This is just getting sad now. Defiant Lance has turned to Denial Lance, a man who oozes guilt like he used to ooze sweat while climbing Alpe d’Huez but who just won’t ’fess up and spit it all out.
To draw a parallel to a classic movie scene, Lance has become Monty Python’s Black Knight. He is on his knees, blood gushing from severed limbs with nothing left to fight with but his tongue. So he fights on with hollow words, even as the threat of perjury hangs over him.
If it wasn’t such a comical farce, it’d be downright pathetic. In fact, it is pathetic to see Lance now, each move now more aimless than the next. First he declines to fight USADA’s 1,000 pages worth of charges, yet still admits no guilt. Then he takes the title of Tour de France winner off his Twitter bio, yet still doesn’t ‘fess up to a thing.
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Today is World Mental Health Day. We need to have a conversation about coping.
Step 4, as advocated by Chris and Lifeline. Learn from others.
We’ve come so far in our understanding of depression and anxiety yet, today, as every day, six Australians will take their own lives. Six. So many Australians simply aren’t coping.
If you’ve never experienced mental illness, it sucks. It sucks a hell of a lot. Forget about descriptions of dark clouds and black dogs; let’s talk about the adrenalin overload that literally makes your head spin. Let’s talk about the obsessive, racing thoughts that could outrun Usain Bolt. Let’s talk about how locking yourself in your own bedroom will help protect you from ‘out there’. Whatever the hell that means. But it feels just that little bit safer, so you keep doing it.
Stigma continues to surround mental illness especially when it comes to getting a job. Australia’s unemployment rate at one of its lowest levels, however many individuals living with a mental illness continue to find it difficult to get a job.
Benefits of work stretch far beyond the receipt of a pay packet- a job provides a critical sense of self-worth, self-esteem and social identity. Indeed for those suffering from mental illness employment can be part of the recovery back to good health.
The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Employment recently delivered their report “Work Wanted” to the Federal Parliament. The resounding message in the report from those with a mental illness is that they want to work but cannot seem to get a break.
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In the film clip for her new single “Crazy” Ricki-Lee Coulter writhes on a stretcher wearing nothing but the cut-outs of a straight jacket, complete with buckles and messed up hair.
She takes only seconds to sexualise the concept of mental illness and glamorise female submissiveness. Unless of course I missed some deep artistic sentiment of Ricki-Lee being chained by the neck to the floor of a hospital ward panting: “go crazy, go crazy.”
If any other illness were used in this way it would be scandalous. Imagine if she was draped over a wheelchair or gyrating against chemotherapy equipment? Nobody would stand for it.
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This week is Homeless Person’s Week and for seven days coins will be collected, awareness raised and pledges made to reduce the number of Australians who don’t have a place to call home.
Recent research from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare puts that figure at more than 100,000, of which almost half are under the age of 25. On the 12th of August, Homeless Person’s Week and International Youth Day will collide, prompting consideration of some of the most vulnerable in our community: those who are both young and homeless.
Complex combinations of mental illness, low levels of education, family breakdown, financial struggles, and a severe lack of services leave homeless young people in a precarious situation.
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Here’s what I’m willing to be believe: a person can actually spend far too much time on the internet. That almost without knowing it we can grow accustomed to the sound of our smartphone going “ping” and scrolling through our Facebook and Twitter feeds before we even get out of bed in the morning.
That being on the Internet can makes us feel intelligent, in the loop and connected to our friends, family, colleagues and peers because we know instantly what everyone is talking about. And yet, by contrast, the Internet can make others feel so anxious that they must commit to periods of being completely offline for their own wellbeing.
Here’s what I’m not willing to believe: that the Internet creates mental illness or is responsible for a whole heap of people going mad.
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This is a glimpse into the life of an intellectually disabled man who didn’t receive appropriate care and support when he was young. The result of this was the fatal stabbing of his Uncle.
He was never convicted of the offence because of his serious disabilities, but is looked after in Alice Springs prison because there is nowhere else to accommodate him.
With no likely alternative care arrangement or release date in sight, a campaign to free him and similar offenders is underway. This action is set to culminate in a battle between human rights lawyers and governments in the High Court.
