpleasantness is, at times, also inevitable and I imagine I am not the only person to have told their mentally unwell friend to “go and see your fucking doctor, you prize loony” in recent months.

Every day for a fortnight, my friend, whom I have known for decades, described his persecution by the deli counter at Woollies, and at one point, the only “nice” thing to offer was an unpleasant reminder that triple-smoked ham wasn’t his chief problem, but hypomania was. He eventually conceded that smallgoods weren’t poisoning his mind and that, really, he probably did need to see a psychiatrist more frequently. He then made the point that frequent psychiatric appointments were unavailable to him.

This point is clear to many, many people experiencing mental illness. It was also one largely absent in the week of Mental As. And for a week the purports to be in service to “awareness”, a lack of awareness about the lack of mental health services, or, indeed, of social policy programs that might actually stop people from becoming mentally ill in the first place, doesn’t just seem negligent to me. It seems bloody-minded.

Like many Australians experiencing mental ill health, my friend cannot access regular care. It’s Just. Not. There. I shan’t shame him or diminish our intimacy by telling you just how spectacularly unwell he has been, but I implore you to believe both of us when we tell you: the resources that exist for him in no way address the severity of his condition.

And, you know, you don’t have to believe me and my own sentimental narration. What, in the name of Sophie Monk, am I trying to do here? If you want Moving Personal Stories, shower yourself in the saccharine sick that will be reliably upchucked by ABC1 all this week in prime time. “From break down to break through”, say their promotions. “Be inspired!” What the actual cock? You want us to be inspired by people with a disability? If you can explain to me how this pastel Oprahfication of hardship differs in any significant way from a freak show, I’m available for “inspiring” conversation by Skype.

So, ignore my Movie of the Week screenplay in which I would describe to you the tale of a formerly content and productive man worn down by life and turned to a nub of self-loathing by a health care system that is so under-resourced, it cannot monitor his meds or even keep track of his diagnosis. My tears aren’t the point here and his “inspiring” story of an already difficult life made worse by the fact of many institutional snafus isn’t your concern. It shouldn’t be your concern. And while, of course, it might be entertaining — although not, in this case “uplifting” as many of the programs on ABC radio and television promise this week to be – this doesn’t mean it is useful. Even, and especially, in the terms set out by this week of myopic “awareness” itself.

Underscoring Mental As week are the propositions that (a) large numbers of Australians are afflicted by what is diagnosed as mental illness and (b) Something Needs To Be Done. The ABC has decided in its week of Moving Personal Stories, to apply the perverse logic of the politician’s syllogism to these entirely valid propositions. i.e. 1 We must do something 2 This is something 3 Therefore, we must do this.

So, what the ABC did last year, and what it looks to be doing this year, is offer us Inspiring Tales of Individual Courage and/or Heartbreaking Stories of Hopeless Loss. And, I fucking know that everyone and their incontinent dog seems to agree with Alain de Botton’s wide-eyed view that personal stories about individuals help us understand wide policy contexts — AdB says that stories of Arabs “eating tabbouleh and stuffed vine leaves in a bucolic field overlooking the River Jordan” will help us understand Middle Eastern conflict — but I really, truly don’t. I am up to pussy’s red bow with Moving Narratives. And so is my loony mate who just needs to see a shrink once a week. And so are many shrinks themselves.

Mental health care representative bodies—and let’s be crazy and suppose that people who work every day of their lives to remediate mental illness have some expertise in the matter of remediating mental illness — are always talking about resources. They are much more interested in the raising of funds than of awareness. When a major report was delivered to government about the distribution of available resources earlier this year, The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists drew public attention to the “absence of clear funding models”. The leaked summary of the report itself painted what one of its authors called a “disturbing picture” of services whose lack resulted, particularly in remote and rural Australia, in death.

While it is true that the ABC reports throughout the year on paucity or folly of funding to mental health services, it is also true that this critical fact is trivialised by the tears-and-triumph cycle of spin on its Mental As week. Even Radio National, an ABC scion that could once be relied upon to blast us with facts instead of feeling, is promoting a fucking “compassion call out”. Listeners are encouraged to enumerate those “little acts of kindness” that have delivered us from poor mental health. And, again, as the friend and the relative of mentally unwell people, I understand that it’s important to be nice. But I also understand, as does any fucker who recognises the principle of causation, that “nice” is an optional extra. Our core social purchase, surely, must be actual health care. Still, the RN morning program looks set to devote many of its broadcast hours to telling people to be nice.

I do understand that the problem of other people’s impatience with one’s mental illness can be significant. I do understand that those few who hear their own voices on the ABC this week or, at least, hear their own concerns echoed in other stories, may feel less diminished. I also understand that feeling understood is a simple, tiny part of a big, complex solution. Being well understood by one’s psychiatrist is a much more urgent matter than being understood by the producer of Life Matters. I understand that inspiring blog posts and moving talkback callers can provide a little boost. I also know that adequate mental health services, whose depleted state will be barely addressed again this year, are much more socially useful than Frank and Personal Discussion that comes with a hashtag.

This is not to say that all this inspiring warmth is, in itself, destructive. But, when it is elevated, as it has been and will be, to absolute primacy, it’s actually an impediment. If we begin to believe, as the ABC is absolutely encouraging us to do, that the only barrier to good mental health is our personal understanding, then we let policy makers off the hook.

Yes yes yes. It’s nice to understand. It’s lovely to be moved. It’s great to be that One Brave Person Who Changes Everything with the simple act of eating vine leaves stuffed with emotion next to a river of tears. But, when one confronts one’s disorder and finds that there is no practical help, Facebook likes just ain’t going to cut it. What you probably need most as a mentally unwell person– whose affliction is likely to be produced by or to itself produce poverty– are a range of social services. These do not currently exist in any adequate way. And this is a matter the ABC seems set, again, to largely overlook.

Compassion and understanding are nice, of course. They are not, however, of much use. And I am aware that the ABC is not in the business of providing services but it is — as an organisation who has had its funding impacted far less than mental health services — in the business of investigation. That the ABC has elected to focus on individual acts of kindness and not institutional acts of reform is curious, by which I mean fucked and stupid.

This year as last, Mental As week will end its week of emotional, inspiring, heartbreaking, moving awareness with a fundraiser. This is a little fiscal coda that makes the entire week of emotion valid, I guess. The recipients of this will not be people who urgently need more regular care but, instead, early career medical research. Quite a bit of this research appears to be focused around better media communications for mental health awareness.

Here, for the dog shit they are worth, are the fruits of my “research”: stop presenting individuals as the principal architects of illness and recovery. Stop this make-believe that institutional reform is much less important than lovely people. Stop supposing that we need stuffed emotional vine leaves to save a nation from its SSRI habit and start assuming that those of us who are stakeholders in this nation and its health are actually patient enough to talk a little policy.

And, FFS, stop trying to make me cry. I have mentally unwell people in my life and I fucking cry enough. And, frankly, the tendency to take such people and make them objects for inspiration or of pity makes me weep sufficient to fill a narrative river. I am so fucking tired of being treated like an idiot who can only really “understand” social problems in the terms of a sensitive Australian Story. I do not need to see another celebrity strolling through a meadow grass while speaking lyrically about anxiety attacks. I know what an anxiety attack looks like. Everybody does. I don’t want you to show me this shit. I want you to show me how I can lead the people that I love into the suites of a good and affordable doctor.

Their distress is not our entertainment. Their antidote is not our understanding. Your “compassion call out” is a toxic waste. We must do something. This is not something. Let’s not, for yet another year, do this.

Related story

Ben Neutze reviews ABC Mental Health Week documentary Changing Minds 

Previously by Helen Razer: Lena Dunham has no place in politics

118 responses to “Not so nice: Razer on ABC's guileless Mental Health Week

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  2. Fucking brilliant. Thank you.

    As someone ‘with a lived experience’ of the whole kit and caboodle – meds/hospitals etc., the ABC offered up nothing more than candy floss.

    Mental illness is not a heroic journey from broken to fixed. Most of the time it’s just fucking awful and the best people can hope for is stability – and that’s if they are lucky enough to get the right treatment from the right people in the right way.

    Fay Jackson, deputy commissioner of the NSW Mental Health Commission, took up valuable air time on Q&A delivering her ‘oh so hilarious’ anecdote. The story reinforced the ‘us and them’ and we are something to be feared.

    The guy next to her, from memory who was there to represent mental health and ageing, barely said 2 words all night.

    Tony Jones would have nipped that never ending story in the bud quick smart if it were anyone else.

    And finally what’s with the Changing Minds / Stevie / Dr Cross tales from looney bin Nirvana? Where do they find these people who genuinely seem to care? If only psych hospital were really like that.

    Reality is quite different to Mental Health Week – it goes on all year and it’s neither cute nor inspiring.

  3. Helen,

    You are spot-on about everything. The ABC has dropped the ball on this issue; both times. They provide bromides and little else. As anyone with mental illness knows, bromides don’t make you feel better, coke, weed, heroin, alcohol, meth, ketamines do. They all act on the nucleus accumbens. These mothers little helpers don’t make you feel high they just make you feel something other than a piece of shit. The drug issue is not about drugs it is about mental health. Where is 4 Corners on this issue. They have the capability to shine a light on this disgrace. The ABC mental as thing is an appalling joke.

    I have a long standing personality disorder brought about by very dodgy parents and a genetic disposition for anxiety. Sixty years of pain. Not one mention was made in the Mental As thing that Adverse Childhood events make drug addicts. not lifestyle choices.

