SPECIAL REPORT: MENTAL HEALTH
To coincide with R U OK? Day on September 8, DOLLY readers share their thoughts and feelings on mental illness.
We get serious about an important topic for R U OK? Day.
WHAT DO YOU GUYS KNOW ABOUT MENTAL ILLNESS?
JOSS: We have lots of programs at school that teach about it, because the rates in my year were about 50 per cent of people experiencing either depression or anxiety. So it’s a big deal. Our school counsellor said that about 90 per cent of Year 12 students will, at some point, go to visit him during their final year. ANICA: I think it should be an open discussion in high school, even in primary! Many mental illnesses have an early onset but people aren’t open or confident enough to talk about it. Their disorders aren’t treated and become more severe.
DO YOU EVER SEE POSTS ABOUT DEPRESSION, SUICIDE OR CUTTING ON SOCIAL MEDIA?
JOSS: You might see pictures where people have cut themselves. It’s scary, and at my school it’s a big issue because we’re very academic and it’s really stressful.
WHAT DO YOU THINK WHEN YOU SEE POSTS LIKE THIS?
LUKA: It depends on what they are saying – because if someone has that issue, I would expect that they would talk to their friends about it. So, if someone posts about it and they gain lots of likes, it seems like they’re not trying to get help but instead trying to get people to feel sorry for them. ANICA: I feel like it’s easier to talk about suicide, depression or any type of mental illness with someone you have a personal connection with, whereas on social media it’s all about building a social image or a public profile.
DO YOU THINK IT’S TOUGHER FOR GUYS TO OPEN UP ABOUT MENTAL ILLNESS BECAUSE OF THE PRESSURE TO ‘MAN-UP’?
LUKA: It is a big thing for males now, like a couple of years back males couldn’t really share because it wasn’t the manly thing to do. Now it is just an open thing, it’s OK and not shameful to do.
LOUIS: I feel like now it’s starting to get better. More sportspeople are opening up about it, so guys feel more comfortable to talk about it.
DO YOU THINK THERE IS TOO MUCH PRESSURE PLACED ON TEENS TODAY?
LOUIS: Since I’m 14 I don’t have to deal with the stress that people when they’re older have to deal with. I don’t have any big exams or anything like that so I’m not really feeling the stress at the moment. JOSS: Everyone during school is dealing with either family or friendship issues, so some people are getting top marks and some won’t be. You get to school and everyone is judged the same and you start to feel like your whole life is an exam. There are so many different pathways to get into uni – it’s not always about your ATAR. It’s hard when you think what you do in this exam is going to tell whether you get a 99 ATAR or not. LUKA: I think there’s a point where you just feel the weight of the whole world placed on your back. I have a friend, his parents are really hard on him – they expect him to get over 90 (ATAR)! Even if he gets the top mark at school, he’s really stressed out. It becomes an overload.
WHAT DO YOU DO TO HANDLE THE PRESSURE?
ANICA: I just take a step back from the situation and get better self-confidence by doing things I enjoy, like meeting up with friends. When I feel like I am in a better state of mind, I talk about it with my friends to get a better perspective and think about it in a more logical sense. LUKA: I go for a run – the longest run possible! It clears my head. BELLA: I write down every single thing that’s on my mind so that it’s out on paper, then I go through and see what I can get done. It calms me down – writing things down really helps. Then I just put on a movie and try to block out everything [else] while focusing on what I need to do the next day. When you do [each task], you can cross it off and it’s one less thing you have to worry about. JOSS: If I have a lot to deal with, I just divide up what I need to do. If it’s all in very small pieces, then I can relax. If I have a lot of pressure, usually I just go outside, go to the beach, go for a drive with my mates – spend some time escaping from it.
”OUR SCHOOL COUNSELLOR SAID THAT 90 PER CENT OF YEAR 12 STUDENTS WILL VISIT HIM DURING THEIR FINAL YEAR.”