The potential for the Market
There is a large market for personal thoughts and stories, which is evident through a new youtube trend. Searching, ‘i just bought a stranger’s diary for’ (https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=i+just+bought+a+strangers+diary), displays how people are interested in personal thoughts and are willing to pay money for it, at times for hundreds of dollars.
This also shows the potential to spread awareness worldwide – not to mention the possibility of online distribution.
I have also conducted a survey in regards to who would buy the intended product (a book/magazine of sufferers’ daily lives); the majority mentioned that they would rather buy a book than a magazine, but all have said ‘yes’.
A cafe/bar manager stated that they would be willing to do a monthly subscription, given that it is at a fair price (financials will be explored in Project B).
Interviews with ‘Sufferers’
I first built a rapport with them before proceeding to ask them the questions. We shared stories, and through that, I feel like they were able to be more comfortable with talking to me and trusted with my project. The interview was mainly just a general discussion of how they would envision the project, however, I did include a few questions that I used in all interviews:
Do you have any interest in creativity or art?
If so, why?
Do you practice any creative activities yourself on a weekly basis?
If yes, what do you do? And why?
If no, why not?
Do you enjoy reading on a regular basis?
Would you personally be willing to write a piece about yourself to be made public?
Interviewing a Psychiatrist
I have contacted a psychiatrist and am hoping to hear from them.
Mental disorder has previously plagued my life; I was isolated and mocked, despite being a representative of multiple sport teams during high school, by my family and peers. This led me to self-destructive ways, having considered self-harm and undergone substance abuse, instead of seeking for help. It is only recently that I have been able to establish a form of foundational support; by reaching out to others who have faced the same struggles, and finding liberation through creative practices.
My vision is to provide a service that is able to:
Share knowledge to others about the hardships of mental disorder; to boost public empathy/sympathy to rid of the negative stigma.
Provide those who suffer a voice and to reassure other sufferers that they aren’t alone; a group that they can reach out to.
By achieving these, people with a mental disorder can feel liberated from emotional imprisonment and seek help to prevent future harm.
After research and getting in contact with some of the current organisations that deal with mental health and disorder. I was able to draw out a map that can help accentuate the gaps – aspects of the current organisations that are not meeting the current issue. Particularly, the negative stigma that revolves around mental disorder.
A global crisis. No matter which country you go to, it seems as though the percentage of the population with a mental disorder is increasing.
In Australia, the mental disorder numbers have increased by 37% between 1990 and 2010 [Harvey et al, 2016]. Currently, about 20% of people will experience a form of mental disorder in a typical year, totalling to an approximate 5 million people suffering annually, and 45% of Australians between the age of 16 – 85 will experience a mental disorder in their lives [Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2018]. This number goes up to a staggering 9 million people who will suffer from such difficulties here in Australia alone. This percentage is similar to the United States, where slightly more than 50% of young adults will experience a mental disorder in their lives [Pedersen and Paves, 2014], with the total number of people being around 23 million in the United States [Statistica, 2018]. The sheer number of people affected by mental disorder can help illustrate the need to increase awareness and sympathy (and empathy) towards the sufferers as many disorders can be influenced by stressors of the individual’s environment. Many, along with myself, know that mental disorder is an existing issue, however, did not know the gravity of which the issue is affecting our global and local communities. If 1 in 5 people are affected yearly in Australia, then on average there are roughly 4 students in my university classes who suffer, per class, this year. However, I am unable to identify who they are because no one is ever willing to talk about it, but why? The only person that I can truly identify as someone who has suffered severely is myself, and for the most part, have ‘recovered’. Despite all of this, I have been unable to open up to my peers until this opportunity to pursue a social movement that I am personally passionate about albeit I still find myself trying to be economical with the information that I give.
Our society has gone through multiple social movements that have essentially improved the lives of the marginalised, such as; the LGBT community and Black Lives Matter, by removing associated negative stigma, at least from the majority of the population, and increasing awareness via mediums of empathy. The negative stigma of mental disorder dates back to 9,000 years of human history, displaying a constant conflict of ethics and beliefs. Anthropologists discovered and identified the first signs of Trephination (the drilling of holes into the skull) as a ritual to release the evils spirits residing in the hosts head dating back to 6,500 BC [Fareras, 2018]. This point of human history can be identified as the birth of the negative stigma that plagues our modern society today. In the Middle Ages, the Roman Catholic Church faced multiple economic and politic conflicts and decided to re-establish evil and demonic presence within those who displayed alternative thinking, which led to witch hunting [Quintanilla, 2010]. In the 16th Century, hospitals and asylums were established, the most significant of which is Bedlam, in order to protect the public from people with a mental disorder [Fareras, 2018]. Even in modern society, people who suffer from a mental disorder are constantly looked down on and isolated from the community. In my teenage years, I suffered from depression, and despite being a ‘jock’ who represented my high school in multiple teams, I was mocked and unable to maintain stable relationships, including within my family tree, making me feel isolated and alone.