    But it’s all OK. Andrew Robb had his depression fixed so what’s wrong with the rest of us?



  4. Well said, Helen. I am a nurse who works in community health in a rural area and I get fed up with the refusal of so many at the top to admit that treatment of the mentally ill is too often defined and measured by class, location and income. If you suffer from severe depression, it pays to be in the middle-class, so then you can afford to take ‘the time to yourself’. How can you take time off from work when you rely on casual shifts? How can you afford the $100-a-pop for a counsellor when you are un-employed or only work part-time? How can you meditate when you live under a railway bridge in the city?
    The housing boom has steadily squeezed many low-income folk from the cities out into small forgotten rural towns over the past decade or so, a demographical change that so far has gone totally unnoticed, except by policemen, health workers and school-teachers in country towns who now have to face a myriad of issues yet with only a fraction of the help and resources their city counterparts can generally rely on. Now many of our mentally ill have been moved ‘out of sight and out of mind’ out into the country, joining the growing lists of struggling farmers driven to suicidal depression by el Nino and uncontrollably rising overheads.
    I agree with you, Helen. Sympathy and well-wishes are fine but its real actual treatment and resources that are going to help the mentally-ill and its real structural and social change that are going to prevent more cases from developing in the first place.

  5. Wow, I feel so proud. As a person who has lived with bipolar disorder since the age of 24, (27 years and counting), i’ve officially been told i’m a “fuckwit” on mental health by a woman in the media who I lovingly listened to religiously from the nineties in her days at JJJ with Mikey Robbins, i’m truly blessed, thanks Helen.

    Oh, also, thanks for the heads-up on Eckhart Tolle, i’ll search out his books at my local library once I can afford to pay my late library fees on my current Oprah “book of the month” selection and Tony Robbins latest on “self-actualisation”. (My medication costs and trips to the “free” dentist have put a dent in my “free” reading accessibility to self-help). Unfortunately the debilitating lows of my bipolar mean weeks of self-loathing in my darkened room, and hence the library late fees, a bummer I know ?

    But again, to be called a “fuckwit” by a former feminist, left-wing media, ABC darling, fills my little bipolar induced paranoid brain with pride, thank you.

    My copy of your “advice” (soon to be framed) will sit pride of place on my hospital side board the next time I am hospitalised, thanks Helen, your a peach !!

    1. I have to say that this set of comments has been the highlight of mental health week for me. At last people who know what the reality is for Aussies living with a mental illness. It is an ugly reality much of the time. To the fella that asked for contact your email address is not fully displayed. ChrisnCoral Giffin on Facebook or email at will get to me. Mental Health and Wellbeing Australia on Facebook is also a good resource and I am part of the admin group that volunteers there. Hope this helps.

  6. My mother has paranoid schizophrenia, not that our family ever received an official diagnosis from a doctor. The hospital that admitted her at the time of her first ‘episode’ wouldn’t tell my father what her diagnosis was because of ‘patient confidentiality’. They were, however, quite comfortable releasing my mother into my father’s care, despite the fact that they’d been separated for about a decade. Nothing could be done for her, he was told, unless she posed a risk of harm to herself or others. So basically it was up to him to put up with her fucking crazy behaviour without the luxury of knowing exactly what it was he was dealing with.

    Eventually, I decided that if the mental health system wasn’t going to do anything for my mother, I was going to MAKE the fucking system do something for me (let’s just say that being raised by a crazy parent can leave you slightly messed up.). I saw a psychiatrist weekly for 3 years, completely free, thanks to Medicare. The psychiatrist was the one who told me that based on my descriptions of my mother’s behaviour, she most likely had paranoid schizophrenia. I broke down and wept uncontrollably when he told me that and when he acknowledged how badly the system had let my mother, me and my family down.

    I’ll always be grateful that I was able to access mental health services for myself, but really, it would have been much better if the system had helped my mother in the first place.

    We don’t need awareness. We need a mental health system that doesn’t let people like my mother slip through its cracks.

  7. Thank you Helen for this article. As someone living with mental illness i really needed to read this, it helps validate my perspective, and what I’ve been feeling for quite awhile. RU OK day is now SO offensive to me, give me a balloon, hand me a donut, and many places legislative requirements are met. It’s inane, and it’s clouding the real message, or more precisely, the real issues, and they are as you state in the article. I was brought to feelings of dread by Triple J’s ‘Hack’ yesterday afternoon, for every brief glimpse of the reality and hardships, there were twice as many over achievers stating (paraphrasing) stay on your Meds, experiment with therapys, you’ll be okay. No mention of HOW you can afford meds, or therapy. This week has so upset me, I wish I could be more lucid here in what I’m trying to convey, but I’m SO rattled, especially after the reporting on ‘Hack’.

    1. Thanks, G. SO many of the comments here by folks with MI are fascinating/distressing.
      To restate something you and others have mentioned: moments of the ABC’s programming have served to make some with MI feel markedly worse.
      This is for sundry reasons. Some folks feel triggered in a very immediate way. Some feel exploited. And some, like you, feel frustrated by the stories of “inspiration”.
      You also mention something I tried to touch on in the original post which was the ratio of inspiration to hard facts. I would like to say again that I have no particular problem with the fact of moving personal stories. It is when they become the primary mode of discourse, as they very much have, that they become a problem. Pointing to the occasional moment of investigation by the ABC is not the point. Pointing to the primacy of the Inspirational Moment really is.
      I get that hope works generally as entertainment. “You Can Do It If You Try” is okay (although in my view, not ideal) for people experiencing no particular hardship. But to be very vulnerable, either as someone with MI or someone who has a relationship with someone with MI, and to constantly face the implicit message that the only thing that is really impeding recovery is your bad attitude is actually harmful.
      I understand the ABC does not intend to offer a message that can only be read by vulnerable people as “you didn’t do enough to help”, but that is what the message is, nonetheless.
      A message of hope feel great to some. To others, particularly those who know the day-to-day hopelessness of getting help joining a society from which you have been, in multiple ways, excluded, it feels like an extra lie.

  8. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. My s.o. suffers from depression and crippling anxiety, and all week we’ve been dealing with the consequences of her compulsively watching yet another “inspiring” story on abc at night, becoming understandably more depressed and anxious and then having to be coaxed gently to bed sometime later, crying, despondent and feeling 100x worse than when she began.

    Yes it’s all very “nice” that the abc cares so much (as do most people in my experience – it’s not like compassion is in short supply) but rather than an endless round unsettling privacy invasion… sorry I mean “deeply personal stories of heartbreak and triumph”… how about some investigative journalism on the (lack of) services available? Maybe an intellectual debate on the best way to improve the situation? Or a sciency investigation of possible causes and treatment? I don’t know… even just talk to some pollies and ask them what their plans are? Pretty much anything other than the current pointless parade of too-personal but oddly uninformative, counter-productive freak show in PC disguise would be good.

    (oh and regarding radio national: there are still some great programs on air, but best to stream the good stuff and just skip the “so deeply personal and compassionately artsy my brain appears to have leaked out my ears” crap that goes with it altogether)

  9. I sometimes wonder if increased awareness de-stigmatises mental illness. Let’s hope it does. But maybe it just generates a more nuanced stigmatisation. When was the term mental illness first coined anyway? The label itself seems the mother of all stigmatisation. Surely the root of so-called M.I. is emotional, and of course white-hot torment is going to turn you into a magical thinker now and then. That M.I. became the official term hints at a kind of social predation at the heart of diagnostic vocabulary.

  10. Razor often annoys the shit out of me, though i’ve always understood that as being partially the point. This article however,I can only agree wholeheartedly with.

    A few months ago my shrink prescribed me hugely expensive drugs (because they were being used in a way that didn’t come under the benefits scheme). Combined with the other regularly-priced drugs I was prescribed, these actually made a difference. However, it took a lot of scrimping effort for me to afford them (i’m a student, on a scholarship income). In the meantime the drugs run out, I have a major episode, and I can’t get back in to see the guy for months. Not only that, the doctor surgery sees fit to cancel my appointment because I don’t immediately have the money to afford the “holding fee”, 60 dollars you have to give them, with which they bribe you to actually turn up to the appointment so you can get it back. I don’t have the money so I don’t get the appointment. I’m not even one of the people prone to missing appointments, i’ve never missed one with this doc! I need to see the f***********arking doctor for f***************************************************ck sake.

  11. Thank you Helen,

    I am sick of the trite representations of mental illness in the media and even more sick of the trite responses to it through “systemic responses”. It is a very complex business. Much of what is already funded is a complete waste of money though. I would hate to see more money provided to “community based” services which consist of infrequent visits from questionably trained social workers and nurses to people’s homes at which time they fill out the reams of paperwork which is supposed to focus the “consumer” on the steps they alone need to take towards their own recovery.
    If you are very unwell you need to be in hospital. You need to be looked after, you need to be able to experiment with medications, ECT, TMS, CBT etc! Institutions (when properly funded and staffed) are good places for some people to be. Institutions are places where some communal responsibility for treatment can be found. Leaving people alone in their houses in the community and visiting once a week for an hour is not treatment.
    Psychiatrists and psychologists are the professionals who are properly trained to deal with mental illness. Access to their expertise and to the supports (pharmaceutical, social, economic etc) which they recommend is all that should be funded. De-stigmatising institutional care rather than de-funding it is a big part of the solution. The “community” isn’t such a great place to be if you have a mental illness.
    There must be vigilance that “alternative therapies” (including religion) do not fill the void left by inadequate medical treatment. Naturopaths, chiropractors, rebirthing practitioners, reiki healers and priests cannot help you with your mental illness.

