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Stigma - it is hurtful; it is harmful; and it is not helpful

Tracey speaking at My Brave Central Coast Australia

Today I can say I have been inspired and humbled all at the same time. Inspired by the stories of nine people who shared their story of adversity and the impact on their mental health. Humbled by my own good fortune that has never really seen me face any real adversity.

I was at a performance of My Brave Central Coast Australia initiated by Men Care Too. The stories we listened to were definitely challenging, always with sadness and many involved multiple traumas. But to a person they demonstrated an ability to overcome adversity with resilience and determination. I take my hat off to these storytellers.

The other important outcome of listening to these nine stories was to reinforce the complexities that underpin mental ill-health and suicidality. At an individual level these storytellers have overcome incest, forced adoption, alcoholism, family breakdown and serious mental illness. But all of them at some stage felt the wrath of stigma – “it is hurtful; it is harmful and it is not helpful” said Tracey.

The purpose of My Brave Australia is to bring to the fore these stories within communities. Every person who performed today is local to the Central Coast. The 80 people in the audience were both local and from other parts of Australia. This is good on two counts – to demonstrate to a local community that mental ill-health does not define the person and that recovery is possible. The second benefit is that the audience can help to spread the word about the benefits that this performance can have for their own local community. I, for one, am going to explore with my local council if there is an opportunity to stage a performance in the Inner West region of Sydney.

For those who performed today they said the total experience was cathartic. Over the three months they worked with the production and support team to craft their stories and their performance. They opened up to each other. They have bonded. They have made those essential connections which are so important to mental well-being.

My recommendation: if you want to demonstrate strength and resilience in your local community My Brave Australia is one way to demonstrate that recovery is a reality using the voices of your own community.

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