We still need to change out attitudes to mental health

Mental health image of brain
Image: iStock

Content warning: This post briefly talks about suicide and may be distressing to some readers.

People were shocked and saddened to hear about the recent passing of fashion designer, Kate Spade and celebrity chef and media personality Alan Boudain.

There has been well – meaning outpouring of grief and awareness about mental illness.

Encouragement to get help for mental illness in the aftermath of a suicide and standing in solidarity with surviving loved ones and those struggling is great. However, it’s often not consistent. Earlier this year, ’90’s pop star, Mariah Carey came out saying she’d been suffering bipolar disorder for nearly twenty years. A number of responses on social media was that of disbelief. People accused Carey of using it as an excuse for the demise of her singing career.

Australian celebrities haven’t been free from this scrutiny. I was appalled by some of the reactions to tennis champion, Bernard Tomic when he admitted that he was struggling mentally shortly after appearing on I”m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here!

And that’s not all. Over the years, people with mental health issues have been mocked. There have been suggestions that mental illness has become ‘fashionable‘. Um, what?

In the aftermath of the deaths of Boudain and Spade as well as countless others, isn’t it obvious that we need people to admit when they are struggling? Even if they aren’t clinically depressed or have anxiety disorder (or have yet to be diagnosed officially)? We do! We can’t make people feel like they have to go through these struggles alone.

We can debate about treatments for depression; whether medication is always the answer, whether Attention Deficit and Hyper Active Disorder (ADHD) can be treated without Ritalin, or the role of the pharmaceutical industry in over prescribing medication, whether some mental issues can be eliminated (or at least better controlled) by change in environment, etc. What we don’t need is people  accusing those who open up about mental health issues of faking it or seeking attention.

Over the years, articles have been written to spot ‘signs’ that a person is faking their mental illness. This topic has fired up both mental illness sufferers and therapists on YouTube alike.

Mental illness is real. Most people who open up about mental health issues are not making it up (Kati Morton briefly touches the topic of Munchausen Syndrome, where someone may exaggerate or make up symptoms. I’m guessing that they’d be in the teeny tiny minority). To  be honest, it can be easy to misdiagnose yourself. You may feel down for a while and suspect you have depression, but then things become better after a while. That’s why to be diagnosed with depression, the symptoms will be consistent over a number weeks (about six) before you get officially diagnosed and, sometimes, medicated for depression (I’m guessing it’s similar to other disorders like bipolar, anxiety, etc).

 

The  stigma around mental illness needs to stop. It’s deadly. Be there for loved ones who are struggling and encourage them to get help. If you’re suffering yourself, please get help. You’re not alone.

If you are struggling and you live in Australia, you can contact LIfeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue via their web chat or 1300  224 636. If you are in an emergency situation, call 000 (if you’re in the US, 911 and UK, 999 or 112 (the last number is for members of the EU).

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Cultural appropriation: a war no one can win

US funk, soul and pop singer, Bruno Mars was caught up in a cultural appropriation controversy earlier this year after he was accused of ‘appropriating’ African music. (Does this sound familiar? Wasn’t Elvis Presley condemned for a similar thing sixty or so years ago?). African American celebrities ended up coming to his aid.

Mars’ mother is Filipino and his father is Puerto Rican and Jewish.

To me, this proves that nobody can win the new aawar of cultural appropriation.

Cultural appropriation is:

…the act of using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing you understand and respect this culture.

From further reading I’ve done, I think cultural appropriation is about power, especially the power that the British had for decades over African and indigenous peoples (Aboriginal Australians,  Native Americans, etc).

As I said above, this has become an unwinable culture war. It is seen as nothing more by many people as an encroachment of free speech and expression.

Representations

A frankly absurd new rule I’ve been hearing and reading about is don’t write about something about a minority that you aren’t part of. Now, this is encroachment of free speech and expression. People should be able to write about and from any perspective that they like! As long it doesn’t aim to portray negative stereotypes, (unless in the form of satire or black comedy), why shouldn’t they? Should I be able to write a novel about a Syrian refugee, even though I’m not one? Yes! But I’ll make sure that I researched the topic, made sure I didn’t undermine their experiences or stereotype them.

Writing and the arts in general often require a level of research, sometimes extensive. At times, actors work in certain fields to get real – life experience on what it’s like to do that job.

Then, there are representations of minority groups, such as the LGBTQ+ community. Sure, some shows have done a fairly poor job of it. One thing that has annoyed me in the past is when a character is allegedly LGBTQ+, but are in a sams – sex relationship only briefly and their same – sex relationship, or alleged attraction is never spokwn of again. Then, there are shows that porttay lesbian or bi women, but seem to appeal to straight men.

One show has done things differently is Channel Eleven’s Neighbours. In 2010, teenager Chris Pappas, (played by James Mason), came out as gay.

