words by nerissa

…observations, thoughts and questions

Archive for the tag “respect”

What happened to Ian Thorpe is none of our business

if you can't be kind be quietAs I sit here and write this, I am feeling angry. Very angry.

One of our Olympic heroes is suffering from an illness, and yet the media (and the general public), are busy surmising ‘what went wrong’ and ‘how did he get into such a mess’?

Quite frankly, nothing went wrong. He is sick.

When people get cancer, no one asks them, ‘what went wrong?’

When people are diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, no one asks them, ‘what did you do to get yourself into this situation?’

Certainly, their medical issues are not splashed all over the television, newspapers and internet.

There are two things wrong in this situation. Actually, there are more than two things, but I will only mention the two that I find most offensive.

Firstly, the stigma associated with mental health issues has to stop. NOW!

I am no expert in mental health issues, but having suffered from several depressive episodes, I feel I am (slightly) qualified to speak.

Mental illness is a very complex set of conditions. According to the Black Dog Institute, the most common are anxiety, depression and substance use disorder, with almost half (45%) of Australians experiencing a mental illness in their lifetime.

Yet these conditions still have such stigma attached to them. The Mental Health Foundation of Australia lists the following as common stigmas attached to mental illness:

  • Mental illness is rare and doesn’t affect average people
  • People with mental illness are dangerous
  • If you have a mental illness you can ‘will’ it away
  • Needing treatment means you are weak or have failed in some way
  • People with mental illness are receiving treatment
  • Mental illness is more like a weakness than a real illness
  • People with mental illness can never be normal.

All of the above are myths. Mental illness affects more people than you know. Statistically, almost half the people you know will suffer from this condition in their lifetime. Yet sadly, only 20 per cent of people with mental illnesses seek treatment

Why is this? More than 20 per cent of people seek treatment for diabetes. More than 20 per cent seek help for heart disease — and more often than not, these are conditions that are caused by living an unhealthy lifestyle. Where is the stigma attached to that?

Why, do we not call people who have directly contributed to their own illnesses (such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity, etc.), lazy, fat and irresponsible? Why don’t we ask them ‘what went wrong with your life?’. ‘Why are you so weak, you have let this happen to you?’ Why don’t we talk about them behind closed doors?

Why don’t we ridicule them and pity them, and make them feel like losers who can’t keep their life together?

It is a disgrace that in this day and age, when we so freely accept many things, we still cannot accept that depression, anxiety or the host of other mental illnesses are just that — illnesses.

Is it any wonder that people are loathe to seek help.

In the case of Ian Thorpe, I am sure that many people, both in Australia and around the world genuinely wish the best for him. I am sure that most of us hope he makes a full recovery and is able to find happiness and fulfilment in whatever he chooses to do in life.

Yet there is a side of many of us that wants to know ‘the inside scoop’. What really went wrong?

Are all the rumours true?

This is the second major thing that is wrong with all of this. It really is none of our business. Full stop. Do you hear me? NONE OF OUR BUSINESS.

Sure Thorpe was, and continues to be to some extent, in the public eye. He was one of Australia’s most successful swimmers having won five Olympic gold medals, the greatest total of any Australian. He has broken numerous world records and has won gold medals in many swim meets. Along the way, he won the hearts of millions.

In 2012, he published his autobiography This is Me, in which he admitted to suffering from depression and alcohol abuse for many years prior to his retirement from swimming. He stated that after a secret meeting with a doctor to discuss his depressive and suicidal thoughts, he ‘felt as if I now had a secret and no one to share it with’.

Yet ironically, since sharing his secret, he no longer has the privacy he needs to recover.

Tabloid reports last week surfaced that he was battling depression and alcohol abuse. Reports that Thorpe and his manager denied. His alleged admittance to a rehabilitation clinic publicised for all to see.

As a former sufferer of depression, I didn’t tell anyone how I was feeling either, nor how I was trying to deal with it. Having it broadcast to the world would have been mortifying in the extreme. Not to mention how unhelpful it would have been.

Thorpe’s manager, James Erskine admitted that such media reports were not helpful. “There is no doubt about it, the false reports did upset him. I’m not saying it sent him in a downward spiral but it did upset him. He didn’t go to rehab. That’s the truth. Everyone has to give him some space,” he says.

