Breaking The Stigma Of Mental Health
MAXIM Australia|September 2019

Clinical Nutritionist, Brooke Benson Campbell (BHSC Nut Med) talks about her experience with mental illness and questions the way we talk about it and the effect it has on all aspects of our lives…

Brooke Benson Campbell

Late legendary musician John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens to you when you are busy making other plans”, and for most of us, this is true. But for those who have suffered some form of mental illness, life can appear to exist in a vacuum — a limbo of sorts — limited socially by prejudice and perception, and individually by self-criticism and deprecation. With the goal of transparency and reflection, here I’d like to share my experience with mental illness in order to knock down the social and self-made barriers and fight the stigma, forcing us to question the way we talk about mental illness and the effect it has on all aspects of our lives.

For years, my career as a Clinical Nutritionist has combined knowledge gained through university study and gathered from years of clinical practice that specialised in mental health and the brain, with my own personal experience of wading through the depths of my own major depressive disorder. I am innately aware of the rollercoaster of anger and resentment, the numbness of deep despair and the resultant self-loathing that comes from suffering with a mental illness. I am cognizant of the person able to function throughout immense pain and confusion and the stigma surrounding mental illness that touches every facet of their life, from familial relationships to chapters of their career. I am sensitive to societal attitudes and casual language that views mental illness as weakness and lack of strength, and I applaud anyone who steps forward to share their own journey with the goal of increasing awareness in the pursuit of acceptance and understanding. Most importantly, I stand with everyone touched by mental illness to beg for a change in our collective approach to mental health that is so desperately needed.

Whilst we have made gains in our understanding of mental illness over the past few decades and huge strides in treatment of mental illness with therapy, medication, nutrition and supplemental medicine, some people with depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses still encounter public stigma that robs them of opportunities to define a quality life. In fact, 75% of people with a mental illness report that they have experienced stigma — not surprising when you consider the results of a study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behaviour that interviewed 250 members of the public and their opinions concerning people suffering from mental illness: 56% of people interviewed for the study did not want to spend an evening socialising with someone with a mental illness, while 58% of people did not want to work with someone with mental illness. These statistics are particularly shocking when you consider that one in seven Australians will experience depression, one in four will experience an anxiety condition and almost half of all Australians (45%) will experience some form of mental illness during their lifetime.

I know from the response I’ve received from public admissions of my illness that there needs to be a counter-image to what most people think of when they think of mental illness (and in my case, major depressive disorder): the image of the “crazy” person who cannot control their emotions, are constantly negative and “woe is me” and cannot function in daily life. People need to understand that people with mental illness can thrive and achieve, create and succeed. We are not mentally weak, we are survivors; capable of having a “bad day” without falling off the proverbial cliff, and that our symptoms can be managed perfectly like the symptoms of many other chronic illnesses. We have close families, we have incredible careers, we have passion for our hobbies, and we live full and enthusiastic lives that we love (all of which appear to compete with the common stereotypes and stigmas of mental illness).

The word “stigma” originated in Ancient Greece and is derived from a word meaning “to mark someone”. Erving Goffman, in his seminal 1960s work In Stigma: Notes of the Management of Spoiled identity, describes the damaging effects of stigma, which reduces the bearer from a whole person to a shallow part — the part that is instantly defined. Stigma is not simply the use of negative labels or a poor choice of words; it encourages fear, mistrust and/or aggression towards people with mental illness. And most troubling, these negative opinions stay long after the symptoms of the illness have disappeared. As I know too well, the impact of stigma is twofold: public stigma is the reaction that the general population show to mental illness, and self-stigma is the loathing in which people with mental illness turn against themselves.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM MAXIM AUSTRALIAView All

“YOU JUST KILLED OSAMA BIN LADEN.”

As this month marks the 10th anniversary of Osama bin Laden's death, former U.S. Navy SEAL ROBERT O’NEILL shares his incredible story about the night he fired the shots that killed the al-Qaeda leader. In this edited extract from his book The Operator, O’Neill tells us how eliminating the world’s most wanted terrorist, during the raid at his Abbottabad compound on May 1, 2011, all went down…

7 mins read
MAXIM Australia
May 2021

TRAINING FOR YOUR LIFE

MAXIM fitness guru ALEXA TOWERSEY takes you on a personal journey on how fitness can be beneficial to your mental health…

4 mins read
MAXIM Australia
May 2021

NATALIE ROMANO

The successful pageant model, talented artist, rising actress and reigning Miss Bikini United States, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business, proves you can achieve absolutely anything with the right mindset...