In 2014, Pedersen and Paves conducted a study that showed 20% of College students who had mental health disorder refused to get help because “[they] worry what others will think” [Pedersen and Paves, 2014]. Additionally, the study also showed that 65% of college students would agree with the statement, “most people would think less of someone who has received mental health treatment”, but in reality, only 25% of the sample gathered actually do look down on people with mental treatment [Pedersen and Paves, 2014]. It seems as though the 9,000-year negative association of mental disorder is still completely ingrained in our society, even though our current society has shown the most empathy towards our holistic ecosystem – we consistently fight for animal rights, the fight for human equality, preserving mother nature, and more. This causes me to believe that our modern society can help alleviate the negative stigma embedded in the public, we just need a little push.
Mental Health in Indigenous Communities
Indigenous Australians have had a long history of public association with mental disorders, however, only a few have dedicated the time to study the possible reasonings behind this reputation. Since the first European settlers, the Indigenous Australians have faced a constant ‘dis-remembrance’ of their culture and people, from having a massive depopulation due to exposure to diseases (introduced by the Europeans) to relocation imposed by the invasive nature of the settlers. This in itself can be enough to cause mass depression in the community. In 2001, the Indigenous suicide rate was 56% higher than non-Indigenous, with 83% of the suicides recorded were from individuals younger than 35 years old. In 2004, mental disorder cases were double the number of non-Indigenous sufferers [Hunter, 2007]. These tragic occurrences can etch the minds of loved ones, and thus creating a causal effect within the greater community. An example of which can be the traumatic experience of a child seeing their parent dead after committing suicide, developing symptoms of PTSD, depression and resentment.
However, it should also be noted that mental disorder can be catalysed by many different factors, including the social and environmental exposure of the individuals. Hunter’s study reveals the lack of attention that the Indigenous community is receiving in terms of gentrification and planning, those who live in rural areas have the tendency to have lower qualities of education thus much lower employment rates which consequently affects their income. This lack of income can then influence liveability negatively, especially in the socio-economic structure of monetary values in the lifestyles brought in by the Europeans. Simply put, there is an inadequate supply of accessible services, including medical (mental and physical), for Indigenous communities living in rural places due to the “lack of understanding of the difficulties Indigenous people experience in accessing help” [Hunter, 2007].
Reconfirming the Beliefs of My Social Enterprise
The social enterprise will focus on bridging the relational gap between ‘sufferer-sufferer’ and ‘sufferer-non-sufferer’ by removing the negative stigma and promote a social movement through creative writing and personal stories.
After more research, the potential benefits of the motif holds true. The creative writing and stories can serve as a source of understanding, such as the Indigenous experience, which can lead to empathic social movements to help rectify the injustice imposed on within our society, particularly those on mental disorder.
It also helps illustrate how mental disorders are affecting everyone, in Australia one-fifth of people yearly and almost half will suffer in their life. Let me paint some images for you:
- If you are in a family of five, statistically speaking, one of your family members will probably suffer at some stage of the year.
- An average classroom will hold an average of 20-25 students. This means you will know 4-5 people who will suffer from a mental disorder, per class.
- Roughly every other person you meet will suffer a mental disorder at some stage in their life.
Despite the number of people affected, the majority of people are unwilling to open up or seek help due to the stigma of judgement and image of ‘weakness’. The written pieces can, therefore, help to reach out to those who feel isolated – this inspires me to also promote autonomy and the possibility of allowing previous writers to help train, educate and connect with new aspiring story-tellers (writers) – to create a sense of comradery. The initial target of consumers will primarily be the friends and families of the writer, they are the main foundation for their sense of isolation or community, to help them visualise the struggling and possibly initiate better understanding of certain interactions. There is also a potential to appeal to the general public as they may also know of someone who may be suffering from similar mental disorders, access to the book/magazine can easily be viable through the internet (ebooks, podcasts, online bookstore). It could be a subscription-based magazine – although more research will be needed for this.
