Stigma Reduction — 18 August 2015

 

A mental health advocate from Broome in Western Australia has won a grant to combat stigma surrounding mental illness.

Trent Caldwell is part of a group of young people who came up with the campaign “Raise Your Cards” after taking part in the ABC Heywire program.

Raise Your Cards encourages young people battling mental illness to share their stories by uploading short silent films to social media.

The project has received a Youth Innovation Grant from the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal to help implement it.

“We want people to start to realise the truth about mental illness and promote good mental health,” Mr Caldwell said.

“The stigmas that are out there right now, because it’s such a taboo topic, they make the average Joe not want to come out and say ‘hey guys, I’ve got a mental illness’.

“We want people to be able to share their stories confidently…to put faces to mental illnesses.”

Mr Caldwell knows all too well about the devastating effects of mental illness.

A freak accident in 2012 left him with a “shopping list” of mental health problems which changed his life forever.

“I was doing chin-ups on a cross bar and the goals collapsed on my head,” he said.

“They crushed my skull and put me into a two-week coma.

“When I awoke I was blind in my right eye and I had accrued a whole bunch of mental illnesses that I didn’t even know about until later down the track.

“Depression, post traumatic stress, epilepsy, ADHD…a nice shopping list of mental illnesses.”

The accident sent Mr Caldwell on a downward spiral which culminated in him attempting to end his life and being institutionalised.

Eventually he moved to Broome and reached out to Headspace, which helps young people battling mental illness.

The recovery process was an immensely powerful one he said, giving him a renewed purpose to share his story and helps others.

While the campaign has not officially launched yet, the few videos already posted to the Raise Your Cards Facebook page have been viewed thousands of times.

Mr Caldwell said he was pleased with how the project had been embraced and how the message appeared to be getting through.

He said his experience left him in no doubt as to the severity of mental illness and the harmful effects of the stigmas which surround it.

“Prior to the accident I had limited knowledge of mental health [but] once I accrued these illnesses I realised this could happen to anybody,” he said.

“This is nasty stuff. It’s deadly. I tried to take my life. I’ve got cuts and scars all over my arms to prove the effect mental health can have on a person.

“It’s amazing; how powerful one of these illnesses can be. You can’t see it. It’s a silent criminal.”

This article first appeared on ‘ABC‘ on 17 August 2015.

 

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