Annalise Braakensiek’s Death Is A Tragic Reminder Of The Friends I’ve Lost To Mental Health
The tragic passing of Australian actress and model Annalise Braakensiek brought home some damning home truths -- mental health issues don't discriminate, and they've become a national crisis.
In Australia, there is one suicide every three hours and 8.5 each day.
Braakensiek, 46, openly battled depression, and worked as an ambassador for suicide prevention charity RUOK? Day.
We only knew about her death because she was famous -- we won’t hear about all the other lives lost. But their deaths will have lasting effects.
In the days since Braakensiek's death, I’ve read and heard people comment that they had no idea about the mental state she was in, how she was feeling or suffering.
Sadly, we don’t know the mindset of most people who are experiencing depression and anxiety, for they are often silent and invisible illnesses.
Society seems to have staggering expectations of celebrities, people with a certain job or some kind of profile, that they are, or should be, immune to bullying, criticism or mental health issues.
Regardless of whether you appear on television, work in an office, on the tools or kick a ball for a crust, we are all human, we feel, we hurt, we suffer.
Charlotte Dawson, the late media personality and former model, was a friend of mine. Next month will mark five years since her death. To this day, it still feels surreal that she is no longer here.
Charlotte’s mental health battle and demons were well documented and in her final years social media trolls had a profound impact on her and her health.
I was with her on several occasions when she was on her phone reading and responding to utterly vile Twitter comments. She copped a lot of criticism, often in media hot topic segments, for replying to them and giving them airtime. For standing up to them, shaming them and making them accountable.
It is easy to say 'ignore it' -- I know at different times I encouraged her, “don’t worry about it", or "ignore them". For Charlotte it was easier said than done.
I chatted with my friend the day she took her own life. I’d caught a morning TV segment she was part of and sent her a note, we texted back and forth and had a giggle as we always did.
The last thing I told her was that I loved her. That is the only comfort, only small positive, I can take out of her death.
I have regrets and guilt for how I handled, or didn’t rather, some of her darkest times -- the ones I knew about. A bit older, hopefully a bit wiser and having experienced, and worked on, my own mental health issues, I feel and really hope I’d have a different approach, a better one, should someone I know be suicidal.
What I do know is that the federal government is not doing enough when it comes to mental health and suicide in this country.
Currently, its investment into mental health is less than eight percent of the overall health budget. That is both alarming and staggering.
AFL premiership player Wayne Schwass has dedicated his post-footy life to raising awareness and crucial funds and having open, honest conversations about mental health and suicide, for the past 14 years, through his organisation Puka Up, in the media, various forums and on social media.
The 50-year-old has spoken publicly about receiving his premiership medal in 1996 in front of a packed MCG and as he soaked up what should have been the pinnacle of his football career was thinking about how he would end his life.
My heart sinks for Annalise. It also sinks for the 60 Australians who will end their lives this week.
Schwass is right, this is a national emergency and it’s time the government, and PM Scott Morrison, take action.
If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression contact beyondBlue on 1300 22 4636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.