BRENDON Clarke is hoping to provide people affected by mental health with what he and his family never got — information and support.
The 40 year old was diagnosed with schizophrenia more than 20 years ago and will share his experiences at a Rotary mental health forum on Monday.
A panel of speakers — including Mr Clarke, a carer, and Knox police inspector Terry Kayne — will discuss elements of mental illness in the Knox community.
Mr Clarke was diagnosed when he was 18 and the next 11 years of his life were the most challenging. His symptoms included auditory hallucinations, delusions, depression and anxiety, with the associated psychological and social impact.
"My sense of reality was totally different to others around me," he said. "It was like living in an altered reality where voices screamed the most torturous obscenities at me all day. We did not receive any education about what was happening, or any support. If only we knew then what we know now."
When Mr Clarke's symptoms started to subside, the family attended counselling at Mental Illness Fellowship Victoria, the organisation for which he now works.
Mr Clarke now talks about his experience so other mental heath sufferers don't have to charter unknown territories like his family.
"Telling my story only becomes meaningful when used as an educational tool. It allows me to develop a greater understanding of who I am and support the education of others."
He said he would highlight the role the community could play in helping people with mental illness. "Sometimes it's a joy to use my personal history in this way and sometimes it's painful. But when you know it's making a difference it is worth it."
The Rotary Mental Health Forum is at the Knox Club from 7pm next Monday. Details: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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