The research has also inspired me to explore the possibility of involving people from different backgrounds to use as ‘themes’ for each volume. For example:
- Volume 1 could deal with mental health disorder in rural Indigenous communities
- Volume 2 could deal with the effects of discrimination on mental disorders in transgender people in the workplace
- Volume 3 could deal with the hardships of a refugee due to post-traumatic and mental disorder
All of these could also lead to potential partners for each issue of the writing; Indigenous Community Volunteers (ICV), Victorian Pride Centre, Refugees Welcome Australia, and Headspace. The magazine or book could even be a side project of The Big Issue.
The Social Enterprise will never forcibly make the mentally vulnerable to write or tell their stories. We will only consist of writers who are voluntarily there, providing them with access to our creative writing and training sessions, as well as a platform with the opportunity to be understood.
ABC. (2018). You Can’t Ask That [Video]. Retrieved from http://iview.abc.net.au/programs/you-cant-ask-that/LE1517H008S00
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2018). Mental health services in Australia, Prevalence and policies – Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/mental-health-services/mental-health-services-in-australia/report-contents/summary/prevalence-and-policies
Farreras, I. (2018). History of Mental Illness. Retrieved from http://nobaproject.com/modules/history-of-mental-illness
Harvey, S., Deady, M., Wang, M., Butterworth, P., Christensen, H., & Mitchell, P. (2017). Is the prevalence of mental illness increasing in Australia?. The Medical Journal Australia, 206(11), 490 – 493.
Hunter, E. (2007). Disadvantage and Discontent: A Review of Issues Relevant to the Mental Health of Rural and Remote Indigenous Australians. Australian Journal Of Rural Health, 15, 88 – 93. doi: 10.111/j.1440-1584.2007.00869.x
Mindframe. (2007). Mental Illness Facts and Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.mindframe-media.info/__data/assets/pdf_file/0015/6009/Mental-Illness-Facts-and-Statistics.pdf
Pedersen, E., & Paves, A. (2018). Comparing perceived public stigma and personal stigma of mental health treatment and seeking in a young adult sample. Psychiatry Research, 219, 143 – 150.
Quintanilla, B. (2010). Witchcraft or Mental Illness. Retrieved from http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/schizoaffective/witchcraft-or-mental-illness
Statistica. (2018). Number of youth and young adult population in the U.S. 2000-2010 | Statistic. Retrieved from https://www.statista.com/statistics/221843/number-of-youth-and-young-adult-population-in-the-us/
Wikipedia. (2018). Hippocrates. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippocrates
What is the social idea?
To encourage members of the public who are facing mental difficulties (or labelled as mentally ill) to gather and express their stories and strife, through creative processes, to provide an opportunity to be acknowledged and understood by others. By doing so, it could help catalyse a social movement, via increased public awareness, that promotes empathy toward the ‘mentally ill’ whilst boosting their self-worth.
What is the business case?
Currently, there is an increasing population of people with mental illness. Many of whom, despite their already vulnerable state, are outcasted through the deterioration of social relationships thus enhancing their vulnerability. Through personal observations and experiences, many know of the many types of mental illnesses but lack the knowledge and interaction with each different type to know how to behave or treat those who are suffering thus creating social ‘tension’ (negative stigmas, isolation, bullying, etc.)
My social business idea can, therefore, be seen to evolve around the concept of shared knowledge between the two identified groups of society; the sufferers (mental disorders), and the non-sufferers (mentally ‘stable’). Knowledge can be argued to be the most sought after thing in the world, and therefore the most valuable thing you can give is knowledge. A business that provides a medium that achieves both should, in theory, be quite successful – albeit this is not always the case and very optimistic as many factors can affect the success of a business. However, there are a lot of gaps in our knowledge and understanding in regards to the way in which our brains work (or more simply put, we don’t know everything about the way in which our brain works), thus the great demand in professional research of causes and treatments of mental illnesses. This leaves the general public at a disadvantage when obtaining information regarding the disorders as it limits the accessibility/understanding to those who are; professionals of the field, those with enough education to read, research and understand scholarly articles, and those affected by relationships with known sufferers (diagnosis by a doctor). Furthermore, those who take part in research and publication of results may do so in a certain bias manner – they may not themselves be affected by certain illnesses, thus unintentionally misarticulate certain theories and conclusions. This highlights the problem with acquiring knowledge and understanding of mental illness in our society today, the information is only received via a middle man (who sometimes may misarticulate and distort information – scholar papers may also fail to emote). The way we empathise may therefore be manipulated.
The aim of the social business is therefore to create clarity between sufferers and non-sufferers by providing the opportunity to directly access and give ‘knowledge’ through the creative pieces made. This ability to directly inform through creative pieces can also benefit sufferers as it can boost self-worth, relieve internal stressors (there are studies that indicate mental health benefits of art and creation), whilst providing them with a voice. For the non-sufferers, these pieces can serve as a gateway to new knowledge and acknowledgement of those who are suffering, thus promoting awareness. The key element utilised in raising awareness is empathy. Empathy has no pre-requisite of academia, it’s a natural human ability, thus provides a larger audience.
