‘In some way, everyone has faced mental health’

Cassidy Anderson has mental health battles, has a family history of people with mental health battles and she is carer for her partner who has mental health battles. Picture: Simon Bennett
Cassidy Anderson has mental health battles, has a family history of people with mental health battles and she is carer for her partner who has mental health battles. Picture: Simon Bennett

Cassidy Anderson, now 23, has come a long way these last 12 months.

She said she was ready to give up but it served as a wake-up call. Today she is studying for a qualification in mental health so she can help others.

Her first encounter with mental health was at age 3. She told the Liverpool Champion her father had undiagnosed schizophrenia and committed suicide. Then her mother became an addict and tried to commit suicide several times.  

“I spent my life moving from house to house as a foster child, then couch to couch. I was quite lost with where I wanted to go in my life. I was struggling with my mental health with anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Then I came to Liverpool’s Flowerdale Cottage and I found guidance and a sense of belonging. It allowed me to recover,” she said.

“By coming to Flowerdale Cottage I’m not classified under a label. It’s important for people to know a diagnosis doesn’t define who you are as a person.”

Liverpool’s Flowerdale Cottage is operated by Flourish Australia and offers a program to support people dealing with mental health problems.

Cassidy’s brother suffers from bipolar disorder  and has spent the last five years frequently in mental-health units. She said she was still in contact with her mother but they have a strained relationship.

“I’m gaining more perspective as I get older but it was a difficult upbringing. When I was in foster care the average amount of time I stayed in a home was 18 months. And my siblings were all separated – we were put into different foster homes growing up because it was hard to find a foster family willing to take on three or four kids.”

“I came to Flowerdale at 18 when I’d just been kicked out of my foster family’s house because once you turn 18 you’re no longer classed as a foster child. However, my mental health issues began appearing from 16 onwards. At first I was very much on the river of denial and it got to the point where I needed the help. I needed Flowerdale and the coping mechanism. Psychology and medication doesn’t always help everybody.”

Currently she is caring for her partner who also has mental health problems.

They live together in Mount Druitt.

“I’m a carer for a partner who has severe depression, anxiety and borderline personality disorder. I think it’s so important to have a relationship with someone who understands you. You have to be very patient because there are going to be bad days and good days so unless you’re willing to take both – it’s going to be a hard relationship to have. At least you can watch out for each other on a constant basis.”

She said her whole outlook on life changed 12 months ago when she hit her lowest point.

“I’d like to show other kids, there’s a life after the darkness. Just because you’re going through a bad stage now, it doesn’t mean your future has to be that way. Very sadly people have given up but I want people to know they can get help. There needs to be a mental health plan and for people to speak to their doctors. 

“November 22, 2016 was the day I gave up and no longer wanted to keep going. I took an entire packet of sleeping tablets in the carpark of the doctors and ended up in hospital attached to drips, monitors and I was on suicide watch for a couple of days.

“It wasn’t about dying, just about not feeling anything any more. It was planned out, I had been thinking about it for a month. After that I realised I didn’t want other people to feel as low as I did. I realised working in mental health was something I wanted to do.”

She said affection and understanding comes a long way. “Having my cats help me. It sounds strange but they know when I’m having a bad day. 

“I tend to emotionally eat food and smoke cigarettes. I’m very aware of addiction running in my family so I don’t aid it with alcohol. I’ve been improving, but I’m just taking it a step at the time. My main goal right now is to finish my course in a diploma of mental health so I can help other’s and fulfill my passion.”

  • Liverpool’s Flowerdale Cottage run by Flourish Australia is having an information day for students across South-west Sydney on October 17, 10am to 3pm.