Mentalhealth / Toolbox

Mental Health Stigma and Surviving the System

I’ve been running a page (founded) on Facebook named bipolar awareness ~ stop the stigma since 2009 with a handful of other ladies internationally since the days before links posted in groups could be seen in newsfeeds. It was created as a way to share mental health related research, blogs and news links with friends….I looked up from my linking one day to find the world had joined us.

Ok thing is we suspected exactly what was going on by about the age of 7-8 and their step father has bipolar. So in about 2010 they started running in the run melbourne kids run raising money for research.

It also gave them a way by which they could discuss and raise awareness for mental health. Initially their school literally FREAKED OUT. “OMG you cant have kids talking about MENTAL HEALTH!” But it’s ok they settled down soon enough once all the other kids started talking about Mum who has depression, Uncle Rob who has bipolar…and you get the drift. They were discussing it at their own level and in their own way.

They are still doing this although this year it is the colour run. Their colour teams fundraising page is over here if you want to sponsor them.

The Colour Run GoFundme

Bipolar Awareness ~ Stop the Stigma Run Melbourne Team

This album includes previous years and runs

I’ve been a carer for the mentally ill literally for decades and an advocate for mental health for the last 10 years and been fundraising for research since 2009.

I’d been there done that while supporting friends and family through quite hair-raising protracted periods of mental illness including a mother who was admitted for 10 years attempting suicide almost weekly.

76 attempts recorded at just one hospital.

I’ve had strangers approach me and speak to me at the hospital…one was a 14 yo girl who had just found her 16yo foster sister in the bathroom in a pool of blood. So we chatted and had a smoke while I waited for my mother’s stomach to be pumped. I was about 17 at the time.

One of the hardest things is wanting to help them but having to recognise that you can’t do it for them…and all she wanted to do was make everything better for her foster sister.

I’m a mum the last year particularly with puberty arriving and someone making an arse of themselves on their way to prison symptoms came to the fore for my children.

With mental illness being largely genetic a history of trauma runs the risk of seriously distorting diagnosis….

Let me explain. Trauma can trigger the onset of mental illness, BUT in about 80% of cases you actually need to be genetically predisposed to developing it.

Exams and breaking up with your first boyfriend, a wedding, buying a house or having a baby are all normal healthy events in your life which are stressful enough to trigger the onset of mental illness….

To have a mental illness does not mean you were abused….

Children can be traumatised by and develop ptsd from grooming without actually being physically sexually abused.

3 daughters 3 different diagnosis….all very different symptoms all at high risk of misdiagnosis……but a little over a year later we made it though and I think they got it right……treatments and therapies as of this week are ALL now in place…..most have been for a few months now. Psychologists was the first thing to kick in a year ago.

I was speaking to a good friend at church a few weeks back updating her on what was going on…..and a visiting pastor interjected and rudely told me not to speak things onto myself…..

WTF some may think acute mental illness catastrophic and here I am over here CHEERING because diagnosis was deliberately extended for the sake of increasing accuracy treatments have been appropriately applied and there are TRUE signs of recovery and stability OMFG we couldn’t have handled it better.

Denial is not healthy
Avoidance is not healthy

Seeing a PROFESSIONAL is smart if it is eliminated as a cause all the better particularly as it was properly eliminated and not just disregarded by someone not qualified to know.

When my eldest had her breakdown the first thing I did was notify her psychologist (she had been seeing her two years already) and book myself into a psychologist…..I made application for an IVO I booked myself in to see the psychologist….I made application to the family court I booked MYSELF in to see a psychologist….

When the horde are at the gates….the soldiers get their armour on….

When shits getting real…..I go get my armour on……

(this is how I’ve never landed in a psych ward……and I probably should’ve 10 times over if I wasn’t wearing my armour)

Admittedly they told me you are coping amazingly well we patched the couple of missing tools in your toolbox but you are coping…

It didn’t waste mine or their time because it helps to know you aren’t the thing falling apart when you least need YOU to be falling apart.

I AM a HUGE advocate for putting on the big girl boots (you know the gum boots with the daisies on the side) and getting felled trees cleared and cleaned up for firewood rather than just making a makeshift track to the side….

Why let it lay to the side limiting traffic and potential….

Their diagnosis are; Acute Anxiety possible (PTSD) Prepubescent bipolar and premenstrual dysphoria.