During this week, I proceeded to look further into the psychological benefits of creation and creativity. I decided to do this because, through my personal experiences, I have been able to handle the stressors of my daily life through my personal creative outlets; guitar and composition, drawings, poems and creative story writing.
It seems as though there is a growing trend in research regarding this specific topic, and why creativity, art forms, in particular, provides positive impacts to mental health.
These impacts include, but not limited to:
- A natural outlet for emotions – relaxing and release from ‘suffocation’
- An alternate reality of complete control (beneficial for those who feel like they have no control in the world, including themselves) – boosting self-worth and esteem
- A means of focus, the idea of ‘flow’ – distraction away from the causes of mental disorder
- A place to explore their potential – this can increase their sense of strength and ability
I then looked into the different existing organisations that deal with mental health alongside writing or creative outlets and got in contact with them.
Melbourne Art Therapy Studio
“Art therapy works by contributing to changes in the client’s inner world, and towards the development of a client’s more integrated sense of self, with increased self-awareness and acceptance.” – Melbourne Art Therapy Studio
Melbourne Art Therapy Studio struck me as an organisation that truly prioritised the victims and their sense of self, and it inspired me to put great consideration towards the way in which I handle interactions with vulnerable individuals and to always remind myself the focus of my project; to provide a service that will help benefit the individuals who are facing a mental disorder. When I went to try and visit the studio, however, I was told that I was unable to ‘just look around’ or ask questions regarding their services. They mentioned that if I wanted to have a private conversation with an employee I would have to book an AUD$130 private consultation or ‘a more cost effective’ group introductory session at a price of AUD$80.
This already shows the gaps in this organisation:
- The steep prices limit the accessibility of the service to those who are financially more capable for therapy
- Although the service does focus on the individuals who suffer from a mental disorder, it is solely focus on those individuals and does not promote understanding for the general public.
eHeadspace is the online branch of Headspace, Australia. Headspace has a focus on youth mental health (ages 12 – 25). I conducted a phone interview with ‘Jane Doe’ (for privacy concerns the name of the interviewee will remain anonymous).
“We provide youth mental support services all around Australia. This can vary from; counselling support, sexual health, work and study, phone counselling, and youth programs – although youth programs are generally carried out by Headspace centres…”
“… Work and study mainly entail helping the individuals to re-engage with the community by helping them find work and education. So, this can be helping them write a CV, prepare them for interviews, or mentorship programmes from certain companies that put them through mock interviews. We also help them figure out what kind of study areas they would be interested in, as well as the pre-requisites for these courses or jobs…”
… I can’t really give you too much information on the youth programs, because I am not very familiar with them. These are usually carried out by the local Headspace centres… but from my understanding, each centre offers different types of services.”
After the interview I was able to identify some gaps in the organisation:
- Although it is great that individuals who suffer are able to reach out via the internet or phone, the main youth programs are only accessible via local Headspace centres (which are located only in some suburbs).
- There seems to be a gap of knowledge within the organisation of Headspace itself, as the interviewee was unable to give me specific details regarding what kind of services are providing by the youth programs.
- The services are only available to the youth, ages 12 – 25. Mental disorder can affect all ages, and stigma persists throughout.
Headspace, Elsternwick, Melbourne
After conducting the interview with eHeadspace and identifying some of the gaps, I decided to try and get a clearer picture of the organisation by visiting one of the local centres. The closest one to my home was Headspace, Elsternwick. After a 20 minute bike ride, I got to the centre only to find out that they were unable to take and requests for university students as the person who usually conducts these interviews was not in. They also added that they were quite busy at this point of time, and due to the limited resources that they have, were not able to help with my requests.
Although the visit was very brief, it still highlighted some gaps:
- The organisation may not have sufficient resources, or
- Due to the number of requests to interview employees, there may be a lack of external knowledge provided to the public regarding their services
- ‘the person who usually conducts interviews’, indicates that some of the employees may still lack enough knowledge of the organisation.
World Health Organisation
The World Health Organisation has a department dedicated to global mental health. Their main goal is to improve the well-being of those with diagnosed mental disorders by; providing access to mental health services, and providing medication to victims. They have also made a video to help raise the awareness of mental health deterioration globally, particularly depression.
However, these are the gaps in their services:
Although there is a lot of work put into improving access and medical treatment, they have not tackled issues regarding the stigma. If anything they are worsening the stigma by explicitly highlighting the tendency for suicide.
