By Darren Stones
There's nothing to be frightened of. It takes a mind shift and maybe it's a big one; however that depends on your thought process. When changing career direction, the sense of uncertainty can be palpable. Questions start circulating through your head as you start to over think: "Will I succeed or will I fail?" "Will I do well in a job interview, or will I crash and burn?"
Education provides a key starting point to a whole new adventure. Are you the type who is willing to embrace the challenge of leaving one career behind to pursue another? What is it that bubbles away within us to the point where we think it's time to move forward and leave other things behind?
Lots of questions, there is always lots of questions. Do they need answers, or shall we just bite the bullet and have a red hot go?
At age 46, I decided to bite the bullet and move in a whole new career direction. Earlier this year, my application was accepted by the Kangan Institute to study a Diploma of Community Services Work and Diploma of Community Development. For me, it's a huge change of direction. Learning about casework, counselling, cultural differences, and on it goes. What an exciting challenge, and one that has picked me up from the point of despair.
In August 2009 I had a mental breakdown in the Centrelink office in Broadmeadows, Melbourne. Many have since said to me that Centrelink causes many people to break down due to the way they operate and treat their customers like a number.
In writing these types of articles, one runs the risk of being stigmatised for ever. People like to judge, it comes natural to most. Frankly, I don't care what people think as this is me expressing my inner self with the intent to educate others. My story of experiencing depression and anxiety is something I've not written about often. That's a choice I've made due to not wanting to be perceived by others as a middle-aged white bloke who is piss weak. Piss weak I am not.
I'd like you to reflect on those who you know experience mental ill health. I don't anymore, so consider those who do. What is it about those you know who have depression, anxiety, or another mental illness that makes you think deeply about the type of person you are?
Let's consider for a moment those people who do not go outside due to not wanting to be seen. The people who are gripped with fear and their self-esteem is so low that they're embarrassed of who they've become. What can you do to help those people? What if I told you there was a point in August 2011 where I was afraid to go to my letterbox, but 12 months later was delivering a training session about marketing to my peers whilst learning the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment? Would you believe me or think it not possible?
I don't know whether we've become a society so full of apathy or not. I really don't know, but one thing I do know is that as a community we need to lift our game. I strongly detect that stigma is thriving in our community. The unsaid is often so telling. Saying and doing nothing leads to apathy. It was only a few days ago that I wrote to someone that I'm surprised at how little is done in my area for those experiencing mental ill health. Basically, it's difficult to get involved. Everywhere I turn there seems to be roadblocks to assisting people. What the hell is wrong in a city the size of Melbourne where so many people are choosing to be blinkered to what's happening right next to them?
In engaging in new studies, I've become to better realise that Australians are becoming more self-absorbed. I think it's unhealthy and I believe we need to take affirmative action to stem the tide of increasing mental ill health. We need to engage face-to-face and better appreciate one another.