One treated with therapy

Another treated with lamitrogine (mood stabiliser antiseizure medication) and therapy and

Third treated with the pill (hormones) B6, Iron, Vitamin D and therapy….

SYMPTOMS do not need to be acute to ask for help. Symptoms do not need to be acute to see a psychologist. The EARLIER you seek help the better the outcome is likely to be and the less ground needing to be made up.

These things are best addressed early BEFORE they develop into a disorder.

We had tried getting them help earlier. We were refused….

1. Because she hadn’t disclosed they didn’t know if it was sexual abuse or merely trauma and emotional abuse. They only offered sexual abuse counselling back then. No CBT no mindfulness no alternatives and without disclosure it could just traumatise her even more and he hadn’t yet been convicted.

2. Due to wait lists they never actually saw her during episodes when younger and so assumed I was just feeding them a load of bull about the severity of symptoms.

3. Symptoms when they first presented were assumed to be depression…..I insisted they wait….we waited….episodes were alongside menses…..more accurate diagnosis and more effective treatment provided.

The mental health system can be loaded with pot holes my relief is as much about the fact that we managed to navigate and avoid those pot holes and that really was due to going to the psychologist first with these issues …rather than the paediatrician, the child psychiatrist, or even the GP besides obtaining the referral and care plan.

EVEN THE GP tried to prescribe antidepressants and refused to prescribe the pill on the basis that it has a black box warning (so do antidepressants)

Knowing their paternal Aunt has bipolar and that antidepressants cause switching in those with bipolar (even undiagnosed) antidepressants regardless of if they are first line treatment in the system are last resort on my list and I would be insisting on admission before they tried it, simply because their symptoms really are so severe.

The last year was more a case of white knuckling through their symptoms screaming DONT YOU FUCKERS DARE GET THIS WRONG OR YOU WILL HAVE WRATH OF MUMMY DOWN ON YOU….I know how badly it can go wrong because too many times in my life I’ve been left cleaning it up…….well not quite screaming at them but they know I am extremely averse to psych meds in kids in all except the most extreme cases where it’s their safety and life on the line….my youngest is medicated because we knew how dangerous she was when not sedated and we knew there were better ways to do this than sedating her every night for a couple of hours sleep.

I’ve done a hell of alot of refusing antidepressants over the last year…a hell of alot…and I’m glad I did because it is a knee jerk reaction of the mental health system.

The reason paediatrician’s GP’s and child psychiatrists are this HUGE pot hole is their specific role is literally to diagnose and prescribe that is all they do day in and day out….

By going to the psychologist first if it is a shortage of life or coping skills its addressed….if it is a lack of protective behaviours it is addressed. If it is bullying it is addressed, if it is actually something more acute that needs medicating they will let you know and that is when you take it to the others. They cant diagnose but most are experienced enough to know when it is something they cant address and they aren’t so arrogant as to not tell you.

I admit I have an advantage in that I have been a full time carer for someone with bipolar for the last 9 years and someone with acute ptsd for 12 years before that (another one they did a case study on due to severity)

So I know the system (but the adult system is a world away from pediatric circles), I know the roles of each specialty, and I know psych drugs like some people know the race form.

But you don’t need to know every thing to safely navigate the system.

1. See a psychologist first to address other causes. Stress etc.

2. Blood test at the GP to check iron levels vitamin D thyroid and for diabetes…..
Hit up your vitamins based on those results and chase up anything that may be indicative of medical issues.

3.The psychologist will let you know if it needs further investigation. And they can help by letting the relevant profession know a summary of the background and what they have noticed with your consent.

4. Never accept a rushed diagnosis or a prescription within the first 2 visits. Make sure they have actually eliminated possible medical causes….and check yourself to see if the diagnosis fits the symptoms….and learn about the medication before you agree.

Google is a noxious thing when it comes to health advice BUT it can be used as a reference for drug information and diagnostic criteria. Just be sure of where the information is coming from. Don’t try to self diagnosis use it as a check sum to understand and verify what you are being told.

Oh and the ABSOLUTE biggest tip for dealing with behavioural issues.


I was lucky her earliest episodes at the age of 2 I had actually managed to document in court documents for the application for relocation without realising what it was symptoms of.

These can make recording what specialists need to know a heck of alot easier and using the charts doesnt mean you have the disorder its just a way to track symptoms it may mean 0 but whether it is hours days months actually matters in diagnostics. And the lack of such recording is a huge culprit when it comes to misdiagnosis.

