[PICTURE: KATIE JOY CRAWFORD]
I found the process of semi structured interviewing extremely beneficial in allowing me to broaden my perspective and gain further insights into the issue of mental illness. By conducting the interview in a relaxed environment and casual manner I was able to access a deeper perception with the interviewee being highly responsive. The environment and nature of the interview also allowed for the interviewee to reveal past personal experiences with mental illness, particularly her battle with depression.
A semi structured interview on the issue of mental health:
- What are some of the ‘warning signs’ or symptoms of mental illness?Extreme mood swings, sudden withdrawal from social aspects, reluctance to communicate on a personal level, extreme tiredness, out of character conversations
- How do attitudes, including your own, differ between those suffering from mental illness and/or disorders and non sufferers?My attitude does not change, but I think this is largely due to my past experience and personal suffering with depression. I do, however, think the attitude of society is trivialising mental illness. People aren’t treating it as a real illness as they would a physical illness. Society downplays mental illness. Suggesting someone with depression simply “cheer up” shows their reluctance to acknowledge that there is an actual problem.
- Do you feel your role as a teacher/community member is important to those suffering and influential in reducing the stigma surrounding mental health?Yes. I am lucky that my past experiences have allowed me to have a deeper understanding and compassion than my co-workers, for example, who have not dealt with mental illness on a personal level. I aim to encourage open-mindedness and an increased level of understanding within the workplace in hope to reduce such obvious stigma.
- What services are available to those experiencing mental health problems within the local community?There are a half dozen psychologists available, however these come at a reasonable cost making them unattainable to a large portion of the community. There is also a mens shed and school counsellors that are free and accessible. The advocation and promotion of such services is, however, quite poor leaving community members unaware of such services available.
- In your time spent teaching have you seen or experienced any reduction in the stigma surrounding mental health?No. I don’t think people are as open and compassionate as they should be. Listening, talking and communicating are all well and good, but a safe and relaxed environment in which people feel comfortable and accepted is essential. My co-workers would still rather take ‘sick leave’ by means of a physical illness as opposed to a ‘mental health day’, in which we are equally entitled to.
The richness, compassion and sensitivity of this interview revealed the discerning stigma surrounding mental health, and societies impact upon this, from an insiders perspective. If we as outsiders, non-sufferers and a member of today’s society can acknowledge the unmistakable stigma as well as those personally suffering, why is such stigma so ascertainable? Does it really take certain parallel experiences to endorse the sympathy and empathy essential in creating a cohesive society and the ultimate reduction in stigma?