I was diagnosed with depression 6 years ago. There wasn’t any particular event leading up to it, everything appeared normal. It was very confusing – I had a good job, was living in a sharehouse with mates, and had a girlfriend at the time. But I was getting very little sleep to the point of insomnia and had lost my appetite completely. I didn’t know what was happening. Initially I thought to see the GP and so I did the K10 mental health questionnaire and the GP made a provisional diagnosis. I was anxious about the stigma that being labelled with depression came with but in a way I was relieved – to know that there was a recognisable cause for what I was experiencing.
After that I was advised to see a counsellor. Initially it took some initiative on my part as well as the support of my girlfriend and the GP. All up I had 12 sessions over about 9 months. It was surprisingly beneficial; I had never had a counsellor before, I didn’t know if it would help and I even felt guilty because I thought I was wasting their time – things seemed to be fine to me. But it really did help – it was extremely validating and it felt good to verbalise my feelings and share my thoughts. In hindsight it wasn’t surprising that I felt comfortable about it so soon after I started.
I got to a point where I recognised when I was feeling down and so was able to take actions to reverse that. In particular, cognitive behavioural therapy really played a role. I wrote things down and if I felt a certain way I would question my perspective. I could check myself to see if I was attaching too much weight to things, too much negativity.
So that was 6 years ago.
I started medical school last year and that was a period of my time where I went back to counselling – this time at the university counselling services. I was going through a lot of stresses like moving cities for medical school, going through a break up and transitioning into med school from an engineering background. I felt that I needed help again, but this time the counsellor identified it not as depression but stress which was when I really learnt not to dismiss stress. Just because I wasn’t dealing with depression didn’t mean it wasn’t important enough to get help for or do something about.
When you were referred to us for the campaign, it was mentioned that you had given talks about your experience with depression and recovering your mental health.
Yeah, I’ve been talking to it with classmates, mainly discussions in tutorial groups – the conversations happened really organically actually. I was surprised at how easy it became, to talk about upcoming assignments, exams and how stressed we all were. It normalises mental health. I think everyone felt more comfortable and relieved having shared our feelings. We were more mindful of each other and made more allowances. I initially feared the stigma of getting treated differently, but was pleasantly surprised. I never felt discriminated against.