The very first segments of their video involve; mentioning suicide and the economic loss due to mental disorder. It creates a notion of ‘false’ empathy, ‘we need to help these people because we are losing money globally’ is a message that may be derived from the video.
*I am not saying that this is their intent, but it could lead to misunderstanding*
Griffiths, S. (2005). The Mental Health Benefits of Arts and Creativity For Young American and Caribbean Men. The Mental Health Review, 10(2), 27 – 31.
PART ONE: SamuraiJat in Wonderland
It was a Sunday, and I found myself staring into nowhere, out of my window. My mind unable to comprehend the images laid out before me, as if my past and present had collided at this very point of time in my waking reality. Sunday…
A day for the family, and back home this meant everyone… cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents. I started to look back at my humble beginning, living in a tiny two-room shanty beside the railroad in Tondo, Manila, with my whole extended family (I think there were 15-18 of us at the time). A time when we didn’t even have our own shower but shared a village water pump to clean ourselves – except when it rained… that sensational feeling of the ‘pitter patter’ on your dusty dried-out skin, washing away the stress and toils of your day along with your sweat. Oh, how I miss showering in the rain.
It’s crazy because looking back now I can only remember how happy I was… everything seemed so simple. It didn’t matter that we didn’t own a TV or even had proper electricity, I loved being outside running around with the neighbourhood children coming up with any type of game we could play. Although, I have to admit that at times, we would gather around the window of a family who owns a TV and watch the Chicago Bulls win games in the NBA whenever they played. Of course, we weren’t ever able to watch for long because the owner would turn around and scare us away. It was fun, running away with your cousins and friends (my best friends were my cousins since there were 7 of us) laughing. But Sunday…
Every morning on this day, we smarten up (as much as we could) and got ready to go to Church where we prayed and sung as a family, including those who weren’t of the same blood. It was a sense of unity within our community, which I adored. I always looked forward to it. When the clock ticked noon, the Church sang a final song, and out came the snacks and drinks for everyone to indulge in and provided time for strangers to get to know each other. Of course, as a young kid, I procured as much sugar as I could stomach, restlessly running around the street screaming in excitement about almost anything. Occasionally, when we could afford it we would all take a trip to a shopping mall… we couldn’t really afford much but there was a pleasure to be gained by the anticipation, or rather, the fabrication of a false reality of obtaining these American branded products. I remember always dreaming of buying a pair of Nike shoes, mainly the Jordan’s, and always hoping to live a life similar to those that I would see on TV those few occasions. Yes. The American dream. Yes. America the greatest. Back then, everyone continued to praise the American economy, almost obsessively, you couldn’t really get by a long conversation without hearing ‘America’. During those young school years I spent in the Philippine education system, we were told stories of our national heroes, one of which was Emilio Aguinaldo, who courageously fought off the 377-year Spanish rule over the Philippines. Although he did get some help from the American Navy. So, naturally, we always thanked America for everything.
I lived the simple life in Tondo, Manila, for years to come. My parents, which I never mentioned, worked abroad and sent money back home to help support the entirety of my family tree… so I never really saw them growing up, and my grandmother was the main one to take the mother role in my life, but whenever they were able to come and visit, I would get so excited! Hearing my mother tell stories of a life filled with more luxury than we had – again the anticipation was killing me! My brother and I were unable to live with them in Hong Kong, my sister was already there, simply because they couldn’t afford to support all of us here at the time. However the days soon came, first my older brother moved, then I joined a couple years later – Hong Kong was still under British colonial rule, so naturally, the ‘best’ country in the world there at the time was England. During their colonial rule they were able to establish one of the largest trading harbours in the world, and so was praised for bringing so much prosperity into the country turning Hong Kong into one of the strongest developed cities. Moving to this city surpassed all my expectations; the country was clean, huge skyscrapers, designer brands everywhere, and my bedroom were only shared with my brother, not 10+ others – we even had our own bathroom! Furthermore, we were able to afford walkmans and iPods. It even got to a point where my father bought a Ferarri Spider (which he sold after a week because he hated it). This was the dream of dreams! At this point in my life, I accepted and embraced the economy that the colonization brought into the country(ies), “Imagine America”, I told myself. Throughout my whole life I was told by everyone, and my educators, how great the Western colonies were, and so far I had not been disappointed a single bit. One day during dinner, my father asked:
“Have you kids ever heard of a country called Singapore?”
“Well, if you can find it on this globe, I will buy you presents.”
