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Young Melburnians agree there is 'hope at the end'
7th September 2003
From section: News
Publication: The Sunday Age
The Sunday Age. Reproduced by Permission

These three smiling faces are an exemplary snapshot of the thousands of young Australians who have a mental illness.

More often than not, young people fall through the gaps of the mental health system but the three pictured are some of the lucky ones who found treatment and are on the road to recovery.

At 21, Jolan Tobias was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) after she began to develop mood swings and suffered paranoia. Jolan was then persuaded to see a psychiatrist.

"I was like, 'I'm not going to see a bloody shrink, there's nothing wrong with me'," she says.

Jolan was prescribed medication to deal with the symptoms but when she turned 25, she developed a full-blown case of schizophrenia.

"I had no idea what was happening to me. It was all real to me, what I was hearing, what I was seeing," says Jolan.

At the time, she was in the middle of her honours year at the Victorian College of the Arts and it was within her studio that she became increasingly isolated. "My communication outlet was my artwork and I guess friends and family became more distant. I just preferred to be on my own."

In June 1999 she was admitted to Orygen Youth Health centre in Melbourne and was a patient for 18 months. Jolan began to regain her independence and now the 29-year-old works with the Women's Circus as a technician and performer. "I've worked on the trapeze. It's pretty scary but it's been good for my fear of heights. . . it's good for your head," she says.

Kylie Saunders, 20, had a psychotic episode when she was 16. "I think I was prone to it," she says. "I didn't have a lot of friends at school . . . and when I headed into Year 11, . . . I just lost it."

After seeing five doctors, it became obvious she had been misdiagnosed. Although she had had a psychotic episode, Kylie was actually suffering from a severe form of depression.

She underwent 14 months of treatment and is now resuming her VCE and hopes to help others with mental illness.

Eric Brown also wants to help other young people with depression. The 19-year-old developed depression in early childhood but it went unrecognised for years until it was identified by a case worker.

"I used to feel tired all the time; I just didn't want to do anything," says Eric.

He began treatment at Orygen when he was 16 and today has overcome the illness. He is a member of Orygen's Platform Team along with Kylie and Jolan.

The group meets fortnightly to discuss, debate and put forward ideas on ways to improve Orygen's services. The team hopes to implement a buddy system so that former Orygen patients can support those undergoing treatment.

"If I had someone who had been through what I have, I'd know there's hope at the end," says Eric.

All three agree that any young person who suspects they could have a mental illness should find someone they can trust and turn to for help.

"It's just having that someone there to tell them that they are not alone," Eric says.

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