A (Very) Honest Discussion About Mental Health

Lisa Patulny
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When pitching the idea for this round table discussion, I was surprised to hear more than a few of my colleagues name mental health as an issue of importance for them. As someone who isn't shy about discussing her own struggles (depression and an anxiety disorder), I found this both illuminating and alarming. I'm well aware, maybe more than most, that three million Australians live with anxiety or depression. Still, I was shocked to discover I was working alongside women who've had either touch their lives. Why have we never talked about this? We've debated birth control, relationship breakdowns and even death, but mental health had never come up. Somehow, despite our closeness in both proximity and friendship, a barrier of appropriateness had prevented us from going there. Call it political correctness, call it politeness—either way this reluctance to talk about mental health is a significant issue. It continues to contribute to sufferers feeling alone and misunderstood. (Which is, in part, why initiatives like R U OK? Day are so important.) So, in the interest of making ourselves vulnerable for a greater cause we got the Byrdie Australia team together to talk. I can't say it was the most relaxed or natural conversation I've had, but any momentary weirdness quickly evaporated as we each admitted to feeling a bit... atypical.

On the agenda: Anything mental health related. Early on in the conversation we discovered something staggering—none of us, not even those who've personally experienced mental health issues, knew the "right" words to use to talk about it. To me, that suggests that the possibility of engaging in meaningful dialogue (even amongst friends) is scarily slim. We're just too damn scared to say the wrong thing. So, will three women talking candidly about their experiences with mental health prompt others to do the same? Maybe, maybe not. That said, if reading the honest and open discussion that follows adds to a greater dialogue about what it means to talk about mental health, then the temporary uncomfortableness we each experienced (#RealTalk) was worth it.

Read on as we candidly discuss our own experiences with mental health, how it affects our relationships, and how we deal with it in the workplace—and, as always, we love it when you share your stories too. Grab a coffee and settle in, it's a long one.

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