  12. So – this is me –
    And this is what the article DID do.
    1. MY family & friends understood me better. MY mother – who swore I’d be better if I just “acted happier” – *gets* it now.
    2. I helped a person (because – that’s all it needed for me) go and get some help. For her to understand that she wasn’t alone – that she needed to ask the questions, for her to understand that there IS help out there.

    and if it just stopped 1 person long enough to make a decision NOT to hurt themselves – but to start to *heal* themselves instead – then it is worth it.

    Because I’m NOT famous, I’m just an ordinary woman – who suffers from this and any number of co-morbidities associated to it.

    But the article did point people to a place to go and ask 1 more question. And that was all I needed at the time…

  13. As one who suffers from a range of mental illnesses, I can only say the programs I have watched and listened to on Mental As have just been triggers. I have tried to watch and listen but it just sets me off.

    What I want to hear about is advances in treatment. Recognition of problems is a very basic first step. As they say it is merely the first step on a long journey. I have been told by my psychiatrist that the mental illnesses I suffer are permanent, it’s just about management. I am tired of people telling me I can solve my mental illness if I just put my mind to it and work on it. These stories about “I was down but now I’m up again” give me the shits. It is like some simpleton’s happy every after story. I face, every day permanent chronic illnesses: insulin dependent diabetes, biliary dyskinesia. I’d like them to go away but they don’t. Sometimes they are worse, sometimes they are managed. Same with my mental illness. I live with that so the rest of you just need to put up with the different me too.

  14. Hi there,
    I can totally see where you are coming from but have to say I am really happy to hear any coverage on the subject of depression and mental illness.

    I (we) lost my two small sons father to suicide 7 years ago. Devastation aside, it has been an absolute minefield figuring out how to navigate my boys growing up around this fact without creating further hurt for them in the future. The experts say to tell them fact in age appropriate doses as kids who don’t find out the truth about suicide of a loved one, especially a parent, until they are much older or adults tend to fare far worse than those that knew the truth from the beginning. This I have done, as needed, as the subject arises, in the most child appropriate ways possible. It’s an ongoing process that will take years and have been some of the most difficult, heartbreaking conversations of my life.

    Recently a parent of a little mate of my youngest son mentioned that my boy had brought it up in conversation. The parent mentioned that he found it confronting – back in his day “you didn’t air your dirty laundry”. I understand that it was intended as more an observation from the parent than a judgement, but actually I realise it is a hangover from the days when that was actually the case and subjects like suicide were only spoken of if you were ‘weird’. It tainted you so you made up other stories to cover the fact.

    I refuse to risk future harm to my children by concealing the truth about their dads death in order to save other people those uncomfortable conversations that inevitably arise when kids say something confronting like “my dad is dead, he made himself die” which is only slightly different to another child saying “my mum is dead, cancer made her die” as they are both dead from an illness. This is only possible because the stigma surrounding suicide and mental illness is lessening because PEOPLE ARE TALKING ABOUT IT (phew, sorry for yelling I don’t know what came over me then).

    Yes we need more resources, but as someone who lives in a regional area it is also important for people affected to not feel like freaks in the closet. 7 years ago I had not even heard of Beyond Blue or RUOK, I don’t think they even existed because I sure tried to find someone, anyone, aside from or in addition to the doctors and psychologists to help the terribly depressed dad we lost. It is bittersweet now to see suicide prevention so prominent in the media, but I cherish it to be honest I really do.

    In the years since it has been the mental health plan made up by my GP which allowed me subsidised visits to a psychologist to help me through the quagmire of emotions involved in the loss, and also how to navigate children through that situation that has helped us have the tools to stay afloat.

    Keep talking people, keep talking.

    With love S

  15. Helen, the liberal bourgoise myth of the individual has unfortunately infected populist, mass media identity politics, too. Such much of what passes for feminism or discourse around sexuality or race is utterly naive to issues of class. Being a subject free and equal before the market, a unique individual defined by one’s bespoke pattern of consumption, is the most many wish for. Maybe it’s time we talked about capitalism.

    1. You might have noticed that capitalism is addressed in everything I write!
      Hey. I do what I can to Raise Awareness. (By which we mean, detonate false consciousness.)

      1. I know you do. You’re great. But in that respect you’re a voice in the wilderness, even/particularly in the (click-bait-eriat) Left.

  16. –Government run psychiatric facilities have high dependency units– and low dependency units–To be honest– Until mental health and psychiatry add a __PSYCHOTROPIC WITHDRAWAL AND REHAB STYLE THERAPY UNIT/CLINIC–(CBT-psychology-counseling– etc)—after the low dependency journey–theyre just drug dealing life destroyers — FOR A BIG Sum of clients–patients–victims etc. Sorry Helen but qanda this week — for the very first time ever– sincerely– but worryingly-took on big pharma and psychiatry by allowing people to ask questions directly to mental health experts–and express their despair with the poisons — it was brilliant. Selling sick–that only we can fix–thats whats happening– thats whats being sold– your angst in my mind is from that-or of that energy but please dont say that to anyone — not real nice or right– they are a product of a psychiatric creation.– management–when good doctors cure–heal, they don’t sell you out to nastiness and a drug company.

  17. There was no real guidance when my husband became psychotic 25 years ago – just a quagmire of psychologists who did not want to “label” his behaviour even though his illness was terrorising his very young family. Family and friends backed away with embarrassment and confusion. Diagnosis seemed to be illusory and somehow unimportant to those who purported to treat him – it was easier to agree with him that perhaps there was something wrong with my behaviour and that was really why he was now delusional. When Ann Deveson published her book “Tell Me I’m Here” about her experiences in trying to get help for her schizophrenic son, I experienced a great sense of relief that it was not just me, but the system that was so hopelessly inadequate. As my children have become adults unfortunately I have needed to try to find help for some of them from time to time in the psych industry. Time has not improved it’s efficacy – so many of the practitioners are arrogant, incompetent, unjustifiably expensive and all too often full of shit. The drugs are a minefield and should be avoided in all but the most desperate of situations as they often cause more harm than good. I have come to the conclusion that families just have to look after their own as best they can in these circumstances. Love, respect and expend your own resources on the ill person because no one else really will. If you are in danger from their behaviour then God help you because I know what that is like.

    Of course for those that have no families or personal support systems, the dearth of societal support is an appalling tragedy and shame on all of us.

    Thank you Helen for calling this out. I am tuned to the ABC for much of my information and this Mental As thing has been really upsetting me all week. I don’t mind them raising awareness but I have been waiting for this to work (diminish stigma etc blah blah blah) for a quarter of a century and NOTHING EVER CHANGES. If anything the rise of individualism is making the plight of the mentally ill more desperate – fit in or fuck off because failure is not an option.

    1. I think we’re just in furious agreement.
      And fury is good, I think. I would much rather piss people off to the point they go raging into Ley’s office than show them stories of Hope and Inspiration because I believe rage of the revolutionary sort tends to be more useful than “awwareness” and “compassion”.
      And, of course, there are those who will point to the two or three minutes that the ABC addresses the matter of “where is the help?”, and remind me that this is sufficient to produce this rage. And there are people who even think it’s fine for the ABC to remind its clientele to ring Lifeline when any of us who have ever called Lifeline know that they leave you on hold until you’re either bored enough to stop your suicidal ideation or you take yourself to the A&E or you die.
      And there are those who say that a groundswell of any kind of feeling is just great. Well, no. It’s not. Unless it’s an angry force acting on behalf of the most disenfranchised people in the nation with huge demands, it’s good as useless.
      When was anything ever changed through pity or inspiration?
      When was that marvellous enormous change, and as your story indicates, the change must be enormous, that came through people holding hands and having a little cry-wank?
      When does quiet reason and the more positively construed emotions turn the world upside-down?
      Never. Of course, people like to believe this fairy story and this is why, when Nelson Mandela, a soldier and revolutionary who (quite understandably) ordered many deaths is remembered as a Forgiving and Kind Man. Instead of the communist unafraid of death that he was. The end of Apartheid is seen as a lovely time when those who had the power to change things did through sheer compassion. Actually, they were terrified of dying.

  18. I couldn’t agree more. With a bipolar mother in law finding her care and treatment is slim to none. Aparantly to get her help that we had been asking for, for over 3 months she had to be ‘worse’ than what she was. So it wasn’t until she set her washing machine a light and almost killed herself and her neighbors did the system finally take her in. To what degree is it OK for the system to decide what he ‘worse’ state is? She’s mentall I’ll – get her help – end of story.
    As for the ABC – as someone said before, their mental as.

  19. Helen,
    you must be tremendously relevant to the censors that fuck with my email. I cannot log into your site directly even though we are both all over the net there by supplying free advertising for both. But more seriously, just finished a submission to the Queensland Mental health advisory council on drug use/abuse. The tragedy is with all the self serving pathos I am yet to see any credible achievements. And there goes my invite !!!

  20. I love you Helen, thanks!
    The NSW Mental Health Commission website (wtf do they actually do) looks like the scenario for the original idea for “Utopia”.
    All these people, all this money and geez still not enough frontline services.