So the three of us, huddled over our one globe, and desperately tried to find this so called ‘Singapore’… half an hour had passed and we continued to fail in our attempt to actualize the promise of a gift.
“Well, time is up… Here it is…”
“That tiny, tiny dot below the line of the equator…”
“WHAT?! That’s a country?! It’s just a dot…”
“Haha yep. Well… I got offered a promotion there, but I told them I’ll only move if my family agrees to move with me. What do you all think? You can have a few days to think about it if you want. It could be a new adventure.”
Looking back now, this was the move that changed my perception on everything. Even though we moved into an even larger house, one that had a garden, a 15m-20m private pool with a waterfall feature, Jacuzzi, and stood four stories tall. I thought I was overwhelmed before, but this was another level. I attended an international school, where they taught history in the most unbiased way, thus began my ongoing rage and sorrow which was only amplified by the natural insecurities of my teenage body at the time.
PART TWO: Welcome to Our World, Insanity.
It seems as though the more you learn about the world and our society, the more disappointed you get. A never-ending hollow abyss that continuously fills your soul. Take for example:
Emilio Aguinaldo has freed the Philipines from Spanish reign, thanks to the American Navy… Freedom and independence at last.
I was brought up to believe this. Looking back, it’s a little amusing as to how this sentence reflects the whole concept of the American dream and economy, or rather the western modernization of the world today. The Philippines was free, but only free from the Spanish reign, what they never told you as a kid was that the Philippines, in turn, became in debt to the American Navy thus technically under American reign. This resulted in the full Americanisation of the Philippines; Basketball, Baseball, Shopping Malls filled with American Shops, etc. It’s like replacing your breakfast with doughnuts… its a quick fix to your hunger problems, but you feel like s**t after. The Americans pretty much invaded the Philippines, only disguised as Freedom. I’m not saying it’s all bad, they did bring in technology, proper sanitation, medication and the concept of democracy – which also backfired because of the debt culture built by the Americans (the Philippines used to be one of the most powerful Asian economies in the world until the debt culture). The thing that I started to question during my teenage years was, why did people celebrate colonisation as if it was the greatest thing that has ever happened. It’s celebrating bloodlust, domination, rape, slavery and everything in between. I remember friends inviting me over for a party during Thanksgiving (they were American friends). A party?! It is absolutely insane.
Freedom is colonisation? Freedom from war is that really freedom? All you do is place the power of one party to another. There is no freedom from anything that has seen blood. I mean even now, THE INTERNET! The platform where everyone is equal and everyone is free! WRONG! Everything is recorded, everything is monitored, everything is regulated. They give you this idea that you are free, but you’re not. Someone is always watching you. The internet, out shopping or going to the gym. Does freedom exist if you are always limited by law?
Before moving to Australia, I thought I had already acknowledged the whole truth behind colonisation. However, I was proven wrong. When I first met my very albino friend, Liam, he told me he was off Indigenous descent. I cracked up. But he was. It showed how even someone, who thought he was educated enough, was still ignorant to many influences that colonisation had.
When I first arrived I was aware that there were European settlers, but I didn’t know the degree and how recent the events took place. These settlers just landed her on some boats and imposed a new government system and one that discriminates against the original inhabitants of the land. Additionally, I specifically remember a bunch of drunk bogans yelling at me, ‘get out of our country yah f**ck’n Asian c*nt’, luckily I just found it a little amusing because, before the Europeans, the Asians actually migrated here. There are archaeological findings that indicate the trades between the Indonesian Islands and Indigenous people hundreds and hundreds of years ago. It’s like they just like to claim things that aren’t theirs.
The thing that triggers me most, is how Western colonisation has essentially killed Culture. Everywhere in the world. This makes me mad because, culture is what shows our individuality, although the world would be very different today (and I probably won’t be writing this blog for my university in Australia), and it shows how we connect to our environment and surrounding. We not only have almost killed the planet, but we have lost the memory of humanity. We have become a single culture; Chadstone Shopping mall, Vivo City (Singapore), Greenbelt Shopping Mall (Philippines) and The Bloc (LA) all have the exact same shops, selling the exact same clothing aiming to make the exact same thing, money. On top of which, if you walk down the street you will see multiple women who look exactly the same because they follow the same makeup model on Instagram. Western Colonisation seems to want to control everything and seems to disregard anyone with alternative thinking, such as; Indigenous tribes, people with mental disorder, people who simply just think differently from them. They marginalise them through brute force, and often, are successful because these minority of cultures never had the desire to do so to them first. It almost shows cowardice through the amount of fear they have of the unknown.
