“Take care of yourself” was the key message of a recent presentation to Tasmanians who are supporting a loved one who has a mental illness.
Paula Wriedt, former Tasmanian MP and an ambassador for Beyond Blue, was guest speaker at a recent luncheon in Hobart held by FACT (Friends and Carers Together) in conjunction with Anglicare and the Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centre.
Members of FACT met through Our Time – one of Anglicare’s services which offers respite, information and support. The participants said Our Time had been so beneficial to their well-being they wanted meet regularly with others in similar life circumstances.
Ms Wriedt told the gathering she chooses to speak out about mental illness in order to educate the community and tackle stigma and prejudice. She said that not only had she experienced mental ill health, she had spent time caring for family members with depression and anxiety.
Ms Wriedt said that the caring role was important, but could be frustrating and physically and mentally exhausting. “You need to take care of yourselves,” she said. Ms Wriedt spoke of a time in her life when she was acting as an emotional support for others, but said “no-one was looking after me”. “I became a performing seal,” she said. “I hid it so well…I put on a mask. I was becoming depressed but didn’t ask for help”.
Ms Wriedt said things that had proved useful to her were regular exercise and journal-writing. She said she’d also learned how to say no. Ms Wriedt said she has been overwhelmed by the encouragement and support provided by family, friends and the wider community. “I have been shown such kindness by so many people,” she said. “People have shared their personal stories with me…and they were an important part of getting through it all”.
She said that 1 in 3 women, and 1 in 5 men would experience depression or anxiety sometime in their life. “I want people to be able to recognise the symptoms and seek help,” she said.