Success in mind
From mental illness to a Young Person of the Year finalist
NEDLANDS student Bronwyn Milkins has turned her own struggle with mental health into a chance to help others and break down barriers for those with the disease.
The UWA PhD psychology student is a finalist in the WA Young Person of the Year category of the WA Youth Awards for her volunteer work and passion to remove the stigma associated with mental illness.
She is also a finalist in the Community Leadership Award section.
The 25-year-old developed depression and anxiety in her first year of university, which led to Ms Milkins suffering from life-threatening bulimia and anorexia.
She said she found the transition from high school to university tough, which took its toll on her mind and body.
“It was a combination of dieting, perfectionism, stress, my personality and the idea of thinness that is placed on us in society,” she said.
“It was a really long process to recover, but I really wanted to get better.”
After seven years of battling the illness, Ms Milkins had recovered.
Following her recovery, she started volunteering with several organisations, including the Black Dog Institute, and used her knowledge and experience to speak to students at more than 96 schools about mental health and share her own journey to recovery.
Now in the final months of her PhD on sleeplessness, she will go into another year of study to qualify as a psychiatrist.
“My passion is designing programs to help marginalised people, like homeless people, and how we can improve their lives… a community-led intervention into mental health,” she said.
“I believe it’s a collective approach to solving mental illness in Australia and getting our experts together in one room to brainstorm how we can make it happen.”
Ms Milkins was nominated for the WA Young Person of the Year award by her boyfriend and said she was surprised when she was announced as a finalist.
“I feel very humbled and shocked,” she said.
“I hope it shows other people that you can rise above and speak about what you’ve been through.
“I also hope this highlights how important mental health is.”
The WA Youth Awards will be announced on November 25.
DEPRESSION and anxiety is the leading cause of disability worldwide. In Australia, it is estimated that 45 per cent of people will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime, with one in 16 young Australians currently experiencing depression and anxiety. An increasing number of students are being treated for anxiety and mental health issues in WA, with around 51 per cent of students saying there is too much pressure on exam results. Pressures to succeed at WACE and university exams are increasing, with research showing long-term pressures, such as buying a house, are factors during exam preparation. 2016 WA Youth Award finalist Bronwyn Milkins is an example of how the pressures of university and exams created severe mental health issues. Mental health programs such as ReachOut are campaigning to help reduce stress and anxiety in students and remind them there is life after exams. The week will see the end of high school and WACE exams, with many students focused on their futures. The campaign aims to show students that there is always a plan B. If results are not what you expected, don’t beat yourself up and think about what other options are available.
Lisa Thomas - Reporter
Bronwyn Milkins has overcome depression and anxiety.