Since then, Neighbours has had other LGB characters: Steph Scully (Carla Bonner), who has dated men and women on the show and jas been outed as bisexual and David Tanaka (Takaya Honda) and Aaron Brenner (Matt Wilson), a gay couple.

Screenshot of David and Aaron from Neighbours

 

None of the actors (to my knowledge), are LGB, but the way Neighbours portray the LGB community I think should be commended.

Eight years since Pappas came out, many of Neighbours’ fans are eagerly waiting tor the marriage of Brennan and Tanaka, with comedian Magda Szubanski set to play their celebrant.

Negative stereotypes can be harmful. It’s important not to dehumanise others. However, people should be able to express themselves and write, act or other things without being  seen as nefarious.

What do you think of cultural appropriation and media representation of minorities in general? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

 

In the wake of IDAHOBIT, thank you, but keep fighting

Rainbow Pride flag
Image: iStock

 

17 May is the International Day Against Homophobia, Bi – phobia, Intersexism and trans – phobia. (IDAHOBIT). 17 May 1990 was the day when the World Health Organisation officially declassified homosexuality as a mental qaillness.

I said about a year ago about how IDAHOBIT was a great day for the LGBTQ+ community to show appreciation for those who have stood by us, fought for the rights of LGBTQ+ people and stood by LGBTQ+ people who are in distress. This is still close to my heart. Thank you again for everyone who has been a part of making our lives a little bit easier, especially last year during the same – sex marriage postal survey debate.

But, of course , the work is not done; not here and not around the world. Currently,  seventy – four countries still outlaw homosexuality, some of where the death penalty can be carried out for same – sex relations.

 

The Australian LGBTQ+ community won a major battle last year; same – sex marriage finally came legal after 61.6% of survey participants agreed that same – sex couples should be able to marry. The Act now states that two people can marry, with no mention of sexual orientation, sex or gender identity. This is monumental.

The battle for the right to marry for LGBTQ+ people is won. Where we still need to be vigilant is the reversal of anti – discrimination laws. Last year, there was discussion about whether businesses should be able to discriminate against LGBTQ+ couples who want to marry on the grounds of faith or conviction. I have expressed numerous times how I think this is a potential slippery slope and how there is no guarantee that it’ll only be cake bakers or other wedding suppliers that will be exempt, but also teachers, other educators, counsellors, psychologists, etc like it has in parts of the US. I plead for our allies to be vigilant about that and, if it comes up, to vocally protest against it.

I still feel strongly about LGBTQ+ students being supported in schools. If not through Safe Schools, I don’t think it would hurt to have another program aimed at tackling homophobia, bi – phobia and trans – phobia etc. As I’ve said before in the context of education and AFL’s Pride Roun, I really don’t think it’s enough for students to have to assume that they are not at risk of being rejected. It needs to be made obvious. The voices in the head of someone even questioning their sexuality can make one assume the worst; that they won’t be accepted, that they deserve to be bullied, etc.

Not all advocacy is political either. Increasingly, the issue of proper LGBTQ+ visibility in the media and pop culture comes up. There are still issues with misrepresentation or invisibility, especially of bisexual people. Negative stereotypes about bisexual and pansexual people still persist and have negative consequences on their mental health.

While things are improving for asexual people,including visbility, things can still improve. For starters, it would be great if people would get to know what asexuality is. Allow people to define their own sexuality and/ or relationships, without resorting to comments that it’s a phase, etc, (often it’s not).

 

The West have made great strides in LGBTQ+ rights. I am really hopeful, although cautious, about the future. The world as a whole has a long, long way to go. Hopefully IDAHOBIT in the future can bribg positive change where it’s needed.

Have you, your school or workplace done anything for IDAHOBIT? Also, what do you think can improve for LGBTQ+ people?

 

Author and educator causes storm over nappy changing comment

Screenshot o& Ravishly article: Should you ask your baby for consent to change their diaper?

Author and educator, Deanne Carson copped ridicule and strong criticism last week when she told ABC News that parents should seek consent from toddlers before changing their nappy. One of Carson’s critics is Joni Edelman from feminist site, Ravishly.

I have been quite vocal on social media that what Carson said actually makes a mockery of consent. I think it has the potential to unravel the awareness and aims of the #MeToo movement.

As Herald Sun’s Susie O’Brien said on Sunrise, it’s important to teach children about consent and bodily autonomy, but what Carson suggested was ‘absurd’. I agree.

The beauty and heartache of Mother’s Day

Bunch of glowers in glass vase with ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ in heart - shaped card. Flowers surfound base
Image: iStock

Mother’s Day is this Sunday in Australia (I’m not sure whether the US has the same day or not. Father’s Day is different… I think). Looking at shopping centres during this week, I’m amazed at the beauty of the advertising and products. Sure, Mother’s Day is  great for advertisers to pull at the heart strings of consumers. I think they’ve succeeded this year, at least in Lavington! But, to me, it also shows the beauty that mothers bring (or are supposed to bring) to children and adults.