Mood diary:…
This page contains PDF for mood charts for both bipolar and depression and many other tools as well.

Sleep diary:

Anxiety diary:

And a suggestion I would make for ALL mothers of daughters. Introduce them to pink pad on the first day of their first period. Menstrual cycles can bring with them acute symptoms recording them is critical in treatment. Besides endo PCOS PMD PND etc. fertility issues and treatments rely on tracking of menstruation by teaching our daughters to take 2 seconds to record this data we are equipping them to address any future women’s health issues….even if it is just planning a bub. The thing with menstrual cycle data is recording 2-3 months is not very useful the value of the data is actually in long term recording when it comes to fertility health.

No if’s but’s maybe’s or half measures, if your child has symptoms to the severity of violent outbursts, suicidal thoughts, shuts down and hides at school or is regularly going missing with no recollection if where they were, or complains of seeing things when they aren’t there. Or you notice a distinct disconnect between the conversations you have with them and their responses on a regular or semi regular basis and it isnt hearing or attention. These are acute mental health symptoms.

Do not go anywhere else. Google mental health triage in your state and dial the 1300 or 1800 number. They answer 24 hours and can advise either to take them to the hospital or admit them to outpatient mental health service. Even they know how it works. You will see a psychologist first. And other professionals only if they are needed.

yes I do have PTSD….Ironically from the relationship with their father….not from caring for my mother and others…throughout those years supporting her I was actually very well supported by her doctors and nurses….they equipped me with the tools which I use today to manage symptoms and care for others.

I am not medicated for PTSD, I can’t be, Suicide isn’t a concern in relation to me, insomnia and panic attacks are, the doctors have almost killed me every time they have tried to medicate the PTSD so I can sleep, I am an acute asthmatic and I have multiple chronic pain disorders (endo arthritis spinal and knee injuries) and I’ve always wound up in an ambulance due to the impact of the medications on my respiratory system. it forces me to be absolutely KICKARSE when it comes to CBT and mindfulness etc cos its all I got… is funny though with all these court cases going on….went in to see the psychologist for some extra putty for any holes which may have developed since the last time we did the round of the courts….told them my week and their jaw dropped….but they sacked me after a month LOL finally one sacked me because I’m coping too well……I get an update from the lawyer Thursday on where the applications are at….cross your fingers that I can get everything done before the IVO expires.

but phenergan is amazing for anxiety 10mg a day, label says 50mg for sleep but 10mg used to knock me out for a weekend when I was a kid and if I go near guinea pigs they throw 80mg at me and were going to keep going if my face didn’t stop puffing up, I Learned this while building up a tolerance to a Cat the girls insisted was coming to live with us (I am allergic to cats and guinea pigs and wattle and MSG too many things). i was building up a tolerance to the cat and my mum came to visit….there is alot she doesn’t remember and there is alot she fakes her way through because she doesn’t remember and she is recovered now…..but she also drives me barmy….she is fine in small doses, anyway with phenergan I can handle my mother not for hours….but for days and WEEKS! thats how amazing that stuff is…..

pain killers (opiates) are also quite good for anxiety….if you take them regularly….I don’t….I should but I don’t….I save them for big days.

After years of reading up on epigenetics gene expression and methylation of gene’s, one thing we find quite interesting, my youngest was conceived and born AFTER I had developed full blown PTSD, her sisters were conceived and born prior to developing PTSD. There are theories in relation to early onset mental illness and kindling in children. for example the sooner treatment is provided the less severe the disorder will be long term. Research is showing that trauma can basically be genetically inherited, been wondering for a while if the timing of her pregnancy and birth aren’t largely responsible for the age of onset. her sisters issues are more directly related to trauma first hand for her eldest sister…….and it was noticeable at the time and i moved heaven and earth to get us away from it but it wasn’t a fast process. and her middle sister’s is hormonal eh hormones they suck in so many ways….

anyway this one is a good summary of what epigenetics is…

her bipolar is pretty severe already but thankfully there are no indications of psychosis as yet. but we did also have her taking Fish Oil for years at therapeudic dosages. and the university of melbourne piped up just a matter of weeks ago saying that fish oil can delay or even prevent psychosis long term, so hooray for that one if it turns out to be true. some may appreciate this…

brilliant list of signs and symptoms to watch out for.

One thought on “Mental Health Stigma and Surviving the System

  1. Pingback: The Importance of Journaling | The Little Super Hero

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