A puff to blow the worries away. A sip of giggles to help waste the night away. Have another puff, then repeat. The night had started early; so we roll another, pop-off some caps and repeat. As the air filled with smoke, I noticed my body and my mind finally feel at ease after the day’s toil. Oh, how I longed for this moment, each and every day.
Porter sat on the edge of the couch, twiddling his fingers, legs shaking and eyes swaying from side to side.
“Yo Porter. You alright?”
“I… um.. I think… I… I will… walk… I will walk home now.”
He stood up and walked straight out of the door.
“What was that about?”
I looked at Dennis, puzzled but nothing else was said after, nor did I think of anything more about it. The man just wanted to go home, albeit it was pretty early and the night had only just begun, Porter was always one for a heavy night out.
Waking up into this waking life, I existed once again nursing a drought in my head. I got out of my cradle, rolled one and stepped out into my balcony. Inhale… Exhale… Much better, although the sun was coming down. I always hated myself for doing this every weekend. But I just accepted it, this was me, my weekend-being. Inhale… Exhale… I stared at the horizon as dusk slowly blanketed the city.
God. Who could it be? I just wanted to enjoy this before I do anything. Inhale. Exhale. Sigh…
“Can you come over?! RIGHT NOW! I NEED HELP! It’s Porter!”
S**t! That sounded urgent. I sprinted to my room and grabbed any clothing that wasn’t my robe and headed straight down to Porter’s place. He didn’t live too far away. Upon my arrival, I jump the fence and notice the glass sliding door was slightly open, so I let myself in only to find myself unable to fathom the horror that laid before me. The white walls were covered in holes, and in one, a knife.
“He-Hello? Porter?! Tash?!”
[Tash is Porter’s sister who lived with him; she was the one who called]
No response. What the ***k was happening?! I was simply flummoxed. I scrambled around the house, trying to find any clues as to what was happening and where the two were. The place was a mess, the positive thing that I could only think of was that there was no sign of blood. Thank God. I soon decided to walk out to the street and tried to contact Tash. I rolled one. Inhale… Exhale… as I look down the street, phone cusping my ear, Tash was walking towards me. She got closer, wearing a face of despair but… at the same time she seemed calm. It only puzzled me more.
“Tash! What’s happening? Porter?”
“Porter just had a bit of an episode, so I just went anywhere to get away for a bit. If he’s not home, then he’s probably out somewhere as he usually does,” she continued, “sorry I called, it just gets a bit scary when he’s like this and I know you guys are close.”
A bit of an episode? As he usually does? So this has happened before? Or rather it happened more often than you’d like. Despite her being relatively calm, regarding the situation, I couldn’t help but congregate horrific scenarios in my head. Inhale… exhale… I took my phone out and called Porter. He sounded drunk, and not long after picking up he openly invited me to get drunk with him. I accepted his offer and met up with him at a bar in the city, although I had no intention to have a ‘jolly’ drink but to clear up what was happening and if he was okay. However, when I got there, I had the misfortune of being unable to confront him about the incident. I was uncomfortable, so as a young naive adult; one drink, two, three, four… then I lost count. I almost forgot everything until I felt a numbness in my nose and a lump in my throat, I felt brand new.
It turned out to be a great night out once again, this was why I always said that Porter was a wildcard. Sunrise came, and we were walking down the road towards his home. We sat down on his front porch, rolled one; inhale… exhale… passed it on, repeat. I looked up and was reminded why I was out in the first place. A knife. I was staring at the knife, and as I did I felt Porter noticing me notice what happened.
“… Yeah… I get really nasty when my medication doesn’t arrive…”
He proceeded to tell me his story about absent parents who turned to feed him prescription medication at a very young age. For as long as he remembers, he’s been taking all sorts of medication for his ‘mental disabilities’ and is probably why he was able to tolerate consuming the number of substances that I would see him take. He seemed completely normal to me, but as what was evident, he mentioned that if he ever goes by without taking his medication, he gets fueled with rage. Ever since I’ve known him, I felt like he was a very decent person and completely competent. Although people had described him to be a bit of an oddball, I never thought of him in that way at all. But then again, I think every single person I meet is weird, never in a bad way, but that’s what makes everyone ‘normal’.
“Hey… I’m sorry I left so suddenly the other night. I just… Sometimes… I get a weird feeling and I can’t focus… I get these images in my head. It’s hard to describe.”
The events of that night have continued to mark a stain on my mind. I could only imagine what he was going through, but this was the door to a world that I knew existed but never really experienced in encountering.
