AUSTRALIA’S “shocking” rates of mental illness have inspired a Campbell Town woman to share her own story of hope.
Nicole Graham’s mental health deteriorated after continued exposure to horrific incidents during her 13 years with an interstate police force.
Working in Sydney, moving to an isolated all-male country post then being re-stationed in the busy city also took its toll.
“It was anything from murder and suicide to domestic violence to car accidents to farm accidents,” Mrs Graham said.
“Child abuse and sexual abuse, that was a speciality of mine, and cot deaths too.”
Juggling motherhood, moving and a high-pressure environment resulted in behaviour that swung from teary to aggressive, self-isolating to social binge drinking.
Eventually, Mrs Graham’s ex-husband took her to see her GP.
Medication helped for some time but, in her words, the roller coaster was soon back in action.
Mrs Graham knew she had to leave the police force.
The next hurdle was finding employment.
“After a while I started my own business because I realised I had to create my own job,” Mrs Graham said.
“I didn’t have any help. It was a massive step but I knew I couldn’t turn up to another job, nine to five.”
Years later, Mrs Graham’s advice is to seek help, and seek help early.
Three million Australians live with anxiety and depression and Mrs Graham, now a beyondblue ambassador, hopes to show those people it is possible to come out on the other side.
“I’ve got to talk about it because it doesn’t affect me now but ... so many people relate to it,” she said.
“When you lose hope you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. I was flat out getting through the next hour, then the next day. Slowly that improved with lots of drugs and treatment.
“Although it does take a lot of effort and then there’s no instant cure, there is a lot of help for it.”
People seeking advice on mental health can visit beyondblue.org.au.