And Erskine is right. He needs space. His family need space. His friends need space, and the people treating him need space.

This is not an opportunity for journalists to delve into his ‘psyche’. The only ones allowed to delve into his psyche would be his medical team who are trying to treat him. Last time I checked, they will do that in a private manner. So anything you may read in the papers is probably not true.

What’s seems to be wrong with reporting in this country (and in many others), is that the ‘public’s right to know’ is treated too liberally.

I’m sorry, but the general public really don’t have a right to know about the private medical issues of a fellow Australian, whether he is well-known or not. Not unless, the person in question has made a public statement. To date, Thorpe has not made a statement about recent events.

If the names of convicted paedophiles and sexual predators can be protected (and don’t get me started on this one!), then why not the private lives of our fellow human beings?

It seems to me, that when there are stories to be written, money to be made and gossip to sell, common decency and respect go out the window.

A well-known journalist who names criminals convicted on sex crimes against children is held in contempt of court and goes to jail. I would have thought that this kind of information was more in line with the ‘public’s right to know’, than Thorpe’s battle with depression.

So if you really care about Ian Thorpe (and thousands of other Australians who suffer from mental illness), and genuinely wish the best for him, I ask you to do the following:

  • Wish him well
  • Pray for him and his family (if you are the praying type)
  • Don’t pity him — pity is not something depressed people like to have thrown their way
  • Stop reading the stories about him and his condition
  • Stop gossiping about him with the people you meet
  • Avoid buying the magazines that will claim to have the ‘inside scoop’
  • Make a donation to the organisations that are fighting the war against depression.

But most importantly, if you are feeling down, or anxious and suspect that you may be feeling depressed, please seek help.

Beyond Blue
Phone: 1300 22 4636

13 11 14

cropped-twitterpic.jpgNerissa Bentley is a Melbourne-based freelance writer at Write to the Point Communications. This blog is just one of the things she writes in her spare time.

She also specialises in writing for the health and well-being market. As well as writing thoroughly researched articles, she can provide assistance with press releases, copywriting, editing, proofreading and communication strategies.

So if you would like her to help you, contact her at writetothepoint@hotmail.com

Why kids deserve respect

Respect is a tricky thing.respect

Yet it seems to be twisted into a definition that suits anyone.

We need to respect their decisions

We need to respect their beliefs

We need to respect their right to express themselves

We need to respect the way they live their life.

What does it really mean?

Respect can be defined as:

  • A feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.


  • Due regard for the feelings, wishes or rights of others.

While a lot of people talk about the need for respect, I don’t believe many people practice it anymore.

Instead there seems to be too much focus on ‘doing what makes you happy’, ‘living for the moment’ and forgetting about how that impacts on other people.

I’m not saying that you need to do what others want you to, or go and become a ‘people pleaser’.

What I am saying, is that we need to think about the impact our actions may have on other people — especially our kids.

Think about those ‘high profile celebrities’ who have been in the news lately, for their questionable actions. I am not going to name them, simply because I believe the reason they are engaging in their questionable behaviour is to gain publicity and get people talking about them.

However, if I used the words, ‘twerking’ and ‘joint-smoking’, I’m sure you know one of whom I am referring to.

Yet she is one of many. Listen to the lyrics of many popular songs, or watch the video that accompanies them, and there is often very little respect to be found.

Half-naked men and women, dancing around (often gyrating), singing about strip clubs, alcohol, and drugs. All the while objectifying women (and men), and passing it off as entertainment.

Think about some of our ‘sports stars’. Yes, they may be great at their sport, but are they really role models we want for our kids? Footy players getting drunk, or on charges of rape; a tennis star in trouble for hooning; a prominent golfer caught cheating on his wife a few years back. Yet these are the very people who are held up to be ‘heroes’.

TV shows are now being made from footage of drunken, foul-mouthed, disrespectful thugs having brushes with the law. While they may be televised after prime-time, they are still advertised when children watch TV. Do they really need to see that? Besides, are we really that desperate that we have to resort to that kind of stuff? Surely our combined level of intelligence isn’t that low.

What is going on?

Our kids are looking up to these people. What kind of qualities are these people exhibiting, that results in a feeling of deep admiration for them? Where is the regard for the rights and feelings of our children?