  21. Three comments:

    I think its good to destigmatise mental illness, which can pave the way for longer term policy change

    I am developing tools that may help the mentally ill, or at least those whose problems are based upon poor social awareness

    I think these columns could do with an abstract so I can know if its ultimately worth entering Razer-world

    1. I have had over a decade of one to one therapy. I have accessed CBT and DBT. I take my meds and try to attend my appointments. I am not cured. My illness is episodic and it comes back. I go inpatient to access the ECT and care I need to get well. This is why at 57 I am alive. I will not likely make old bones. The meds I take and the metabolic diseases they have given me will knock a couple of decades off my lifespan. Not a ploy for a pity party. It was a fair exchange for the periods of mental wellbeing I get by taking them. My quality of life with the treatment I get is as good as I get and I am grateful. I have peers and friends who would give a leg for any kind of treatment at all. They die. Too often. It is hard out there. Too hard. Too many of my male peers received their diagnosis in the criminal justice system. Sort of makes the justice bit a farce. Too many self medicate with alcohol and drugs with awful results. I don’t think we can wait for longer term planning and a radical shift in policy. We need policy made by policymakers who are answerable to policy recipients. Our mental health systems can and do work. The trick is to get inside one ! More funding, less roller doors in and out in days or weeks, more crisis services and high care beds, more medium and long term staffed and supported accom options, more subsidised housing, less of the crap about how I defeated my demons and more recognition that for a lot of Australians with mental illness it is a life long condition that is battled with amazing courage and tenacity. Australia can do better than this. The fact that we have not is a shame.

      1. Corral,

        I would appreciate your input and perspective on some things. If you’re willing, please email me at:

        If I’m crossing some kind of parameter here I apologize, I just think I could benefit from your experience.

  22. Hi Helen,

    I agree with a lot of this. I do think it changes some people’s opinions and that is positive for broadening the support networks of our friends with mental health issues. But generally. Yup. Agreed. Thanks for ranting on our behalf.

  23. My son was told, as he was nearing the end of his economics degree course, that he should commence treatment for schizophrenia. His mother and I, neither of us knowing anything about mental illness, rejected this diagnosis: how could he have a mental illness when he was getting a D or HD in every subject? Had we encouraged him to begin treatment, he might have avoided the psychotic breakdown that followed closely on graduation. It was the first of many such breakdowns, and after nearly 20 years of torture for him, his sister, his mother and me, but most of all for him, he killed himself last year at the age of 41.
    Please spare a moment to reflect on the tortured life of Paul E. McDonald, BEc [Social Sciences] and on his parents, whose lack of knowledge of mental illness caused them to do him harm when he was most in need of their help.
    I am grateful to the ABC for their “Mental as…” programmes. .

    1. My thanks and my condolences, Raymond.
      I do understand. There are small moments that can provoke such understanding. I do not say the week is without value.
      I do say that resources are just not there in many cases to help out people with an illness.
      I would also say that it was not entirely down to you to manage Paul’s healthcare. While, yes, there *may* have been some small benefit to him in you cheerleading, he would have found far greater benefit if these services (which really don’t exist) were available to address his condition.
      Yes, in an ideal world, you would have just normalised the matter in your head and said “right, let’s get help”. But, in an even more ideal state, this would not have been down to you. Paul would have had the diagnosis delivered to him in a way that segued into a treatment plan. Doctors and other health and social service workers need the systems that support their crucial role in supporting us. Yes, it’s always great if we are more understanding. But our individual understanding is really tertiary to the institutional understanding that takes people of any age and with any level of family support and gives them real options for real care and improvement.
      In other words, don’t beat yourself up. Easier said that done, sure. But, what you did was entirely human and most of us will find ourselves telling someone we love in our life time “oh, I’m sure what you have is not serious”. We’re not doctors. We’re people who never want to believe the worst, whether it be a cancer diagnosis or a mood disorder.
      You are guilty only of being an optimist. It’s not your fault.
      I am very moved by your story. Thank you.

      1. Nice answer. We’re not the professionals in MH care, and can’t take responsibility for knowing what medical path our loved ones need. I constantly deal with the bewilderment of treatment programs for my psychotic BP sister that deal with her MH symptoms but cause severe physical disability. My friends struggle with choosing from a maze of care options to keep their children safe, and my childlren mourn friends who lost the battle, wondering if they could/should have done more. We who love so much are not responsible, we keep them afloat until its beyond our individual resources, and then we all lose.

  24. The fact is that awareness campaigns have a limited capacity to change attitudes or circumstances – when practical real social policy changes WOULD change attiudes and circumstances. The eradication of grinding poverty, and real access to medical care where mental health and physical health are equal parts, will ‘get rid of the stigma’ of mental illness.

    As an analogy, sexual harassment in the workplace didn’t go away because men suddenly became aware they were hurting women – it was made ILLEGAL.

    This is no time for soft change or gentle movement and things like mental as let people off the hook because in reality, if a person can take a soft easy action like watching telly and having a cry instead of a harder action like demanding change then they bloody will because they are bloody human!

  25. Thank you Helen for writing this. I have been dealing with a family with more than it’s fair share of anxiety/depressive disorders for thirty years. I found the whole ‘self-revealing individual narrative’ of mental health week absolutely sickening. I am very tired of this storytelling about one person approach as it is completely facile and often incredibly dull and predicable. It does not inform anyone about facts or discuss problems in any detail, it just fills up airtime. I too miss the kind of scholarly and scientific discussions and research explanation which used to be freely available on RN. I only listened to the news during mental health week and turned off the radio many times. I just can’t take it any more. How about a discussion of what are the different conditions and what is the current thinking on their causes and effects?
    Although the personal narratives on mental health can never surpass the rage levels which stories of mountain climbers inspire in me (who knew there were so many tedious stories of people climbing so many mountains?) I have stopped listening to the tedium of personal narratives. I think personal narratives have their place but it should never be at the expense of actual analysis. I also know that this is not a view held in journalism schools at all.

    1. Thanks, G.
      There’s actually a bit of writing other than, and better than, my own on the topic of the uselessness of the overused personal narrative.

  26. Mental as. What is this like? Does this remind you of anything? Facts.
    Personal facts~ or lived experience, and system facts. Sometimes worlds colliding…

  27. I get your anger. (You overuse the word fuck though. It’s just impotent) Let’s, maybe, be careful not end up silencing and shaming and setting up binaries that really don’t help. I’ve lived in and around the traumatising, unvoiced consequences of severe mental ill health every day of my 53 years, by virtue of the house I was born into. Yet I haven’t heard it all. I don’t know it all. I’m listening to such important individual voices on Radii National this week. My awareness has been increased. I can act accordingly.

    I applaud every brave individual I’ve heard and seen speak so far on Mental As programming. The carers, the bereaved, those surviving and negotiating their pain, those offering ways forward, those continuing to breathe regardless. Thank you. Thank you for your courage. I don’t find your stories boring, trite or unimportant.

    I’m not hearing warm fuzzy platitudes in the ABC journos programming. I’m hearing compassion, hard work (in the face of such cuts) wisdom and often a shared lived awareness. Thank you.

    And to the policy advocates and service providers I’ve heard critiquing and angry and demanding, thank you. These voices are in the mix. I’m not sure how I’ve heard them while others haven’t. (Turnbull, we need a minister for Mental Health. We need Ley to enact the shelved review now.)

    Offer your readers just one or two ways of influencing policy, funding and outcomes, as you insist the ABC should. Do more with your own privileged voice than rail. You’ve also have had a year to do better than this.

    1. Thank you Susanne. My reaction was exactly the same. Of course mental health services are inadequate, but to direct such bile to those who are trying to raise awareness that mental ill health is more widespread than people realise is neither constructive nor helpful.

  28. Why doesn’t the ABC run as a television/radio station rather than a quasi political party and a keeper of societal values and cares? I believe that any person who has a close relative or friend suffering from a mental condition is well aware of the issues and if others, who have not been involved in such a tragedy, will quickly learn of the issues, either personally, or through the many organisations devoted to the care and treatment.
    For goodness sake, ABC, keep to your charter.

    1. I concur. Absolutely. I see the ABC’s informational programs as often deeply political. The idea that The Individual Is Responsible is a political view. It’s not a “natural” idea but one that exists very explicitly in the realm of politics. This needs to be excised. It is not “objective” to believe that people can take care of themselves and each other.

  29. This is how I feel about the majority of Beyond Blue’s work, TBH. Today’s Facebook post for a ‘good mental health’ career: Always leave on time! Don’t take on too much work!! Insist on taking your holidays!!!
    Which basically boils down to – choose, do you want to stay sane, or do you want a job?
    Because one is going to give. And it hacks me to tears that Beyond Blue (I haven’t watched much Mental As for precisely the reasons you give) is teaching young kids “Hey it’s totally okay to have a mental illness, tell everyone, people will make allowances for you!”
    In my early twenties, I was honestly puzzled as to why I couldn’t seem to get a job. It took several years of experience to realize the only way is to lie about it.

    1. Yes. BB is essentially a neoliberal organisation and that it has had so many prominent neolib chiefs is no accident.
      You just can’t take the material out of the discussion. Yet, BB, like the ABC, largely do just that. The ABC is a largely liberal organisation. To say that it is left-wing is ridiculous. It produces so many programs (not exclusively but predominantly) that talk to the power of the individual to either overcome or to help someone else to overcome.
      If only everyone cared! If only you believed in yourself!
      Nice ideas. They never work. And run a very poor second to institutions whose primary goal is to care and to meaningfully help people overcome.
      I am so sick of everything in the world being the fault of people with bad ideas and bad morals. Do we think of ourselves as disembodied unicorns living in a meta-material singularity? We must. Because so many of these “awareness” things presume that it’s only bad individual attitudes that need to be adjusted. Not actual services and institutions.