As the days go by, and weeks past. I’d roll one, sometimes two after each day in order to relax and feel at ease. I started to notice my habits and addictions. Were any of them actually ever necessary? What would happen if I were to take one of them away? I know now that back then I was definitely an alcoholic, giving excuses like “I just party a lot”, numbing myself down with almost anything and completely dependent on other things to enable me to get to sleep or to wake up and work. In hindsight, I was only numbing myself cause I didn’t want to feel depressed. Moving to a new country, having no family, the death of one of your first friends as an independent young adult at university, a grandfather’s illness back home, and living a never ending cycle of waking up an d working then sleeping. This made me confront that person, that coward that I see every morning pissing in the toilet bowl. It’s time to stop, feel everything, embrace what the world has to offer. Cold turkey.
The final weekend had come, the weekend of a new beginning. I was going to get everything out of my system. Rolled one; inhale… exhale… take a swig… inhale exhale… repeat. Once everything is blurry, I numbed my face until I felt like a king. Then, lights out I passed out.
I woke up again, with a drought in my head. Nothingness. That was what filled my head. I got up and rolled one. Hold on. I wasn’t supposed to do this. So I placed it back on the table and just sat on the balcony, watching people that walked passed below me. My leg started to shake, but I didn’t know why.
“Hey man, How are yah feelin’? Nick and I were thinking of heading your way and just chillin’. Maybe play some FIFA? You down?”
“Yeah man! Sure.”
I thought that maybe their presence could distract me from the restlessness that I was feeling. I was wrong.
I sat there on the floor, it was the second half of the game and I was winning by a goal. My mind sporadically escaping me, thinking of random thoughts. Triggered by the smallest words and motion. It was as if my body had a mind of its own, it wasn’t me who was winning the game because my mind felt completely separate from the rest. My legs started to shake once again, and my fingers moving on the analogue sticks reminded me of the twiddling that Porter had done that one time. What was happening to me?! Is this what Porter was feeling?
“Ooooof! That was close!”
I saw what happened, but it didn’t feel like I was actually involved with the game. Scenarios started flashing before my eyes. Reply to him, just pretend everything is fine.
“Hm. Yeah, that was.”
My heart started racing, my chest was tightening as if the constrictor of despair had grasped the whole of my body.
Scenario 1: Jump up and hurt someone. No! I would never do that.
Scenario 2: Scream! But what for?!
Scenario 3: Leave the room and take a nap. Yeah, maybe I was agitated because I was still tired.
Scenario 4: Go out and take a walk.
I couldn’t control anything. Not my body, nor my mind. I continued to lose my breath as my head started to hear bells.
“Aw damn! What?! How’d you score that goal?!”
I scored another goal. But this time I didn’t see or know what I did during the game. It was as if a roulette was spinning in my head, wildly spinning and spinning… and spinning… and spinning. It was out of control.
Oh God! Please, don’t let it land on scenario 1. Please…
“… think… I’m… going… to…”
My breathing stopped, but my heart was still racing.
“… take a nap.”
I was able to take a deep breath, finally, so I stood up and left the room. The game wasn’t even over. My friends were confused. But I just left them to be puzzled. I grab the sheets of my bed and let the softness caress me as I stared into the ceiling. The white of the walls and ceiling turned red. I laid there, breathing heavily in rage for no reason. I waited until my friends left my apartment, and never mentioned what happened internally, I walked out to my balcony and stared at the horizon. So this is how he felt, every time he didn’t get his fix. It filled my heart with sorrow. I know that I put myself through this, it was my decision to numb myself and detach my emotions. I did this to myself and so, yes, I deserved to suffer this way. But I couldn’t get over the fact that Porter, a man as good as he was, has to suffer the pain of losing control over and over. A roulette of emotion and actions. A path chosen for him, not by him. My abusing behaviour was only for a couple of years, but his was almost his whole life. I can’t even say that I know exactly how he feels, but I had a taste of it. A taste that lingered for months until I replaced my habits with other more beneficial ones.
The world has come to point where you can take something to help ‘improve’ your state, be it; a simple cold or a way to change your mood. But it seems that in an ever growing population of ‘mentally ill’ and depression, far more people are turning straight to drugs may it be legal or illegal. I start to notice, that everyone do have their own addiction, everyone has a drug. Alcohol and drugs. Alcohol is a drug.
The strangest part of all of this is that even though more people are getting affected or more people are abusing substances, barely anyone is open about what is happening within themselves. Nor do they realise who they really are inside, always escaping the confines of our real world. Into a world of ecstasy and joy.
Is there a way to create a platform for understanding? Between those who are ‘ill’ and those who aren’t? I wonder… is there a medium to include all those suffering inside into the externalities of the real world? Maybe.