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Today’s moral dilemma comes from “Anon”:
We live in a block of twelve flats in a nice quiet “leafy” suburb of Sydney with lovely neighbours and so on - with one exception. The lady representing the body corporate also lives in the block but appears to be suffering from some kind of mental illness.
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From next year three year-old children will be screened for mental illness. GPs will screen kids for general physical issues at routine appointments, and three year-olds will also be assessed from the neck up for issues including depression, anxiety, and autism spectrum disorder.
The Healthy Kids Check is a wacky idea, even if it is being promoted with the best of intentions.
While the mental health of our children matters a great deal and there are clearly mental illness concerns for children, a policy that encourages doctors and parents to look for signs of mental illness at such a young age is misplaced and is likely to lead to several problems, all of which are worse than the proposed ‘cure’.
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While Jeff Kennett’s work in helping to found beyondblue, the National Depression Initiative, is to be commended, it’s now apparent he has lost his way and it’s time to resign as Chair.
First there was the unfortunate incident with the homophobic comments about gay and lesbian parents and the mental health of their children. Let me remind you what he so publicly communicated via an opinion piece in The Herald Sun:
“There is no substitute for parents of both genders. Happy heterosexual marriages are the best environment for the mental health of children.”
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We should all be ashamed of ourselves. You may not have to like Jason Russell, and you may be sceptical about his Kony 2012 campaign. You may be concerned that the foundation misuses its finances, and Russell’s religious preferences may not be your own.
But I am deeply disturbed by the schadenfreude surrounding Russell’s nervous breakdown and the way it was reported.
Firstly, let’s make one thing clear. Russell wasn’t masturbating, and he wasn’t arrested. There was no evidence that he was intoxicated either. There has been no evidence to corroborate the claims.
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Post traumatic stress disorder is a very real, very damaging thing, especially among those who have served in a war zone. There’s a lot to be learned about it from listening to the real experiences of those who have been immersed in the unimaginable.
But you know what - we don’t need to learn it from Sergeant Robert Bales. There’s nothing about his financial stresses, or alleged marital difficulties, or level of disgruntlement with his military bosses over his most recent deployment to Afghanistan to in any way explain the acts he’s accused of.
I don’t care that his house was on the market for $50,000 less than he’d paid for it. I don’t care that his foot hurt. And couldn’t give a toss that his friends are grieving over how “our Bobby” snapped. While it’s normal to look for an explanation for horrific things - some of what we’re hearing about Bales sounds more like an excuse.
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It’s a puzzling paradox that while people with mental illnesses are still battling stigma, the ‘worried well’ will gleefully embrace the latest on-trend disorder.
Do you have to triple check that you switched the stove off? OCD! Wake up worrying about the day ahead? Anxiety! A surfeit of pouty Facebook pics? Narcissistic!
In dazzling displays of psychobabble savvy, we also fling diagnoses at bosses, at politicians, at friends. She’s probably a psychopath. He’s got Asperger’s. They’re anally retentive. Or expulsive. Or something.
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If Matthew Newton’s A Current Affair interview was his opening shot at public redemption, it was a misfire.
Both the actor and A Current Affair seemed to want the Australian public to swallow the troubled star’s “cathartic” TV tell-all and wave him off cheerfully on his road to professional rehabilitation.
But, there was one big thing lacking – free and easy use of the “s” word.
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One in five is a ratio that gets bandied around a lot when we talk about mental illness. It refers to a fifth of our population who experience it within a 12-month period.
When you stack that up it means almost half us between 16 and 85 encounter some kind of a mental disorder within our lifetime.
With those kinds of numbers it is impossible not to be touched by it in some way. It may not be obvious. It may be as subtle as the depressed friend who took stress leave from work or that drunk relative hiding something deeper.
An email pinged into the inbox, asking if I could write a short blog for a new website – Mindshare – an online mental health community.
The email went to the ‘think about later’ folder. And I sort of did think about it later, but my mind kept skittering over the surface of it, like a beetle on a shiny floor. Touching it but leaving it untouched.