      1. This is HZ at her most real, have missed you lately. Thanks for your incisive examination of ABC’s ‘nice girl’ persona in public ed rograms – a toxic virus that infects all of its reporting on social life. It harks back to my early years of Catholic convent school education – Don’t look, don’t see (ie don’t change things), and be nice,

        Agree so much with your assessment of high profile MH institutions – big research funding, big talk, nothing on the ground.

        Love you when you’re angry, let’s kick this one around some more.

  30. Have an ongoing history of mental illness, however must admit felt very iffy about the ‘Mental As’ program on ABC. But did catch Norman Gunston talking about his anxiety/depression and how effective Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) was in treating it.

    Whatever you think of Norman Gunston’s story, it is useful to the general Public to know that CBT is a brilliant therapy and more people with anxiety/depression should try it. Unfortunately CBT is only available for most of us in the limited form of 10 Medicare-covered sessions a year. While I’m doing my best to manage on this script, some more would be lovely.

    So yes, a few more points like the paucity of mental health services should be put out there and some policy-making rather than Pollyannering, thanks. Thank you, Helen Razer.

    1. Further to this, I’d like to add that despite CBT being covered by Medicare, a lot of psychologists out there do not bulk bill. So God help the mentally ill person without a job – and there are many.

      1. CBT is Ok but it is rather intensive & requires commitment. I am not sure what I qualify as but the reality is I find & dont laugh that self medication with introspection worked for me. We have the dual demons of mental illness on one side of the family & substance abuse on the other. I dont condone getting of your rocker all the time but after years of being told to try one shitty drug after another good quality MDMA in the right setting does show promise. I had a doctor friend who wrote me a subscription for efexor & I was spun out for the weekend & will never go near that crap again. People also need to be aware that different is OK & not conforming is a refreshing way of telling the system that it is not for every one. To have a mental illness is Ok. To be able to manage it is your own choice as far as I am concerned. It is when every one of the feel gooders stat catergorising people that depresion creeps in. Hey I like being different. I dont hurt any one & now that I know to recognise a negative though I squash it with ideas of me being in charge of my own destiny. And depression is a natural emotion as well. Fuck I got upset when my dog died. So soldier on people & hey you are not alone if only in thought.
        Cheers M

  31. You nailed it Helen but I do think there is a method in the funding bodies consistent lack of funding for mental health services in this country. Since de institutionalisation in the 80″s as little money as possible has been allocated to real care provision for the mentally ill.I actually believe that is their plan not to fund mental health.
    The most acute mentally ill are usually criminalised and end up in institutions called jails and or marginalised to the fringes of society under bridges and in homeless shelters.

    As a community we don’t really give a shit about the mentally ill actions speak louder than words ….No action care …

  32. Honestly Helen, as someone who reports a sometimes clinical, and always severe mental health condition, I feel that anything that makes people aware of the reality of such things is better than a kick in the face with a golf shoe. For those of us who have lifelong conditions, we learn to take what we can get.

    Who knows, perhaps I will live to see the day when dropping the fact that I report a mental health issue doesn’t result in the kind of reaction you’d expect in someone who was opened their underwear drawer and found it full of lampreys. It’s actually amazing how powerful the stigma still is in this day and age–even for a very competent and rather (objectively, I’m sorry there’s no way to say it without sounding conceited) attractive guy like myself.Like, what I’m saying is, I don’t fit the caricature of the babbling lunatic, throwing shit or whatever it is that is supposed to define the type–but the fact does not seem, as far as I can tell, to elicit any kind of obligation to resort to standard neutral treatment from the average person.

    Maybe I should start wearing a diaper and nothing else, smear myself in pudding and scuttle about like a crab in shopping centers whilst holding a lit sparkler. If I’m going to be condemned either way, I should at least be able to get a laugh out of it.

  33. Oh Helen- you are too cruel
    The ABC needs to be transmitting something
    If you take out
    1 Mental Health
    2 ICE – used to pot then moved to heroine then so on
    3 Homosexuality – GAY seems to a misnomer – they all seem to be miserable
    4 Transgender – is making more of a running these days
    5 Some obscure GENETIC condition that only found in 10 people in Australia
    Can be all cured with more FUNDING – but has to be Commonwealth funding – not State or Local Council funding
    Don’t worry or get hot under the collar – publicising Freaks is the only way to get a feel good feeling – and keep varying the transmission – some Polies even get roped into it.
    An alien observing this continents transmissions would get the impression this is a country inhabited by sick people – mental health ,autism, by the way ADHD has been cured or become extinct as the transmissions about it have petered away .
    ONTO the next major problem – ingrown toenails – now that would be money for jam !!

    1. Pretty sure this is not an actual thing written by an actual commenter but an automated harvester of the worst of News Corp columns.
      You make neither sense nor argument. Which is a shame as there are so many other great, well considered comments both agreeing and disagreeing with my premise and suggesting other premises entirely. This page of comments is good internet. Your comment really looks like it was generated by a hate bot.
      If you are a real person, you have missed the opportunity to engage with a page full of really engaging people with good ideas.

  34. I am waiting with baited breath for the “Acts of Cruelty” segment regaling us with lively tales of where government entrusts and directs private contractors to treat people who are suffering depression or enduring psychosis or who just want to kill themselves, with outright cruelty.
    Women who have been raped on Nauru in the Camp, sent to Australia for treatment becasue they want to die, wind up in a 3×2.5 hut with a male guard sitting next to them 24 hours a day. Not a therapeutic intervention.
    Women who are discharged from a Psych Hospital following treatment who are struggling back to some sort of mental health wind in a locked detention camp with no autonomy, then have 24 hour security guards watching them at close quarters just in case they are not cured and try to kill themselves.Some drongo in a back room makes a “risk” assessment to ensure that no fine is levied on the private contractor- bugger the mental health of the woman.
    I know a woman who could not go to the toilet for 6 weeks becasue the bloody guard would not let her close the door.
    Lets hear these stories- not a bloody chance. They happen to asylum seekers and you can do anything you like to asylum seekers becasue they are not really human- are they? So Helen you rage in your entertaining and literate way all you like- We all need to rage in our own ways. Spend time visiting the mental health units around town and you will pray that the black dog or demons of hell stay away from you. Modernity forsakes us in psych hospitals. If you think mental health treatment is lacking for we precious Aussies- imagine what it is like for people seeking asylum.

  35. Awareness (and even a bit of inspiration, if you find it there) is fine, but mental health porn is not. Oh look, there’s the crazy person, being crazy!
    What’s needed is action – awareness that leads to action is good, but how often does it happen.
    Most people agitate for change when someone near and dear (including themselves – hi Kerry Packer and the ambulance equipment!) suffers. Will raising awareness via stories of suffering strangers lead to that kind of giving a shit, so action is taken, so politicians do something? I am yet to be convinced. Look at all the meeja coverage of how we are persecuting refugees in camps – what’s that led to?

    People are selfish. Government and individual priorities are wrong-headed. That should change.

    Brava, Helen. Keep fighting. Please.

    a crazy person who is fortunate enough to be able to pay the gap fee to see a psychiatrist now and again.

  36. No one would argue with the central premise that there is not enough resourcing for mental health. As someone who has had some experience within my family however I loved Mental As week last year.Despite first hand experience it was this week that prompted a conversation with my teenager who lost her father to suicide. She saw in these “lame shows” people rather than conditions – I really do think that’s incredibly important. There is also the money raised for Mental Health Research – which is also grossly under-funded. What if early discussions and research actually helped your friend before they got to this point. It’s not enough, but I’m surprised you felt the need to direct your “style” to an initiative that is trying to promote acceptance and understanding of mental illness. It seems you’re not alone, and I hope you feel better.

  37. “In news that is unsurprising but may bring comfort nonetheless: no one listens to a fucking thing I say.” I try Helen, but you are so prolix. I often start to read but give up about a third of the way through. Clive

  38. Thank you Helen, particularly for pointing out where the funds raised actually go. I really do think that people assume that they are contributing to services, but I have no evidence that this is the case. I do know that the ABC should be openly saying that the funds raised will be spent on research not services, and make this prominent on all mental as sites and shows. For what it’s worth I have written and sent this:
    Dear Mark Scott and ABC,
    phone lines such as Lifeline are known by consumers to either have a very very long delay before the phone is answered or to actually not answer a call at all. The media have jumped onto the ‘solution’ to mental illness-related broadcasts as being reciting the calling number for Lifeline or others. I am aware that people have a range of views about Lifeline, about service they have received, about faith-based services often being the only one promoted, or the only one that is a 24hr 7day a week service. It would be good to see the ABC not just falling into this ‘give out the number for Lifeline’ habit, when all of us in the industry in various roles know that this is seriously inadequate. Telling people to call a service that is underfunded, not able to answer some calls, or not appropriate to some consumers, is problematic. The ABC needed to address this last year, and now it urgently needs to address it now. How about a program that investigates this very issue? Ask people who have used phone lines how helpful they were. Dr Jo Harrison

  39. I too am a bit over the full on ABC approach over this week, but is it something we have to put up with until talking about metal health is something we can do routinely?

