This Mental Health Week, Tammy Milne shares her personal story.

⚠️ TRIGGER WARNING. This article discusses suicidal feelings.

This week, as part of Mental Health Week, PDA’s TAS Associate Director Tammy Milne, was a speaker at the North West Film Society.

Her honest, heartfelt, poignant and incredibly brave speech took the audience on an emotional journey that shows that no one is vaccinated against the black dog of depression.

Tammy has very kindly allowed us to publish her words and her story and we are extremely grateful to this wonderful, kind and courageous woman for normalising depression and giving a voice and hope to others who may have similar journeys.

“I would like to acknowledge the country in which we are all meeting tonight.

This is Palawa country in lutruwita on the land of the punnalir.planner people.  I acknowledge and pay respect to Aboriginal people as the traditional and original owners, and continuing custodians of the lands on which we all gather today and acknowledge Elders – past and present and emerging. 

Thank you everyone who has come along tonight to hear this very poignant discussion for mental health week and thank you for the opportunity to share my story and the story of 1000s of other people with disabilities all over. 

As you are well aware I’m a person living with disability. I want to talk this evening about intersectionality. How disability and other conditions are not mutually exclusive. How we don’t often think of people with disability and Breast cancer, or people with disabilities and cardiovascular disease or people with disabilities and mental health. Why is that? Because PWD seem to take up space  in our minds,  as a particular group that’s in our minds don’t move outside that sphere or silo. 

We compartmentalised disabilities and PWD as one diagnosis  and don’t think more broadly of other issues, like mental health that can accompany person with disability on their life journey. 

But statistics inform us that 32% of people living with disability experience high or very high psychological distress compared to 8% with out disability. Another study found that 43% sufferer psychological distress in conjunction with their disability. So if you look at the way society treats people with disability, our society, here in Australia you will be able to understand why PWD have high rates of depression compared with the wider community. We are often treated with fear, people don’t know what to expect with interacting with us , we are ignored, we are pityed , feel shame and are most often treated as less then the rest of the community. 

A really great show to watch on telly   and  is on SBS. Its  called Australia what does Australia really think of disability with Kurt Fearnely . Its an eye opener. From the show a survey was collected and 

72% of respondents without disabilities said they felt sorry for people with a disability.

72% agreed that people sometimes make fun of people with disability.

So what Im saying here and what the statistics confirm  is there is no wonder PWD suffer from depression! 

My own story is a winding journey and the cumulative effects of all the things already spoken about. 

I was a fire Cracker  ready to go off. I had internalised all the trauma of disability and the discrimination, the personal attacks, the pain that I had suffered all my life  and in 2018 i exploded.

In a quiet,  under the radar sort of way, that involved pills and a good long lay down that I hoped I would never  wake from. I had had enough!  The two years prior to this were tumultuous! I suffered a back injury at work and fractured three vertebrae in a fall. 

The two year prior to my attempted long sleep looked like this! A catalyst of events that fused together in a nightmare scenario that I couldn’t dig my way out of. I hurt my back, went through the workers comp. trauma. I mean I wasn’t taken seriously because of my disability it took 6 weeks from the injury till I got an MRI that actually found the fractures, 

And then I started a new job with a principal who wasn’t too keen on having a person with a disability thrust upon them by the department. I spiralled down down down into self doubt, every time I received any form of set back,   Or criticism;  constructive or not it felt like a body blow  I felt worthless.

I went  to a very nice doctor in Launceston and told him my story and he said quite frankly you have PTSD. What you have experienced, you have PTSD. 

I still am hyper vigilant  in my surrounding always looking for an exit if I need it. I have a very strong fight or flight response.  Which looks like I get pissed  off and leave but in reality it’s my coping mechanism to escape any further trauma by just leaving. I startle  easily, I jump easily  at any loud noise  or sound

How did i start getting through it. Well I recognised that its me and it not me! Its not my fault that  society see people with disabilities as unreliable witnesses to their own health needs. Its not my fault that people see people  with disabilities as inferior. Its not my fault that the principal couldn’t see my value. Its not my fault that all people with disabilities are not valued. I am me and I embraced that. I embraced my disabilities. I still get discriminated against. Especially outside my home city and even in my city but I know its not my fault. It their problem!

But i can do something about it. I quit my job with the department of education last year after 33 years. I embraced disability. I’m now the Tasmanian associate director of physical disabilities Australia. I strive to make our city our Tasmania and more inclusive and equitable place for all. My work as I see it now is to make life better from now on for all people. That’s why I put my hand up to speak at events like this. 

My take home message is that mental health should be treated like any other health condition, we get mammograms, paps smears, colonoscopy, prostrate checks, cardio vascular checks and mental health checks should be though of and treated no differently. Go to a councillor, seek out a psychologist.

Health is holistic;  it’s mind and body.

Thank you again for allowing me to share.”


📷 thanks to Vicki Carman-Brown

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