Although I didn’t know what it was, my first recollection of having some type of condition that affected my ability to properly function in the morning was as a 12-year-old. This now makes perfect sense considering about 75% first manifest between early adolescence and 25.
I would feel very negative, lacked confidence and just wanted to stay within myself and this would be the case for the first few hours of my day. As I got older, the dark clouds would take longer to clear.
For more than four decades I lived with this and did not seek help. Instead I employed various bizarre techniques to try and get myself going. For example, when driving to work, I’d stop a few times, stare at the sun to make myself sneeze, as this would release endorphins and give me a lift.
Back then the stigma attached to mental illness was greater, and in men I think it was considered a sign of character weakness. This definitely served as a deterrent to seeking help.
I finally decided to confront my condition, which over the years I came to accept was an underlying depressive disorder. I was fortunate to be in a position to be able to turn to my friend Jeff Kennett for assistance. He put me in touch with a top-notch mental health specialist.
It was discovered that I release serotonin, the hormone that helps you start the day in good shape, a few hours later than most others. Following six months of experimentation with different medications, I struck gold. But others aren’t so lucky.
The coalition’s wonderful commitment to invest $1.5 billion into front-line mental health services, is as Professor John Mendoza said, “a game changer”. In many ways mental health is the forgotten area of health and it is certainly a glaring omission in the Gillard government’s health plan.
The coalition’s package is specifically targeted, evidence-based policy and places a particular emphasis on the many thousands of young Australians affected by a mental health condition. About 20%-25% of young people aged 12-17 and 25%-40% of those aged 18-24 are afflicted.
Across the country a coalition government led by Tony Abbott will deliver 20 new early psychosis prevention and intervention centres (EPPIC), including 800 acute and sub-acute early intervention beds. This model was pioneered in Australia by Professor Patrick McGorry, the present Australian of the Year.
In addition, 60 additional youth headspace centres will be established, taking the number from 30 to 90. These centres provide a range of mental and health well-being support to young people aged 12-25 and their families.
I am now determined to do whatever I can to raise awareness and encourage people to seek help, which is crucial considering about four million Australians live with a mental illness without getting help .
It is certainly worth it because over the past 14 weeks and at age 58, my mornings have been better than any I have experienced throughout my life.