My name's SGT Lia Halsall and I suffer from anxiety + depression. I was also a part of the Australian Defence Force Mental Health - Staying Connected Campaign in 2014.
To hear my story, and others like me, press play on the youtube clip.
I have, and continue to have mental health issues, and there's no shame in that. It is what it is. But, let me tell you, hitting rock bottom back then for the umpteenth time sucked ass, and I mean, REALLY sucked ass. Like losing both my parents three months apart and getting breast cancer wasn't enough. My cancer hormone treatment (don't get confused with hormone therapy) turned my entire life upside down and left me clinically depressed, anxious and even suicidal. Yup, I wanted out, out of life.
The chemical imbalance I experienced from it (ZOLADEX®️ Implant), unfortunately for me was a normal side-effect. In retrospect when my Oncologist said there'd be horrific side-effects I clearly didn't understand the magnitude of the situation at hand. I was thinking more of the physical kind, not the psychological kind. That's probably why it caught me by surprise.
The stigma that comes with having mental health still exists, even to this day. That's not something I'm really that okay with so I wanted to make a difference, any difference I could. Through a work course, I was identified and approached to see if I wanted to participate in the 2014 Australian Defence Force (ADF) Mental Health Campaign. Hell yes, I was! That was something I could do to give back to the system that was and still does take very good care of my physical and mental health needs even to this day. A group of us, all of which had mental health issues, from all three services (Navy, Army + Air Force), volunteered to be photographed and interviewed by sharing our stories.
Talk about coming out of the mental health closet. The ADF has a strength of just over 80,000 full-time personnel and active reservists, and that was our target audience. Just a few people, no pressure! I felt so free and liberated just through my participation. That alone was worth the discomfort. In fact, since then, various work colleagues who'd watched it and recognised me have since come forward to get help for their own mental health issues. That right there was the desired outcome from all of us who participated. Mission accomplished.
You see, by simply being myself, doing what I could, with what I had, helped make a difference. Now THAT is a good feeling.
Photograph: Grace Costa for the Australian Defence Force