Melvin Gonzalez is a student of the Diploma of Community Services at the Australian Institute of Social Relations and a Community Support Worker with Relationships Australia SA’s PEACE Multicultural Services. Melvin was recently a guest speaker at the Open State Festival of Idea’s Mental Health Week event, “Why Mental Illness is Good For You”. He spoke about his lived experience with mental illness and the positive impact his experience has had on his life.
On Sunday, 8 October, I had the pleasure of being involved in the Open State’s event “Why mental illness is good for you’ along with some other fantastic speakers. This event ran in partnership with the Mental Health Coalition of South Australia (MHCSA).
I was given the opportunity to speak as part of my involvement with the Lived Experience Workforce Project (LEWP), a group I became involved with after being employed by Relationships Australia SA’s PEACE Multicultural Services. This is a role that allows me to speak regularly and openly about my lived experience with a variety of stigmatised issues.
The event was held on a beautiful sunny day in Victoria Square. I was accompanied by my Manager, Enaam Oudih, to help explain how my recovery from mental illness and addiction is supported in our workplace at Relationships Australia SA, and specifically, to talk about my recovery from the negative behaviours inherent in Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).
Jessica Rowe, who spoke passionately about her own desires to shine light on mental illness and its effects, emceed the event. Jessica made the conversation flow by sharing some of her own experiences.
CEO of the Australian Institute for Loss and Grief, Rosemary Wanganeen, was the first to present. She talked about how she utilises grief and loss, not only as a way to help deal with her own trauma and recovery, but also as a way to compliment western styles of medicine and provide a more holistic approach when working with Indigenous or CALD people.
Next up to speak were Matt, Tom and Caleb Lobbe. Matt is a footballer with the Port Adelaide Football team and Caleb is a youth pastor from Melbourne. They spoke openly about how they have and continue to support their brother Tom who lives with schizophrenia. The presentation was powerful and inspirational because Tom now runs a business and lives a healthy life in the community.
Belinda Brown spoke next and was accompanied by her mother. She shared her experience of post-natal depression and how that impacted those around her. Her story was echoed by Jessica who spoke of trying to ‘hold it together’ and live up to tough expectations that weigh heavily on new mothers.
Finally, I was the last to speak. All speakers had a short video interview played to lighten the tone of the subject matter prior to their talk, and seeing myself up there calmed my nerves. The questions Jessica asked me allowed for elaborate discussion around my experiences with Borederline Personality Disorder and I feel that I was able to break down some of the common misconceptions that people might have about the mental illness.
It was a fantastic day and one that I am very proud and honoured to be involved in.