Hard battle for our minds

Sound advice: After doing so herself, Renee Lena urges youth to talk about their problems.

Sound advice: After doing so herself, Renee Lena urges youth to talk about their problems.

WITHOUT seeking assistance, Renee Lena was facing a very uncertain future.

She has lived with depression most of her life and knows all too well the devastating effects mental illness can have on the young mind.

As a four-year-old Renee had a stroke that caused her to lose some control of her body. This affected her self-esteem growing up.

A difficult period later, which included the breakdown of an unhealthy relationship and the death of a loved one, led to Renee developing severe depression.

As her mental health issues became more difficult to deal with she attempted suicide.

"I just wanted to give up because I couldn't cope with the next day," Renee said. "But I realised I couldn't keep doing this to myself or the people around me. I knew I needed help."

Unlike many, Renee did seek help and is now proof that with the right assistance and guidance much progress can be achieved.

Renee, 25, is supported by CatholicCare's Personal Helpers and Mentors program, which operates within the Liverpool CBD.

The program aims to enchance the quality of life of people battling mental illness by providing tailored support programs created to meet each person's needs.

To mark World Youth Day [yesterday], the service aimed to shine a light on the importance of understanding youth mental health issues as well as encouraging people to seek help.

CatholicCare CEO Bernard Boerma said that youth with mental health issues often experienced stigma and discrimination, which could lead to exclusion and discourage them from seeking help.

"Mental illness can significantly affect young people's ability to function in the community.

"It's important that we all take the time to listen — to professionals and to people like Renee who have experienced it first-hand.

"That's how we learn how to best provide support and avoid unhelpful stereotypes and labels."

Renee had a message for those who write off mental illness as a weakness or "mind over matter" issue.

"Wake up," she said. "You don't know how we suffer. We want to be able to control it but people out there are dying, they're killing themselves because of it.

"I think people should just listen to what we have to say, because if they knew what we are going through, if they could be in our shoes, they would see what we have to deal with."

Details: catholiccare.org or 9390 5366.

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