'No stranger to isolation': Chamber urges Northam residents to find a passion

'No stranger to isolation': Chamber urges Northam residents to find a passion

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During a period of uncertainty it is vital for people to do activities that they love and take a break from the often overwhelming news surrounding COVID-19....

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During a period of uncertainty it is vital for people to do activities that they love and take a break from the often overwhelming news surrounding COVID-19.

That is the message from Northam Chamber of Commerce chief 'enthusiasm' officer Esther Bliss.

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Known locally as a community champion, Ms Bliss is starting a conversation around the importance of looking after your mental health, at a time where physical health and hygiene is in the forefront of people's minds.

Seen as the poster-woman for not taking life too seriously, those who don't know her personally would be shocked at how candidly Ms Bliss speaks of her own mental health journey.

The mother-of-two's own mental health story dates back 25 years.

"I am a very different person now from the person I used to be," she said.

"I was so shy that I won a raffle and was too embarrassed to go up and collect my prize.

"As for anything I do now in my job or personal life, there was no chance I would have done it back then.

"My clinical depression got really bad - I wanted to go away. I thought everyone would be better off without me. I didn't want to be a burden to anyone.

"When I got better through seeing a psych, taking medication and trial and error I realised that you can't die of embarrassment.

"I have the mentality of what have you got to lose? Coming from a low place, I have gained more of a 'seize everyday' mindset."

Ms Bliss is no stranger to isolation, something that came into effect for a month when she broke her achilles tendon.

"When I did my achilles I was stuck at home, in bed for four weeks with no social interaction and my energy levels went down and down.

"I started drinking more, eating more sugary foods which led to be getting really depressed again."

What came from this was another trip to a local psychologist, a practise Ms Bliss now encourages her friends and family to do when they get a sense of losing control.

"I can only go by my own experience, but for me it is a loss of control - if I can't control my environment I struggle," she said.

"I have friends who have little kids, and as their kids are at home they can feel like they're not in control and that they lose part of their individual identity.

"I always tell them to go see their GP and just talk."

In the face of prolonged distancing measures in response to COVID-19, Ms Bliss said she was concerned about the mental health of not only herself but everyone in the community.

"Even though some days are harder than others, especially when people around me are struggling with their business and job security I'm telling myself to get up, go for a walk, put some lipstick on, make the effort to network," she said.

"I'm putting strategies in place so I don't get back to that point.

"I am lucky that I have a very supportive husband and lots of friends who are aware of my mental health and are helping.

"We need to be open about our mental health, it's really important.

"As this isolation increases, sadly so will the feeling of loneliness and negative mental health."

Ms Bliss's advice; find a passion that gives you energy and fills up your cup.

Lifeline 13 11 14

beyondblue 1300 22 4636

Kids Helpine 1800 55 1800

The story 'No stranger to isolation': Chamber urges Northam residents to find a passion first appeared on The Avon Valley Advocate.

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