Preferred name: Alice
Age at Interview: Late 30s
Age at first diagnosis: 32
Background: Alice is single and lives in an inner suburb of a metropolitan city. She identifies as first generation Australian with a European background. Alice has worked in the community sector and is now pursuing further studies.
When she was 32, Alice voluntarily admitted herself to a mental health unit. After staying one night she was made a compulsory patient for a few weeks. On discharge from the unit she said that she was given a diagnosis of reactive psychosis. Alice currently sees a psychologist and a psychiatrist. On her own initiative, she stopped taking medication about six months ago.
Read excerpts from Alice's interview
> Searching for information - Alice found that over the years, information about mental health has 'evolved'. She thought more 'friendly language' should be used in mental health information.
> Experience of receiving a diagnosis - The first time Alice knew about her diagnosis was when she was discharged from hospital and saw it written on the discharge sheet.
> Experiences with mental health practitioners: Psychiatrists, counsellors and others - Despite feeling 'more in tune' with herself, Alice found it difficult to speak to her doctor.
> Experiences with mental health practitioners: Psychiatrists, counsellors and others - Alice described mental health practitioners as 'risk averse' and said this made her feel like there wasn't 'a lot of hope'.
> Family and friends - Alice's father 'walked out in tears' after seeing her 'talking gibberish' when she was heavily medicated during her first voluntary mental health unit admission.
> Experiences of work - Alice confided to her boss that she had had a compulsory admission. Later, a situation arose in which she felt 'judged' by her boss because of her disclosure.
> Finances and housing - Alice talked about the impact of being diagnosed with 'reactive psychosis' on her finances and 'lifestyle'.
> Personal recovery - Alice feels different now and thinks maybe her mental health problem was a 'wake up call' to make her more resilient.
> Advice to others: Health, mental health and allied health professionals - Alice advises health and mental health professionals to recognise their 'model' may not work for everyone.
More about Alice
Alice enjoyed working in a 'large global' organisation throughout her 20s. It came as a surprise to her when, in her early 30s, she began to feel tearful and 'struggled' to get out of bed in the morning.
Alice went to see her GP who suggested she was experiencing 'stress' from her job. She chose not to take time off work or try antidepressants because she was not convinced that her condition was work-related. Alice was also experiencing difficulties in her eight-year relationship, which had 'turned nasty.' Following an argument during which Alice said her partner threatened to harm her and her family, Alice moved out of their jointly-owned home.
About six weeks later, Alice became 'consumed' by 'paranoid' thoughts that her ex-partner was going to hurt her and her family. Alice voluntarily admitted herself to a mental health unit. The following morning, she said she was taken without advance notice to meet the unit's Mental Health Review Board*. Alice said she did not feel comfortable speaking openly during that meeting and did not reveal her ex-partner's threat. She described the hospital environment as intimidating and 'not peaceful.' Alice said that this could have contributed to her 'paranoia' during her meeting with the board, which admitted her under compulsory status for a few weeks. Alice was given a diagnosis of 'reactive psychosis' on her discharge statement, but she said this diagnosis was never verbally communicated to her.
During her stay in the mental health unit, Alice said she felt her 'liberties' were 'restricted,' and she said she was not allowed to personally contact her employer. When she returned to work after two months, she did not feel adequately 'prepared' to talk about her absence, which influenced her decision to take leave of absence after just one day. While she was on leave, Alice's doctor prescribed medication that made her feel tired and 'out of touch' with herself. She recalled questioning then whether it was an 'early 30s lifestyle' to be awake for only 'a few hours' each day. About three years ago, Alice felt well enough to start a new career in the community sector.
Over the past few years, Alice's psychiatrist prescribed 'very different' medications. When she told her psychiatrist about side effects she was experiencing, she said she felt that he implied it was 'all in her head.' She made the decision about six months ago to stop taking medication. As a result, Alice said her 'energy levels' are back, she can think 'more clearly' and feels 'more in tune' with herself.
Alice described feeling 'caught' and 'disempowered' in the mental health 'system.' She thinks a 'medical model' was applied to her treatment, and that she was not 'respected' to make her own choices about her mental wellbeing. Alice thinks mental health practitioners should exercise 'empathy' and 'curiosity' to gain a better understanding of their clients' past and present situation.
Alice feels 'more centred' now and is undertaking further study with her sights set on a change of career.
* Now called the Mental Health Tribunal.