Mum’s in­sight into her daily chal­lenge

The Coffs Coast Advocate - - NEWS - JAS­MINE MINHAS jas­mine.minhas@coff­s­coas­tad­vo­cate.com.au

SHARON Chisholm is a Coffs mother-of-two, lov­ing wife and thriv­ing busi­ness­woman – a per­fect pic­ture of ‘suc­cess’.

But ap­pear­ances are only skin-deep. Sharon has a com­plex his­tory of men­tal ill­ness, hav­ing been di­ag­nosed with anx­i­ety, post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der and bipo­lar dis­or­der.

Now, Sharon is the star of new SBS doc­u­men­tary How

‘Mad’ Are You?, which chips away at the stigma that per­vades the topic of men­tal health.

The premise of the show asks a sim­ple ques­tion: can we tell a per­son is men­tally ill by look­ing at them?

Af­ter re­ceiv­ing an email about the doc­u­men­tary last year, the lo­cal busi­ness coach said she went through a strin­gent process of in­ter­views be­fore she was cho­sen from sev­eral hun­dred as one of 10 par­tic­i­pants.

Five of the par­tic­i­pants had been di­ag­nosed with a men­tal ill­ness, while the other five had not.

A panel of three men­tal health ex­perts put their cre­den­tials on the line as they de­cided who has a di­ag­no­sis, and what, as the par­tic­i­pants un­der­went a num­ber of tests.

“The ex­pe­ri­ence was phe­nom­e­nal,” Sharon said.

“We did things like a standup com­edy rou­tine, we built a raft, un­der­went mem­ory tests.

“All of us went into it with the idea of re­duc­ing stigma, hop­ing to help peo­ple not feel alone.

“All I can say is the ex­perts didn’t get much right in the end – and that’s the point.”

When Sharon was four she be­gan suf­fer­ing from anx­i­ety. In her teen years she was di­ag­nosed with com­plex PTSD as a re­sult of liv­ing with do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

It was af­ter the birth of her daugh­ter in 2003 when she was di­ag­nosed with post-natal de­pres­sion, and it was three years ago when she was di­ag­nosed with bipo­lar dis­or­der.

To­day, Sharon runs her own on­line busi­ness where she coaches small busi­ness own­ers, par­tic­u­larly women, on is­sues in­clud­ing self-worth and im­poster syn­drome.

“I think it’s im­por­tant that as a so­ci­ety we try to judge peo­ple a lit­tle less,” she said.

“None of us were in it for that 15 min­utes of fame. We were all there with the hope of help­ing even just one per­son to bring mean­ing and pur­pose to ev­ery­thing we’ve been through.”

Watch How ‘Mad’ Are You? on SBS On De­mand. If you or any­one you know needs help, phone Life­line on 13 11 14.

Photo: Jack­son Fin­ter

MEN­TAL HEALTH: Sharon Chisolm (far right) is a star of new SBS doc­u­men­tary How ‘Mad’ Are You?.

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