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Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Mental health issues do not define who you are, says advocate

Mental health matters.

That’s the driving force behind Newcastle-based advocate and Black Dog Institute volunteer Elliot Waters’ work.

The 30-year-old is a Breaking Down Depression presenter, where, through a 45-minute session, he talks about mental illness in a bid to break the stigma and encourage others to seek help.

“The presentation’s purpose is to build a knowledge base around different mental illnesses, like depression, anxiety and bipolar,” he says.

“We go through the different symptoms of each and I present it in a way that is easily understood so people can help themselves and help others if they need.

“I talk about the importance of mental fitness, gratitude and mindfulness in everyday life.

“Sharing the message that there is support available if you are feeling sad or anxious is something I take very seriously.”

Elliot is hopeful his home city will jump on board by hosting one of these seminars.

“As a community we can really rally together and be supportive and not shy away from these difficult experiences,” he says.

“As a very proud Novocastrian I am trying to look after my own backyard first.

“Newcastle has lost a bit of its soul when it comes to this sort of thing but, hopefully, we can change that.

“Our football teams are hopeless so let’s win on this front.

“One of my goals is for every interaction I have with someone to leave them feeling a bit better.”

The psychology student’s involvement with the charity all started with a City2Surf event.

“I saw that you could run for a charity, so I looked down the list and saw that there were mental health charities,” he says.

“At that point I was in the beginning of a mental health journey myself, so I chose the Black Dog Institute because I liked what they stood for.”

Elliot is no stranger to the impact these things can have.

Since he was in primary school, he has struggled with his own mental health but never, at any point, did he let them change him.

“Well, my journey has been very non-linear, which is like most cases,” he says.

“My first inkling that there might have been something wrong was in Year 5, I remember thinking ‘I don’t want to be nervous all the time’ – which sounds like anxiety to me.

“It wasn’t until I was 18 that I got my first diagnosis of depression and anxiety.

“The idea of seeing a psychologist didn’t come up until my mid-20s, sometimes you need external forces to push you.

“Now I have been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, bipolar type 2, ADHD, and OCD without compulsions and caffeine abuse disorder.

“The important thing to note is that although all those labels sound quite full-on, they are not there to define who you are, they are there to create a framework for recovery.

“I’ve got a billion labels, but they don’t define who I am, they don’t change who I am.

“They just change the way I treat it.”

For more information or to book a Breaking Down Depression presentation in your area, visit www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/community-presentations or email [email protected]

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