Removing the taboo of mental illness

by Jade McGarry

REMI drawing an enthusiastic crowd at the Grande
Photo cred: Dylan Crawford

Finally, it feels like we can talk about mental illness and it’s about bloody time.

The struggles faced by people silently enduring the pain of mental illness are enormous and tragic, with more that 1300 Australians killing themselves each year.

In light of this horrifying statistic, it is vital that we bring these issues into the conversation, and many of the Woodford Folk Festival speakers are doing this, by openly sharing their personal experiences.

One of the incredible leaders in sparking this discussion is former mental health clinician, Aaron Williams.

He graced the Woodford Folk Festival stage this year to discuss the secrets to being happier, healthier and more productive, and removing the taboos that still surround talking about mental health.

“I can openly discuss the issues with my knees or arms, but the moment it becomes about my mental health, I need to whisper and feel a sense of shame,” Aaron Williams says.

“This really needs to change; the results are leaving people isolated and unable to communicate.

“We need to assess our mental health, and there is nothing negative about that.”

REMI telling audiences it’s ok to be honest about your mental health. Photo Dylan Crawford

Communicating with audiences about mental health certainly involves a little extra care and thought, especially in such a relaxed party environment like Woodford Folk Festival.

Reminding audiences that it is okay to be honest and open about mental health, is a movement that is being nurtured here at the festival.

Capturing audiences with their gentle, honest approach to the issue, Melbourne hip-hop duo REMI touched on the subject during their set at the ‘Grande.’

“This one is for all of you who have had a rough year, there is so many of us that have suffered from mental illness,” REMI said.

“Here you can express yourself with dance and groove to understand that is okay, and we have a community here that supports you.”


  1. We are a family and all of us have mental illness.. My hubby has Schizoaffective and severe Anxiety disorder along with Brain Damage from getting too much ECT… Myself, I have Bi-polar… both our daughters ended up with Schizoaffective disorder though the oldest was able to take her time through high school and college and earn a Master Degree in Education as a School Counselor but my youngest Adult daughter not only has Schizoaffective (with her Schizophrenia really prominent) but has Brittle Type I Diabetes, Hypo Thyroid and Language Disorders.. She also got a small brain mass due to taking INVEGA… My oldest was able to get married and has 2 boys.. We have lived our life with No masks on.. we are Not ashamed of having genetic “brain disorder” and are open about our lives.. People talk about their daily lives and so do we.. our “norm” may be different from others but it is still our norm… We have coached our daughters softball teams and I was my daughters’ Scout leaders for 2 different troops cause there are 4 years in age difference.. Everyone accepted as who we are , not by our label… and the more people talk openly about their life (regardless of the label that society puts on us) we become part of the normal families and do not gave to take up that label of mentally ill.. that label only purpose is to identify e dr ycational supports or accommodations…But the Media will label most bad actions by an individual as a person with Schizophrenia and the stigma continues even though that person may not even had a mental illness.. example: all these shootings by an individual.. In every category of humans, there will be a very small group that will be violent regardless of their label.. High functioning individuals with a mental illness disorder do extremely well in the business market or others that are highly creative start their own businesses.. My hubby worked for many yesrs with some supports added for him.. However my youngest adut daughter has so many medical and psychiatric that is has not been able to be successful because all the community supports are gone and no one wants to have anyone with a mental illness in any of the programs available in this Statebof Georgia.. in fact when she needs to stablize, there No long term treatment centers in this state and no experts to help my daughter.. I use Facebook to get awareness out there for I can’r get any media to cover the issues, not any news station, or TV show or anyone.. I continue to post what we live with, how to survive and how to get around obstacles that block us from getting help.. I have called over 25 different organizations at the National, State, Region, County and Local, even our Church.. We need more talk shows to cover our issues to let people know mental illness is not contagious and we have the same issues living as everyone but get excluded all the time due to fear… and the Media does a great job of instilling that fear about us… I can talk for hours .. We will be married 40 yrs on May 5th and have 2 daughters..Our youngest lives with us.. feel free to contact us anytime.. Dee, Cary and Amber Kean

    1. Thankyou so much for sharing your story – it is so important to open up the discussion and enable people to share their experiences, it sounds like you have an incredible family, I send all my love. Jade McGarry

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