File size must be less than 2Mb
You must have online publishing permission or full ownership of this image
File types (jpg, png, gif)
08 July 2020
By SARAH MATTHEWS
Brodie Cramer was celebrating what was supposed to be the happiest day of his sister’s life when he decided to end his own.
After seating guests at his sister’s wedding in November last year, Brodie had a moment of clarity while watching the ceremony unfold.
“My sole focus should have been watching my sister get married, but it wasn’t,” he said.
Article continues below
“All I could think was, after this, I am going to end my life.”
Brodie, 24, has endured a long struggle with mental illness, before and after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 18.
A month before his sister’s wedding, he decided to stop his medication cold turkey, kick-starting a downward spiral.
He stopped playing sport, pulled away from social situations, left his then-pregnant partner and moved in with his mother at Kaniva.
“I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t work – I was useless,” he said.
In January this year, Brodie overdosed on medication, had a psychotic episode and self-harmed.
His mother called triple zero, saving her son’s life.
Brodie was admitted to a mental-health service in Ballarat as an involuntary patient under the Mental Health Act.
“I had no choice, I had to have compulsory treatment,” he said.
“At the time I didn’t recognise I needed help. I was in psychosis. I lost touch with reality.
“I tried to take my own life – I still hate myself to this day, but that’s what happened.”
Fast forward six months and Brodie is back on medication, under the care of a psychiatrist and is ‘feeling the best’ he has in a long time.
Last week, Brodie decided to share his mental-health battles on a Facebook blog, posting videos about his experience.
His videos are honest and raw and have struck a chord with friends and strangers alike.
While the blog is cathartic, it also gives Brodie an opportunity to use his experiences to help others.
“I want to reach as many people as I can by sharing my stories with people,” he said.
“I want people to understand there is no stigma or shame attached to these illnesses.
“My main goal is to get people to come forward and speak up, or speak out, about things – I want to try to help the suicide rate in the Wimmera decline, because it isn’t good.
“I can’t quote the figures properly, but I reckon there were five or six suicides in the Wimmera in five months in 2018-19. That’s too many.”
Suicide is a major public health issue, resulting in more than 3000 deaths in Australia annually.
Men are three times more likely to die by suicide than women. In 2019, community groups including Rotary clubs and Healthy Minds Horsham joined forces to advocate for a 24-hour mental-health crisis centre in the Wimmera capital.
Brodie said he would like to see a renewed push for funding to address a lack of – particularly acute – services in the region.
“I wrote to Daniel Andrews two years ago about this,” he said.
“He said there was funding becoming available in regional Victoria for these sorts of things, but that hasn’t happened yet.
“We really need something in the Wimmera. At the moment, the closest place is Ballarat, but they are full a lot, so they will only take you if it is very serious.
“There are a lot of people who are in between that bracket of being acute and seriously unwell and we need something here.
“It needs to be funded – if they gave me the money, I’d run it myself.”
Brodie, who works as a plant operator-labourer at Hindmarsh Shire Council, also has his sights set on turning his passion into a career, enrolling in a two-year online course to become a qualified mental-health clinician.
“At the end of it I will be able to work in a facility, as an intake worker or a counsellor,” he said.
“Ideally I’d like to work in a crisis facility because my main goal is to help people at their lowest and build them back up. And if you’re in a place like that, you’re at your lowest.”
Brodie’s blog posts also share an insight into his time in psychiatric centres, from his first time as a 17-year-old to his experience in Ballarat earlier this year.
“I was in there for 18 days and it was rough,” he said.
“I think the best thing you can do is get private health insurance with mental-health cover as an extra.
“It costs extra, but it opens up so many doors to treatment.”
Brodie’s life was also shaped by saving a friend from a suicide attempt in February 2019 – ‘the scariest moment of my life’ – and the ongoing, unconditional support from his loved ones, particularly his mother, Marianne, and partner, Teagan.
“My mother raised me by herself from three years of age,” he said.
“She’s been in my corner and I’ve broken her so many times with all this, but she’s bulletproof, really. She’s been the best thing. She’s never given up and never will.
“Teagan is really supportive, which is good. Mental illness honestly does take its toll on family members.
“They get to that point where they can’t cope any more, and they end up needing help as well.”
Brodie and Teagan have two children, Casey, 3, and Elle, three months.
“Becoming a father again has been really good for me,” Brodie said.
“I’m in a really good place at the moment. I’m on medication, I’m seeing a counsellor and a psychiatrist and I do a lot of spiritual healing.
“Medication doesn’t cure this stuff though, it just puts a band-aid on it.
“I need to work really hard with lifestyle changes – you don’t just pop your pill in the morning and think, ‘I’m going to have a great day’, it doesn’t work like that.”
Brodie wants to share his coping strategies with people who are struggling and in need of guidance.
He has a captive audience. Since starting his ‘Brodie Cramer’s mental health outreach support/motivation’ Facebook page, Brodie has received more than 20 messages from people ‘who are struggling’.
Once the COVID-19 threat has passed, he plans to run events and start a support group.
“One of the strengths of bipolar is you’re very creative and you have a lot of ideas and drive,” Brodie said.
“I always like to do things in big ways – I always have. I do everything 100 miles an hour, so it’s going to be epic.
“My first goal was to get people talking and it’s working. If I can save one or two lives with this then I feel like I’ve accomplished something.
“Life is a wonderful gift and it’s worth living.
“Never give up – you are loved.”
• People can visit www.beyondblue.org.au or www.lifeline.org.au for information and support about anxiety, depression and suicide. People in need of crisis support and suicide prevention services can call Lifeline’s 24-hour hotline on 13 11 14. If a life is in danger, people should call police on triple zero.
The entire July 8, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!