7 mins read
MAXIM Australia
May 2021

— Eric Bana — THE DRY LOOK

Eric Bana may be the star of Robert Connolly’s mystery thriller The Dry, one of the biggest Australian box office hits in years, but it’s his suave wardrobe that’s the real scene stealer. To coincide with the film’s digital release, MAXIM sat down with AFI award-winning costume designer CAPPI IRELAND (above) to talk practical dressing, wheat farmers and Tom Ford sunglasses…

5 mins read
MAXIM Australia
May 2021

METEOR ON THE HORIZON

Bugatti’s radically-lightweight new fireball the Bolide...

5 mins read
MAXIM Australia
May 2021

The ARCHITECT'S ELIXIR

One-hundred and fifty collectors have the opportunity to acquire HENNESSY X.O decanters created by the great Frank Gehry...

3 mins read
MAXIM Australia
May 2021

MARATHON MAN Turning Right At The Garden Gate

Ultra-runner KAY BRETZ beat the race record of Australia’s Big Red Run by more than five hours and was awarded the Ultra Performance of the Year Award at the 24-hour world championships in France — but it took a significant change in mindset to do it. In this excerpt from his latest book, the elite athlete shares his amazing personal journey on overcoming physical, mental and professional challenges to achieve his success…

6 mins read
MAXIM Australia
May 2021

Introducing...TERVO ELINA

She is wild and free. She was born to travel. She is a model, influencer, media assistant, yoga teacher and personal trainer, but her goal is to work less and live more. She is a nomad with a strong need to experience and understand the world around us. And she prefers to do it all while wearing only her bikinis…

4 mins read
MAXIM Australia
May 2021

HOT PROPERTY

Sydney-based couple SCOTT & MINA O’NEILL retired at 28 after building a $20 million commercial property portfolio in just 10 years. They also set up their own business, to help thousands of others on the same road, and in this edited extract from their new book they share some insight on how you can do it, too…

8 mins read
MAXIM Australia
May 2021

CUISINE CANNABIS

Pot pesto, hemp-smoked soft cheese, craft cocktails, pizza with marijuananara sauce, weed flour and even Hashish Fudge. Yes, we take a look at the future of “high dining” and the talented chefs leaving their jobs at esteemed restaurants to produce cutting-edge cannabis concoctions…

10+ mins read
MAXIM Australia
May 2021
RELATED STORIES

Managing Mental Illness Can Be a Team Effort

Like so many people—and so many entrepreneurs— my husband and business partner struggles with his mental health. I’m speaking up so others know: With the right understanding, life and business can still be good.

3 mins read
Entrepreneur
April - May 2021

WINTER WELLNESS: 5 TIPS FOR PROTECTING YOUR Gut and Brain Health THIS NEW YEAR

This new year may look socially different than years past, and considering the added stress, limited sleep and typical holiday overindulgence most of us experienced last month, it’s even more necessary than usual to let our bodies recover and regenerate in this post-holiday season.

4 mins read
Natural Solutions
February 2021

4 EXPERT TIPS FOR Men to Age Gracefully

We all want to believe that we get better with age, but growing older can often make a man feel more like a broken-down beater than a classic car. Luckily, it is possible to handle the process with strength and integrity. Try a modern approach to aging gracefully with these four steps,” says Dr. Spar.

2 mins read
Natural Solutions
February 2021

“Take Two Kittens and Call Me In the Morning”

Can Cats Help Humans Be Healthier?

8 mins read
Cat Talk
February 2021

4 TIPS FOR IMPROVING MENTAL HEALTH during quarantine

HEALTH NEWS & TIPS

1 min read
Alternative Medicine
February 2021

Lift Your Own Spirits

We all feel down now and then, especially lately. These techniques can help you bounce back.

6 mins read
Reader's Digest US
March 2021

Eat to Keep Your Spirits Up

When it comes to staying motivated and keeping a positive outlook, diet can make all the difference.

3 mins read
Better Nutrition
February 2021

Do You Need Stress?

“The ways and means are available to me...The only question to be asked then is: ‘How much discomfort am I willing to sit with before I invite the answer to be revealed?’”—Dale Jukes

4 mins read
Transformation Magazine
February 2021

The Duet

“Can you perform a hymn for us next week?” my pastor asked me after Sunday service.

2 mins read
Mysterious Ways
February/March 2021

How to Fix Your 2020 Brain

Want to get back to feeling good? We asked mental health experts to share their steps for lowering your anxious feelings and upping the optimism.

3 mins read
Girls' Life magazine
February/March 2021