When that happens it’s because there’s something I’m a little bit afraid of. When I got a follow up email, I sighed and had a proper think about it. And what I thought was that I’m afraid of the language of mental health: I don’t want to write an opinion piece on it because the language is cold, and fills me with dismay. The language I know goes something like this: Mental health in crisis. Psychotic abandoned by failing system. Children with mental illness left years without treatment. Suicide cluster. Depression epidemic. Neglect. Danger.
Mental health surveys consistently show that around one in five of us will experience an episode of significant distress and dysfunction in any year. It saddens me that this suffering is mostly labelled as mental disorder and that we are encouraged to seek medical treatment for it.
No one likes suffering, but to suffer meaninglessly is worse. We should therefore strive to help people make sense of their distress; instead contemporary psychiatric practice is to rob actions and experiences of their meaning by applying simplistic labels and glib biological explanations.
Of course biological understanding can impart meaning, sometimes dramatically.
One of the lowest points of my life came when I was a 17 year old runaway scratching out a heavily eyelined living as a waitress in Sydney.
Thanks to a Great Dane-sized bout of black dog depression, I’d gone from being a straight-A student to a high school drop-out in a few short months.
In 1987, I was writing three-unit English essays on Jane Austen and dreaming of becoming some sort of millionaire adventurer balloon-ess.
Being the small-l liberal kind of place that it is, South Australia not only has a “thinker in residence” to help generate innovative ideas for public policy, but a kindly Catholic priest called Monsignor David Cappo who heads the Social Inclusion board to vet major government policies for their community impact.
Both of them must have been on a rostered day off when the State Government and the Health Department came up with one of the more foolish public policy ideas of recent times, which will have the effect of denying vital health care to sick young women, and forcing older women into an environment which experts believe will not help but harm their wellbeing.
SA has clocked up plenty of progressive firsts. It was the first Australian state to give women the vote, first state to recognise indigenous land rights, first state to introduce an anti-discrimination act – but now it’s about to clock up a first of a different kind as the first state to effectively shut down a cutting-edge health facility which for the past 30 years has been saving the lives of young women battling eating disorders.
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When news broke Bert and Patti Newton were going on A Current Affair to talk about their son Matthew a lot of people rolled their eyes, and then nearly 1.8 million of us tuned in.
I was definitely in the fairly large skeptics camp, wondering what good the interview could possibly do, and if in fact, it could turn out to be self-indulgent and harmful. And then I watched it.
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Anyone who has watched the news or listened to the radio over the past few weeks would have heard of the inquest into the death of Channel Ten newsreader Charmaine Dragun, who committed suicide at the Gap in 2007.
From all reports Charmaine was an intelligent and bright young woman who had a promising career ahead of her as a television broadcaster. However, she was troubled and ultimately this became too much for her to bear.
Charmaine’s career was in the electronic media, an industry with its own special pressures, egos and preference for perfection. The media is competitive – absurdly so – and I imagine it was unlikely anyone dealing with self doubt and anxiety would feel comfortable discussing their situation and reaching out to a colleague for support.
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When I was a hare-brained 25-year-old travelling around the world, I decided to climb Alaska’s most northerly mountain range, alone, with winter approaching and with almost no comparable experience.
I got into trouble thumpingly quickly. Two hours out from an Inuit village the polar wind came thundering up the valley like a great icy bowling ball, the wind-chill factor dropped to about minus 20 and my fingers burned just short of frostbite as I struggled to peg my whip-cracking tent into the snow.
By morning I wanted to abort, but I went on up into that white morass of mountains. It was painful, it was terrifying and it was unwise, but the experience was a perfect instance of the paradoxical payoffs of exposure.
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David Cappo is a priest.
But he is one of the most powerful South Australians. Sure, he’s Vicar-General of the Catholic Church, a Monsignor and Dean of the Cathedral. He’s also our State’s Social Inclusion Commissioner, with a free range over social policy.
Monsignor Cappo is a member of our powerful Economic Development Board, and - most importantly - sits on “Ex-Com”, the Executive Committee of Cabinet, which includes me, the Deputy-Premier, and senior Ministers. Cappo has clout, and in order to get things done he sometimes has to act more like the Inquisition than a confessor.
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