October is Mental Health Month. Anna Argyros shares her experience. “3 years ago, I plucked up enough courage to organize my 1st fundraiser for mental illness, which is very close to my heart, in my hometown Geelong, with the amazing help and support from family, friends, businesses, customers and just people in general. In just 4 months, we raised the astounding amount of $42,000-00
“I was so overwhelmed with people’s generosity, I couldn’t thank them enough. Honestly, I couldn’t have done it without them.
“I wrote out a $20,000-00 cheque to Geelong Lifeline and a $20,000-00 cheque to Geelong Barwon Health Swanston Psychiatric Centre.”
Why a fundraiser for mental illness?
“I’ve been battling with this illness since childhood.
“At a young age I started having all these crazy thoughts in my head. I thought I was going mad and I didn’t belong. I was so scared to talk about it in fear of losing friends and loved ones.
“As the years went past, I was getting worse and having severe mood swings. I couldn’t function mentally or physically to the point of not being able to work, let alone do anything else. My parents realized I badly needed help and took me to our family doctor who referred me to a psychiatrist.
“I was diagnosed with Bipolar (back then it was called manic depression) OCD, Panic and Anxiety Disorder and was put on medication. I’ve continued to receive help from professionals over the years and I still take my medications.
“I also have the support from my family and friends. However, the impact of this illness is not just with me but it affects them too. It can be very frustrating for your loved ones and difficult for them to understand when they haven’t experienced it themselves.
“Over the years I realized there is nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. It’s not a contagious disease. It can affect young or old, male or female. In fact, every family would have someone who suffers from this debilitating illness.
“I found as I opened up and spoke more about my illness, quite a few people were shocked, it actually helped them to open up too and realize they are not alone. They are experiencing similar challenges or know people close to them who need professional help and are fighting a constant battle.
“Although there is a lot more help out there now than there was many years ago, the sad truth is that the Stigma attached to mental illness still exists in this world and it angers me when people think you’re doing it all for attention which is definitely not the case. I wouldn’t wish it on anybody.
‘I’ve met and made wonderful friendships in the last 3 years and I am always here for anyone who wants to talk about it, needs a shoulder to cry on or just wants a hug.
“And remember! You are not alone and it’s okay to not be okay.
Love to all”