When we ‘normalise’ cheating, getting drunk or engaging in anti-social behaviour, our children learn to do the same. When film clips objectify women (and men) as objects, our kids learn to do the same.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my son growing up to only see value in a woman for what she looks like and how sexually attractive she is.

I certainly don’t want my daughter growing up to believe that the only worth she has is to be found in men ogling her, or being sexually available.

When we show footage of people doing drugs and making it look cool, then our kids want to do the same thing and be ‘cool’ too. It’s quite confusing for them to be told about the dangers of drugs on one hand, but then be shown footage of a celebrity lighting up a joint.

Parenting is not easy. Forget about the sleepless nights and toilet training — that’s a piece of cake.

The harder stuff is trying to teach a child right from wrong and to guide their moral compass. We are trying to equip our kids to negotiate the minefield of drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, anti-social behaviour, cheating, lying, and selfish behaviour. Yet in one foul swoop, another person’s actions can call into question everything we have taught.

As children get older, the outside world has more influence on them. Yet people wonder ‘what is going on with kids these days?’ Well, kids model what they see, and ‘respectful’ is not how I would describe our current society.

Many forget that the children of today will grow up to be adults. What we teach them about the world, and their place in it, is a very big deal.

If our kids grow up believing that it’s ok to disrespect others, then they will grow up to be disrespectful.

If our children see their role models have no self-respect, then how will they grow up to respect themselves?

If our kids think it’s ok to yell, and scream and swear and carry on when things don’t go their way, then what kind of adults will they make?

If we show our kids that it’s cool to be on drugs and okay to get drunk, then what kind of society are we creating?

If today’s celebrities are all about self-promotion, self-gratification, making money at the expense of others and not interested in the welfare of the people who have made them celebrities, then what hope do our kids have?

So, to all of you out there who thinks that it’s none of my business how you live your life — think again.

Most of the time it is not. However, it is my business if the way you act and behave is disrespectful to my children. It is my business if your actions have a negative impact upon my children. And it is my business if what you are modelling is against what I am teaching my children.

It most certainly is my business, if I have to explain adult-concepts to my children, well before they need to know about them.

Remember, most children don’t ask to see scantily clad women gyrating about. They shouldn’t have to see sex-shops in every suburb advertising their sleazy wares. Most children don’t usually ask to see footage of people doing drugs. And they certainly don’t deserve to be told that their only value in life is to be an ‘object’ for someone else’s gain.

Children are vulnerable. Children are innocent. Children are impressionable. Children are special. Most importantly, they are the future of this country.

Let’s treat them with the respect they deserve.

At the risk of offending you…

Yesterday I sat down to write my blogkeep calm and think before you speak

There was something I wanted to write about. This issue had been popping up in various forums all week. It was something that was frustrating me, making me feel angry — and I was feeling quite fired up about it.

There was quite a bit I wanted to say. Some of it was likely to be controversial.

But the trouble was, there was too much I wanted to say — so I edited it.

There was too much that was controversial — so I cut it out.

I ran the risk of offending people — so I toned it down.

And then, there wasn’t much left at all.

It left me wondering how often do we do this? Feel like we have something important to say but water it down because we don’t want to offend people. Feel like people won’t be interested in our point of view so we shorten our conversation.

On the other hand, sometimes we do share what we feel is important but do so while we are still feeling emotional about it.

When this happens, our arguments are not well formed, we usually offend people, (hey, sometimes we don’t care if we offend people), and we lose credibility. I think I was at risk of this yesterday, despite the fact that I strongly believed in what I was writing.

It seems to me that there is a delicate balance of being ‘true to yourself’ and what you believe in, and respecting where others are at.

Sometimes it is easy to forget that we were once where they were — thinking the same things, believing the same things — and we become impatient because we have ‘moved on’ and they have not.

We feel we have the right to ‘preach’ to them that our way of thinking is right and theirs is wrong.

We project our morals, values and beliefs on them, and get frustrated when they don’t measure up to our expectations.

Instead, we should be meeting them where they are. We should understand that their path is not ours. We should remember that they have a right to look at things with different eyes.

That doesn’t mean that we should not speak up about issues we feel strongly about.

It simply means we need to think a little more before we speak.

So, the issue that I wanted to write about has been put on the shelf for a while. I still feel very strongly about it and I will write about it one day.

But for now, the moral of the story is ‘think a little before we speak’ (or write, in my case)!



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words by nerissa

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