    The other thing I am completely over is The Age Good Weekend, which always seems to have cover story “My battle with depression/drugs/alcohol/the bloke next door” by a retired athlete/politician/B-grade starlet who coincidently has an autobiography just hitting the market…

  40. I don’t know much about influence, but I know it can be hard to measure. The people who speak out, or act in the public sphere – either on them, or to them are not always representative of the many.

    That is my intro to what would sound like a fanboy post if I didn’t give it context.

    You are fucking awesome Helen Razer, and I look forward to reading anything you write – because even when I agree with you, your writing style still makes it provocative. If this is an echo chamber it is an uncomfortable one. The discomfort may translate into more influence. But. See above. It can be hard to measure the influence you have with people who aren’t part of the metric.

  41. The “MH Week” concept is flawed by two structural problems; firstly, having to find enough content to fill a week on local and networked radio, online and that other hungry beast, television; and secondly, packaging it into a week could be seen as an admission that it’s ignored for the other 51 weeks of the year.
    It was evident on Monday night with Australian Story having to go the well again on the Garry McDonald story. Sure, it’s an interesting insight, but I’ve heard it so many times that it’s becoming devalued.
    In Adelaide the local radio station offered up the personal story of former Senator Mary Jo Fisher, who had battled depression and bipolar issues for years before behaviour and shoplifting convictions saw her forced from politics. The problem is, the Fisher story had been told two and a half years ago in The Australian. Again, nothing new, just a sense that “we have to do this story again folks, it’s Mental Health Week.
    Lame stories with little sense of the new are more likely to make the listener/viewer skeptical about the project.
    This is what happens when you let the marketing department take control of program content. Neither interview would have made the list this week were it not for the thematic push. It’s as relevant as the annual cross to Antarctica on Christmas Day.
    Next week, Eating Disorders Week, followed by Men’s Health Week and then Childbirth Month.

  42. I would much rather have regular, consistent access to treatment and assistance than a week of awareness-raising on ABC or a text from Virgin Mobile asking me to pry into the lives of strangers that I see sporting anything less than the expression of a happy bovine. But the former requires infinitely more funding and fucks given by the governments state and federal. I wish, fervently, that we could have both. Both would be good.

    Also ‘Gas Smells Awful’ was helpful to me so thank you, Helen, for that.

  43. Ok so this is weird for me. My husband and I were interviewed for a program on BPD which will be on Radio National this week. We agreed to take part – my husband has BP and I am his carer – as we strongly believe that we must be open about his mental health issues as a way of doing our own little bit to destigmatise. The power in his story is that he is a partner in a major Australian law firm and the legal profession is chock full of mental health problems. He loathes RUOK day. He believes this should be a daily conversation, not a weekly or annual one. Yet we have taken part in the very thing you are critical of in this article for the reasons I have outlined. The potentially weird thing? I agree with you wholeheartedly. I will be interested to hear whether the comments I made about the inability of people desperate for help to access that help are retained by the journo.

  44. Helen, you do not respond to Gayle’s straightforward explanation of the need for a saleable awareness campaign. How else will governments assign the funds you demand?

    Alhough we may be grossly manipulable from the top down by governments (eg War on Terror, Border Protection etc) we can also respond to humane cultural input showcasing compassion and community. Complex argument is only ever the servant of human emotion, as the implementation of even the most progressive policy relies on grassroots attitudes, and votes. And that is a good thing.

    Believe me, as a community mental heath nurse, I know how widespread misunderstanding about and intolerance of mental illness still are.

    We can learn from the massive turnaround in public attitudes to homosexuality achieved since the sixties, largely through the grassroots public awareness campaign strategy of “coming out”, aka gay liberation. This is the model of the “Mental As” campaign. It also supports our dwindling sense of community, ever-undermined by the commercial need to sell us status, as if being human is never good enough.

    Thanks for the heart-felt discussion.

    1. Helen,
      I am a sufferer of mental illness, I have been mis-diagnosed many times in my life. This is nobody’s fault, it is just because the brain is the least understood organ in the body. I self medicated with alcohol,to numb the emotional and psychological pain that I was feeling! Yes,being nice is important when listening and trying to understand someone with mental illness, but tough love can be helpful also!The gently gently approach is not always appropriate, especially if dealing with a manipulative personality!

      When it comes to funding, Mental Health will only receive funding when people stop tip toeing around the subject and start showing the hard truth, like 25% of Australians will suffer from or know someone who suffers from a Mental Illness of some kind. These are the hard truths that society needs to here, many addicts have co-morbidities. The Alcohol,dope,heroin etc they use to self medicate! You may not like what you hear,but I’ve lived it!

      PS: I’m 51, 19yrs Sober and now studying for a BA in Humanities online via Open Universities Australia

  45. I laughed and laughed at first paragrapgh about your cultural relevence as I clicked saying ” Let it be Helen Razor, let it be Helen Razor” ( writing) & it was!!

    Spot on. Re the whole caboodle.

    So glad to have tracked you down. :)

  46. I can see that the system is inadequate, that a lot of what goes on in this week is pity, not empathy and productive change. The ABC could be making a more deliberate effort to shift policy on this issue.

    However, as a young person with bipolar, I often feel very alone. I suppose I haven’t had a really bad time, yet. Luckily I’ve only had blah to good experiences with psychologists/psychiatrists, so I don’t have to rebuild trust with that system. At the same time, not all of it is luck. It’s a constant reassessing of self, doing the caring thing rather than what everyone else is doing, and striving to accept both what’s going on and the fact that my life will be more difficult than I’d hoped. (I’m not sure I agree with that, but it’s certainly what I feel)

    Reading this article and the comments certainly reminds me how vastly inadequate the mental health care system in Australia is. But it’s better than in other places! It’s better than in Russia! If I tell people I have bipolar they will at best remain loyal friends and at worst quietly distance themselves from me – at least I can tell them, with relatively minor consequences. Things will improve with time, and greater understanding (not just ‘awareness’. Awareness, to me, creates distance from issues and makes that distance acceptable)

    There are many issues with it, and with attitudes to mental illness in Australia in general. I don’t care if it’s corny, MentalAs makes me feel slightly more able to be part of the world.

  47. I don’t think that any one approach is the perfect approach, and considering not one other free to air channel (except possibly SBS) addresses any mental health issues, its a big, big thing to tackle in a week. But as someone who has has problems since the age of seven, I do get one thing out of mental as, and that is the idea that I might actually survive to die some sort of natural death. A small thing. But a thing.

  48. I don’t think this is constructive. You could promote your valid points without slamming Mental As week. Many people I know find it helpful to see that they are not alone etc., to see that there are people who are like them, who have made steps to recover, etc.
    You’re right, their fundraiser could easily have been aimed at resources, and you could implore your readers to write to the ABC with a suggestion of just this.
    I don’t find it helpful to make it an “us and them” sort of conversation.
    But as others say, you may be surprised at the lack of awareness that the general public have of these sorts of matters. It may seem all too familiar and patronising to people who have mental health issues, or have friends who have mental health issues, but to those who are ignorant to it, this may be a good start.
    The only way the government will make mental health care a priority is if it’s an issue that voters care about, and can be passionate about. And judging by recent elections, we can have a guess at what the majority of australian voters care about.

    1. Yes I agree, as someone whose 23 year old son has just told me he has depression and seeking help. We had no idea he was feeling like this and no idea of what it means or how to help him. So what if the ABC are trying to make people aware of this issue? There is a huge amount of ignorance around this problem (and I count us parents in that number) and anything that spreads the word that it’s OK to confess to a mental health issue is better than silence. Slamming the ABC isn’t going to bring any more mental health professionals on board

  49. Thank you Helen.As someone who had a breakdown three years ago.Now recovered.And now helping a family member with something similar-You couldnt have put it better.
    Someone elses life is improved when They feel better.Not when I feel more comfortable with what I percieve as their situation.I loathe warm fuzzy “social cause” media campaigns.
    The classic that annoyed me was famous Australians in a poster campaign.The posters told men who bashed their wives that they shouldnt. I would have taught any threatened spouse-male or female-Martial arts or paid for bodyguards.A poster doesnt absorb much of any of life caused or human caused impact.

  50. Thank you!
    I am sick to death of mental illness — or any other medical / social / economic condition — being treated as if it will be cured by the Politics of Niceness. As far as I’m concerned, this is an extension of the notion of charity as suitable only for the “deserving” rather than the “undeserving” poor. It not only implies that people who have to witness mental illness should be “understanding,” but that we ourselves who have mental illness should have a chipper attitude and provide inspiration by suffering with a smile on our faces and recovering quickly, largely through access to positive karma.
    Well, people with that attitude can fuck right off. I am not here to make other people feel inspired. I am trying to stay alive with limited access to psychological / psychiatric services. I do NOT need well-meaning friends, family and randoms being “nice” by telling me how I should cope, how I feel, and how I can recover. They can take their self-serving love-bombs elsewhere, and if they actually give a shit, could stop typing “AMEN” on Facebook posts and instead contact their political representatives and ask for tangible support for people who have mental illness.

    1. I recently eviscerated a man on social media who proffered the well-meaning – from his perspective at least – advice to “just get over” my depression. After tearing him a new arsehole his timorous response consisted entirely of “Ok”.

      I’m continually assailed by these righteous pricks who believe that because they have successfully attained a state of bliss through the denial of reality that everybody else can, and should. Since they’ve essentially been telling me to shut the fuck up for years, I’ve started responding in kind.

      There’s a gulf of understanding between those that live with mental illness and those wthat have no experience – who think that having depression just means you’re a bit sad about something – that no group hug-in can bridge.

