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Posted by Philip on 6 September 2010, 6:41 pm in , , , ,

Dog Days – reframing issues of mental health

Introducing guest blogger: Barbara Pike


Hi everyone. My name is Barbara and, officially, I’m Philip’s new Personal Assistant. What that translates to, is that I work part time at Diversity NZ supporting projects like DPSN. I am also studying towards a Graduate Diploma in Psychology at the University of Auckland with the intent to gain entry to the training programme to become a Clinical Psychologist (therapist). I have a vested interest in mental health issues, legislation, terminology, issues of discrimination, therapies, medication and anything else you can think of related to staying sane.

Why do I care about these issues? Why should anyone listen to what I have to say? What makes my commentary valid?

My name is Barbara and I used to be depressed. Clinically depressed, which means depressed in a way that is recognised as serious enough to need therapeutic intervention. I was 21 when I was first diagnosed. Four years, three counsellors, two psychologists, one psychiatrist, one psychotherapist, five different rounds of medication which alternately made me fat, killed my sex drive, made me anxious, kept me awake at night, gave me crazy dreams, left me dehydrated, gave me nausea and heart palpitations, potentially damaged my kidneys and, scariest of all, may have damaged my motor cortex – none of which had any significant impact on my depression – and thankfully, I’m still here to tell the tale. It’s been a long journey, but I can today say with absolute honesty that this is the first time in my life, since diagnosis, that I have felt whole, happy and sane.

I don’t have all the answers. Nor do I have any magic secret or cure. I do have great amounts of compassion and understanding for anyone currently experiencing any kind of mental distress and I encourage anyone who is having problems to seek professional help. I also believe there are huge problems with current models of treatment for depression and other mental illnesses and that things need to change, and soon. There was not a single therapy or medication that, for me, had any lasting or significant impact on my depression. I got well by figuring things out on my own. Not exactly the easiest way to go about it I know, but then I’ve never really taken the easiest road through anything in my life, so I guess it’s fitting.

This is not intended to be a blog describing the state of mental illness or depression. If you’ve got it, you’ll know about it, and there are plenty of other far more eloquent resources that myself if you want to read up on it. (Ask me if you’d like some suggestions.) This is a perspective, from someone who survived the illness and the system. It’s a place to share some of the things I learned that other people might find valuable, to advocate change and progress in treatments and public awareness, and a running commentary of what I’m learning as I continue to study psychology and figure out where our current models came from (and why we think they work).

It's a blog for anyone and everyone, because issues of mental health will affect each and every one of us, in some way, at some point in our lives.

Finally, it’s a forum. I’m passionate and opinionated, but I will happily admit to not always being right. Please feel free to let me in on your own perspectives and experiences, or link me to any new information that I may not be aware of, because in sharing we may both learn something useful.

Feel free to comment below, or contact me at barbara@diversitynz.com

For more views on similar and different issues, join Diversityworks Peer Support Network.