Women, around the country and around the world, do everything they possibly can for their children. There are also foster carers, stepmothers and aunts as well as others, who would give their lives if it meant seeing the children they love so dearly, live happily.

There are also mothers who have lost babies, either through miscarriage or stillbirth. That heartbreaking moment when they are told that their little bundle doesn’t have a heartbeat. The pain must be unbearable. The little child that they never heard cry, talk or see walk will always be in their hearts as long as they live.

There are women who are either childless by choice or by circumstances (prolonged singleness, infertility, etc), who make it an imperative to be a part of the lives of their nieces and nephews. They love them as they would love their own.

Unfortunately, Mother’s Day is hard for some children and adults who have recently lost a mother. It may be their first Mother’s Day without their mother, due to death. For those who are in this situation, maybe for the first Mother’s Day, my heart goes out to you.

Despite the $2 billion industry Mother’s Day has become, I believe it’s a day of reflection and showing love and appreciation to the women that have made such an impact throughout our lives.

 

If you’re a mother, stepmother, foster carer, ‘cool Aunt”, I hope you have an awesome day on Sunday. For those who will struggle this weekend, I hope you will find comfort.

 

Cate Mcgregor changes stance on Safe Schools

Screenshot ‘AUstralian article: ‘I was wrong abou5 Safe Schools’

Cricket commentator and former Lieutenant Colonel, Cate Mcgregor, has denounced and apologised for her opposition to the controversial Safe Schools program last year. Mcgregor had received backlash from LGBTQ media and community organisations after opposing Safe Schools, when she accused the founder Roz Ward as being a ‘Trotskyite’.

Mcgregor claimed that her mind changed after hearing testimonies about how Safe Schools had helped, and possibly saved, transgender children.

She has received some backlash from some people for her stance.

Mcgregor is free to change her mind. And to be honest, I think there was a lot of scaremongering about Safe Schools. Frankly, I think a lot of that was fueled by homophobia and trans – phobia.

I remember finding and reading through the All of Us online. While I didn’t agree with everything that I read (I didn’t see the point in the role – playing of being sixteen and in a same – sex relationship when the children were about thirteen/ fourteen), but, there was good in it. I did like the way that the resource went beyond the  gay/ straight dichotomy.

I also liked the idea of the videos featuring LGBTI teens. I think that would’ve been a good way to tear down stigma and negative stereotypes about LGBTQ+ people. I think there could have been a bit more on those who are questioning and unsure of their orientation.

I hoped that Safe Schools would start a conversation LGBTQ+ students and how they can be supported. I hoped that it would bring assurance to LGBTQ+ students who were being bullied or struggling to accept themselves. I firmly believe that acceptance and non – judgement can’t be merely implied. It needs to be explicit. Negative voices and doubt need to be confirmed wrong. It would be great for teachers, Student Advisers, School Counsellors and other support staff to initiate and welcome discussion, rather than students having to find the courage to initiate it, when, all too often, fear of rejection is all too real.

I liked the way that asexuality was mentioned  in the resources. This could lessen the alienation that so many young asexual people go through.

 

Then, it all went to hell in a  hand basket.  A damning video circulated the internet of a conference with Roz Ward as speaker. It exposed the ‘truth’ about the Safe Schools program; that it wasn’t an anti – bullying program, but a pro – LGBT program. Conservatives lapped this up and there was increasing pressure for State governments to can the program.

Then, during last year’s same – sex marriage debate, the real smear campaign started. Not only were opponents of Safe Schools screaming about ‘gender fluidity’ and ‘penis tucking’, there were also accusations that children, some who were in primary school, were modelling plasticine into vulvas and kids being taught about sex toys and masturbation. The Department of Education and supporters of Safe Schools, including former Australian Medical Association President, Kerryn Phelps. vehemently denied the claims. I had never read anything to suggest such things. To be honest, I can’t help but think that tactic was used by some to imply a link between LGBTQ+ people and paedophilia.

 

Personally, I don’t know whether Safe Schools should be modified, stay 5he same, or just go. But I DO knpw that LGBTQ+ students. They should feel safe, cared for and free from judgement. Victims of homophobia, trans – phobia, etc need to be confident that if they speak out, that they will ne supported and that such behaviour will not be tolerated by anyone.

Critics of Safe Schools keep saying that no child should be bullied. I agree. And LGBTQ+ students should be accepted and supported, a factor that people seem to want to swerve away from.

 

Sorry about the absence. And new plans

Sorry for the absence. I’ve been busy and haven’t had a chance to plan any posts for a while.

I’m thinking of extending the Cherry Bomb Media/ News and Views brand and am starting to dabble in video. I’ve got a starter’s microphone, which seems to work alright. The videos I’m hoping to do is a verbal extension of what I do hear, but exclusively news and social media based (so minus the personal stuff I post here). See how I go.

Anyone incorporate video as well as blogging? What tips would you give to a beginner? Any would be much appreciated. 🙂