  51. I for one cannot understand why the ABC wouldn’t spend a week eviscerating our government (and state governments) for their pathetic approach toward mental health issues.

    It’s like the ABC is for some reason terrified of making any anti-establishment commentary these days.

    And here was creepy Uncle Phil telling me it was nothing but ‘a hotbed of perverts and communists’.

  52. It’s a bit like Christmas (or elections) isn’t it? Every year (or few) it comes around, and the powers-that-be come out to show how much they “really” care?
    Meanwhile the less fortunate/affluent (pushed to the fringes of our herd/society as they are) are at the mercy of “The System” – under the stresses that is – exacerbating the problem?

    1. lulz, yes. And ABC is the big Santa. We all have to believe that Santa is real. We can’t tell the kids otherwise.

  53. Shouldn’t be so hard on yourself Helen. I find you annoying quite often, which means I read you often. That’s influence, isn’t it?

    Having said that, I’m with you on this one.

  54. YES at last an honest appraisal of a dismal attempt at making us aware without committing to change social policy. I live with mental illness. I am treated by a wonderful team of professionals in my local mental health service. I can access a bulk billing GP there on Thursday mornings. I can’t afford a GP as they all require a co payment between $10-$40 and I am a disability pensioner without health insurance. The GP clinic I used to go to (for over ten years) will not bulk bill aged or disability patients. I paid the co payment for three years but could not access a doctor if I was sick and did not have $10. Now if I am sick I wait until Thursday comes around. At 57 after a lifetime of taking psychiatric medicines I have many medical and physical conditions and I take 13 medications and use insulin daily. I struggle to fill prescriptions until I reach the safety net around September or October. At present I have five broken teeth in my mouth. They are affecting my health and I have showed my doctor and my treatment team. All tell me I must see a dentist. Ha ha ha a dentist! I have no dentist and no money to find one. I can access emergency dental care only for one tooth at a time if I can travel there. However I cannot ask for treatment unless I am in pain. I need multiple extractions that will require anaesthetic and sutures. I have been treated as an emergency by state dental services for over a decade and not made it to the top of the list for assessment, general dental treatment and care or to replace my top partial plate that I bought 17 years ago. I am lucky I have state subsidised accommodation. But I live in a unit without ceiling insulation. A unit that received full sun all day. No ceiling fans and no hood or ceiling exhaust for the stove and oven. Open planning means the oven is in the same room as the lounge and dining table. It gets hot. I live in Brisbane. It gets stinking hot. I am able to pay for fans and split system air con if I get approval and use tradesmen for all installation. I can’t’ do that as without insulation and exhaust the cost of running cooling is out of my reach. I live in an all electric unit and it is an expense that I struggle to meet. Yet I am not allowed to apply for connecting solar panels so I can’t offset the ever increasing cost of electricity. The list goes on. I run out of pension about two or three days short of the fortnight. I do not eat well those days. I live with Major Depressive Disorder. As well as PTSD and BPD. I am also treated as an inpatient to access ECT. Does poverty impact my symptoms? Does red tape impede my progress? Does lack of access to dental services and GP treatment impact my health and self esteem ? Do pithy platitudes about looking on the bright side help me pay for prescriptions and electricity. Does having awareness campaigns, exhibitions and events help me with the public transport costs to allow me to participate in them ? While you are viewing the pap offered instead of genuine social policy and investment in on the ground services my peers struggle and some die, many die from self medicating with alcohol drugs and risk taking. Take the money you use to placate your guilt to build beds in treatment centres, to build housing and support to live in that housing. Stop wasting time and sitting around talking. We the mentally ill and those that love and care for us have made our needs clear. Fund the things that enable us to evolve and participate. We have much to offer once able to stabilise and grow. Take a look at the Facebook page Mental Health And Wellbeing Australia. Built by people with mental illness and those that love care and support them. It reaches thousands. It is Australian. It is free. Fund these programs if you want dialogue and insight. The material on the ABC is being switched off by many with mental illness as it is irrelevant to the daily struggle to survive. I live with suicidal ideation. It is never appropriate for me to immerse myself in programs that increase my sense of futility and highlight the gaps I watch friends drop through and die. It destroys my hope.

    1. I think you have managed here, Coral, to really evoke the cyclical nature of illness. The system that bounces you around like this is MUCH more “insane” than any diagnosis medical science could offer you.
      As I said about a gajillion times, I do understand that to be nice to people with a mental illness can have mild use. But, this is no match for adequate resources that might see you not bouncing around, but going straight ahead on a more-or-less steady course.
      My heart fucking breaks for you. But, I know you have no use for my pity. And I know, as policy makers know, that yours is hardly the only story of Kafkaesque frustration.
      To those commenting above insisting that the “public” response will help policy, FFS. The public response is one of just one-on-one pity. And policy makers already know very well what happens to a person on the DSP. They are largely doomed to bounce around in a purgatory of stinking hot bullshit. PITY DOES NOT CHANGE THINGS. Your surge of beautiful feeling for someone on TV, or my surge of feeling for Coral, changes dick all.
      The rest of you mob who love a good sob in front of the telly can enjoy yourselves. I hope your little teargasm makes you feel better. You can be pretty certain that there will be no satisfying climax for most Australians experiencing mental ill health. They’ll stay below the poverty line scratching out a self-devised, barely adequate system of therapy while the rest of you negatively geared liberal tossers congratulate yourselves that you can change the world through strong feelings.
      Sorry, Coral.

      1. No apology needed Helen. Please keep telling the truth. The real truth. People are dying while this overlong dialogue without action. Hugs for the hurt sister I understand and resonate. Respect.

      1. I have had the GP chronic condition plan twice. The GP writes the referrals. My GP at the time referred me for physiotherapy with a mate of his and to a private diet and nutrition specialist as he felt my “morbid obesity” was my “primary condition” Then the dental care was ceased and I missed out.For two years I asked for dental treatment and was told it would be iincluded in the next plan. When the third plan was due I could no longer afford the GP. I realised then that the Dr managing my chronic illness ” insulin dependent diabetes, hypo thyroid, cardiac, liver disease, degenerative disc disease whole spine involved, severe sleep apnoea CPAP dependent and on and on) had not ordered any of the regular screening I need in nearly three years. In fact he had not even taken my blood pressure for 18 months!!! The GP at mental health services takes my blood pressure every time I she her. She ordered the testing that has seen my thyroxine doubled, a severe magnesiumdeficiency identified and addressed, added vitamin d and I am feeling better. She spends rthe time to listen to me and encouragesme to be proactive with my own health. TTomorrowI will spend the time to contact tthe dental health service again. I will share their response here. That way you may understand.

        1. Sorry to rain on your parade Coral, but I recently had to have a rotted tooth removed in Brisbane and was extremely grateful that it didn’t cost me a cent due to being on Austudy as a 50 year old 2nd year uni student studying social work (and having a diagnosed mental health condition since the age of 24). If I had five rotten teeth I would happily get on a bus, train or drag myself to a free dental appointment with a dentist list that allowed me to chose one close to my home. I’m sorry, but the victim mentality doesn’t completely wash with me i’m afraid. If you are wanting obviously to feel better, if five trips over 5-10 weeks is what it takes for you to get your teeth fixed, well that is the “free” price you pay. As you say that your GP at the mental health service does encourage you to be proactive with your health, well, so be it. Doctors, hospitals and NGO services can only do so much ? They can only act so far as the bumper bars of your wellness alley and the medical pins you are trying to knock down to reach those wellness pins. Whatever state of wellness you are trying to reach, at the end of the day, you are the one holding the ball, you Coral have to be the one that starts that ball rolling on whatever path you chose in finding your wellness.

      2. It is my understanding that the Chronic Disease Management Plan which permits this $4000 over two years for dental, presuming that the amount has not been already taken by other eligible services, has been discontinued. Even if it has not, it requires a co-pay. With dental, an eligible patient is matched dollar for dollar. And, when you have no dollars, you are going to retain your mouth full of rotten teeth.
        Even so and even allowing that you were intending to be helpful, Coral’s point stands. The bullshit austerity imposed on people in the lowest income groups is not good for people.
        As an aside, even if we don’t care about Coral or the lowest income group, austerity is bad for GDP. Providing conditions for Coral that allow her to become a saver and a consumer is good for capitalism. Providing conditions that keep her poor are bad for capitalism.
        Personally, I wish capitalism would fuck off. In the meantime, GET CORAL AND EVERY OTHER CORAL AND MY SAD MATE SOME FRIGGING HELP.
        And stop believing that there is meaningful help. And stop believing that it is, in any way, possible to reflect the experience of people living with a mental illness without meaningfully addressing the system that makes them more ill.
        This is what the ABC does. A few mentions, such as in the LAST FIVE MINUTES of the Q&A MentalAs special last night, does not make up for the fact that lives are turned into entertainment and policy is a tertiary consideration.
        I know ABC employees have themselves convinced they’re doing Important Work.
        I believe they are contributing to a false ideal of liberal tolerance and supporting the idiotic claim that strong public feeling changes policy.
        Fuck that shit. Anger changes policy. Get people angry. Don’t give them something to cry-wank to. FFS.
        I give the fuck up.

        1. At the risk of incurring ire.. you are the voice of reason, Helen. Psych services are hopelessly underfunded and I don’t believe the public need more education on mental illness before this is remedied.

