Suc­cess in mind

From men­tal ill­ness to a Young Per­son of the Year fi­nal­ist

Western Suburbs Weekly - - News - By LISA THOMAS

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

Pic­ture: Will Rus­sell­mu­ni­ d461948

Bron­wyn Milkins has over­come de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety.

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