Excuse me Mr Latham, I don't think you understand anxiety

19/05/04 C3239 LATHAM VISIT: Leader of the Opposition Mark Latham fields questions at a community forum at Caboolture on Wednesday. mark26 photo Vicki Wood
19/05/04 C3239 LATHAM VISIT: Leader of the Opposition Mark Latham fields questions at a community forum at Caboolture on Wednesday. mark26 photo Vicki Wood Vicki Wood

IT is people like Mark Latham that is the reason why I would not get any medical help for my anxiety and depression issues for 20 years.

The stigma attached to mental health issues by a generation of Australians who claim that 'anxiety is something we all do, every day, and you need to suck it up and get over it' is the cause of more problems in society than the lack of funding for treatment for suffers.

Latham wrote an opinion piece in The Financial Review on the weekend, which was meant to be a movie review about the Academy Award winning film, but ended up on a tangent about his views on anxiety being a 'fad'.

Latham says "The latest fad is to diagnose every citizen as suffering from depression and anxiety....

"Even though only 2 per cent of Australians suffer from clinical depression, 10 per cent of the population is on anti-depression drugs. The other 8 per cent are said to be suffering from anxiety: feeling moody and worrying about things.

"Anxiety used to be seen as a regular part of life …. But now it's become a frontline health condition; the medicalization of normality."

Um, excuse me Mr Latham, I don't think you have a clue about what you are saying.

Maybe I should send you a copy of the book I sent a relative for Christmas - Depression for Dummies?

Anxiety is not about worrying about every day normal people things like family, about your sports teams score at half-time. It is worrying about matters that stop us in our tracks from being able to carry out every day activities, or being paralysed with anxiety symptoms over being in public places, or public speaking.

My own experience with anxiety started when I was 12 years old. I struggled with anxiety and depression throughout my teenage years, early adulthood and the battle still continues.

My own family have ignored my mental health issues the whole time. Do you know what it is like to grow up in that environment? It is debilitating, it is heartbreaking, lonely, depressing.

When you have your parents, aunties, uncles, grandparents, telling you to stop being 'a worry wart' or 'get over it already', you feel dumb, stupid, unwanted, misunderstood.

Anxiety and depression are linked, so many struggling with phobias or fears that cause anxiety attacks feel depressed because they feel they are weak, they are dumb, they are unable to be a normal person.

For me, it was being diagnosed with PTSD four years ago that led me to finally getting some help - and yes, that involved medication.

I simply could not carry out a day's work without a major anxiety attack - one where I would be sitting at my desk, feeling numb one minute and suddenly, a wave of emotions would hit and it would feel like my chest was going to explode.

Now, I still have anxiety attacks sitting in a group of people who are all strangers. I have anxiety attacks over having to sleep in unfamiliar locations. I have anxiety attacks going to big public events with lots of strangers around. And the list goes on.

But I am one of the lucky ones, Mr Latham. I am still here, living life to the fullest that I can manage.

I work, I study at university, paint, draw, hike, exercise and write. And I still have my anxiety and depression moments.

Many are reliant still on medication, or are housebound because of this horrible illness, or suffer in silence because no one around them has said to them 'it is ok to suffer from anxiety, there is help out there that could result in you leading a semi-normal life'.

And then there are those that couldn't continue the fight.

Topics:  anxiety depression mark latham mental health opinion ptsd stigma

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