  55. Yes, yes and yes. My daughter might still be alive if the proper services were available when she needed them. Her two boys don’t need any more awareness, and I certainly don’t. No, I’m not bloody OK. Okay?

    1. I am so sorry that your daughter was not able to get the care and treatment she needed. I understand grief and pain. I understand you are not OK. I thank you for your support and that you took some time to say how it really is while grieving. xxx

    2. I’m so sorry for your loss Vicki, I can’t even imagine what that must havestill is like for you. I can see why you would be sick to death of awareness now.

  56. My opinion is that this article is completely off the mark. The general public are not ready for a direct media campaign, just yet. We are so far behind the eight ball that we need these kind of programs on ABC. The problem is that mental health is still not seen as a real health issue by many. It is a problem that has been hidden for generations behind locked doors and down darkly lit hallways. The change begins with awareness. Mental health has only recently made it onto the stage! We first need to put a huge light on the subject…

    1. We’ve had a decade or more of “awareness”, Grant. Beyondblue dates back to 2000, for chrissake. I think we need to _move on_ to something more productive, like turning on the cash stopcocks for mental health.

  57. Helen, you have omitted Point 4:

    Therefore, we have done something.

    (Followed by a smug, self-satisfied grin and a case of the warm and fuzzies which wafts over the ABC).

    Not that they really have, of course, as exactly how much will the Mental Health budget be increased by government as a result of their ‘Mental As’ week?

    Between bupkiss and zero is my guess.

    May I just add that I absolutely loathe the warm and fuzzy polka dots that the ABC have decided to sugar coat the branding of ‘ Menatl As’ with. Wouldn’t want anything reminiscent of the jagged edginess of mental illness itself now, would we ABC? Just the perfect symbol of the form that results when the rough edges are rubbed off. Like the week itself, really. So maybe the branding is appropriate after all.

  58. I know Razer, aren’t the left awful?

    I’m surprised they didn’t ask Bron to do a panel show on ABC2, where she is forced to banter with Tony Jones and David Marr about the highlights of their other fabulous programmes: Obsessive Compulsive Hoarder: The Big Clear Out, The Hoarder Next Door, Fear of Flying: Caught on Camera and Celebrity Rehab with Dr Drew.

  59. Helen, OK, we hear you. While normally it might be useful to wait and see what the programming Mental As actually comes up with before the bollocking, never let reality get in the way of the pre-packaged response. It’s mental health after all, so keep it unreal.

    Sure, there is a naive simplicity in the ABC’s rationale, which doesn’t seem to go much further than ‘something must be done.” I am sure audiences will be just as moved this year as they were last year at the the daily struggles inside Liverpool Hospital. Or respond to the pain and courage being shown last night in the kick-off doc on kids dealing with mental illness in video diaries. I know it doesn’t offer much by way of solution, and certainly doesn’t even begin to ask why our society seems so adept at turning its citizens sick. But after witnessing the squalid charade that stands for our political and economic system, who can wonder if the answers might be more systemic than we dare admit?

    That said however, the ABC season does indeed offer a very real and necessary purpose. Despite the huge numbers suffering from diagnosed and hidden mental illness, the truth remains that it is stigmatised in society. Those that suffer have an additional burned of having to live through the disdain, dismissal and ignorance of the wider populace. There is little sympathy and thus precious little action.

    If a series like Mental As can help open the discussion (and lets face it, the weight of the ABC juggernaut is going to be a little more effective than a Razer blast from somewhere beyond Planet Zog), then it has served a useful and necessary purpose. If more attention is paid to the problem, then your friend might be able to access better care. Saying less certainly won’t help. And as with so many issues, in the shouty opinionated world we live in, the ABC needs to be the centre of the discussion, the agora for debate, not sitting timidly on the outskirts. Otherwise what dammed use is it?

  60. We all want better mental health services. How do we achieve this? By making mental illness a more prominent and openly discussed part of our society. How do we do THIS? By having a week of programming on the ABC aimed at reducing stigma and inciting conversation. Yes, some of the programming is naff and often entirely unrelated to what people living with severe mental illness are experiencing. But we have to start somewhere.

    1. Wow, everything you’ve said is actually pretty nasty.
      Do you know much about Mental Health treatment? For some of us that suffer from illness, the medical community might as well be in the dark ages as far as their understanding and ability to successfully treat patients goes.
      I’ve struggled with my own nightmare for the past 10 years, and I’ve gone through a copious quantity of failed treatment plans.
      I would love to be fixed, but for some of us, they just don’t know how, not yet at least. So if the best we can get is making society aware, if the best we can get is a message to the world to please be patient and be kind, i’ll take it.
      There can be so many out there hanging by a thread, and just the smallest gesture of care can sometimes mean the difference between life and death.
      I appreciate you want to push for something more substantial, but please don’t take away what little we get, because nothing is just, so much worse, nothing is what destroys us, tears us up inside, nothing takes away any chance of hope.
      Last year ABC open ran a project called speak your mind, which allowed people to write in and share their stories with each other as well as a follow up this year called mental note.
      Personally I actually found this to be a great outlet for my own stories and a comfort to read and talk to others about theirs.
      This is a lot more helpful than just being ignored, and they are trying to help, so give them a break, what have you done? You called it toxic, whats really toxic is your attitude.

  61. Thank you Helen. This myopic approach, which you have delineated well here, characterises far too much of ABC programming and production values in the last couple of years. The progressive dumbing down of Radio National is a serious loss to the wellbeing of the nation. The pathetic pursuit of minuscule dollops of ‘popularity’ in ratings surveys and younger audience share in itself undermines the loyalty of the ABC’s remaining live audiences, as well as putting at risk the appetite for using podcasts and downloads. Does any reader here aware of any on-line forum that anlayses these problems and works on strategies to overcome them?

    1. Hi, Bob. I too preferred RN when it was driven by fact and not feeling. I truly don’t understand why it tends to the “what do YOU think? YOUR opinion is IMPORTANT” cycle of nonsense. Isn’t this warmth the province of Local Radio? I understand chatty radio has its place. But that should not be every place. I mean. I don’t always care what Mr Kafoops from Dubbo has to say on a topic he has been considering for three minutes. I prefer, as I imagine many prefer, to listen to people with expertise acquired over years.
      Anyhow. I actually just wanted to ask you “what sort of forum”? TBH, the ABC has a great list of mental health forums on its Mental As website, so they’ve done a good job for you there at least, if it was your question.
      If you’re asking about forums to do with the role of media in forging awareness, I would probably suggest that you read widely on the matter.

      1. I understand what you are saying, but it is not about “feeling”. The reality is that what you are rightfully lambasting (I agree with all of your comments – except the one about “feeling”) is about the façade of feeling. If what we were seeing was genuinely a “feeling” exercise, the presentation and the outcomes would be totally different and society as a whole might demand adequate resourcing of the needed services. But instead, what we have is a room full of people who will talk “deeply” about an issue and at the end of the week assume that the desired outcomes have been achieved – as you note in your article. As with pretty much everything else, the world is full of people who are trying to “do feeling stuff” without actually connecting to anything. I see it as another example of social competition. The “I am so much more in touch with the plight of those with mental disability than you are” brigade. There are many other examples – one coming immediately to mind is the absurd sight of CEO’s “sleeping rough” for one night and solemnly pronouncing their empathy for the plight of the homeless. Of course, these sanctimonious twerps had cameras and security guards on hand and a nice warming cup of soy latte handed to them in the morning – they “felt” none of the fear and despair that the homeless people suffer every night. A more light-hearted, but still pertinent example is the re-enactment of Woodstock in 1999 – full of people trying desperately to connect with the “spirit” of the original and wrongly assuming that they were – the act alone was proof. Society has always fallaciously tended to imbue acts with some deeper connection (we believe in the paranormal for example), but society as a whole has become quite masterful at the “I am talking about this, so I am really feeling something” form of superficial empathy and I suspect that is what is at the heart of Mental Health Week.

      2. I once heard post-modernist media as being reporting on what you feel about the news rather than reporting the news – reaction becomes the focus, rather than the prime being the focus. As someone who has lived through and with mental illness, I agree that repeated reporting of how people feel about mental illness is no substitute for drawing attention to the causes of mental illness and the difficulty of obtaining appropriate, timely, affordable treatment.

  62. I have been avoiding ABC ever since the adds started running. You are right, it doesn’t differ from a freak show. As if I don’t get that enough with my #inspiring story as an out lesbian in a genderqueer relationship (I get either inspiring or disgusting, its and either/or). My various disabilities qualify me as either an object of #inspiration, or a freeloader. It is about one or the other, always the freak in relation to normative sexuality or health/productivity. Awareness campaigns don’t address what we desperately need – access to medical treatment, food, housing etc. We #inspirational freaks need policy change to address these issues, NOT symbolic gestures or nicer individuals.

    1. Dear Helen Razer, although I’m not in the country at the moment I know that last years ABC week of addressing mental health issues broadened my understanding a great deal. I am very grateful for that and feel that a repetition can only help me to better understand, perhaps others similarly. The more we hear of it reduces its ‘hidden’ nature. Brings it out into the light where issues are better understood and might be better addressed. Michael.

      1. Marvellous. Then what?
        We all understand something a little more after a documentary. I, for example, just watched Mark Blyth and Joe Stiglitz talk about austerity and now I understand how GDP works in relation to debt.
        But, you know, the world is still fucked and tbh, I don’t plan on getting a degree in economics to help it.
        You are saying you enjoyed the programs. That’s nice.
        What now?


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