Editorial: A Very Big Issue

6 October 2016 Amy Hetherington

Editorial: A Very Big Issue

This edition happens to be on sale during Mental Health Week (9-15 October), and it couldn’t be more timely. The Australian Bureau of Statistics last week revealed Australia’s suicide rate is at a 10-year high. In 2015, we lost 3027 people to suicide – that’s two-and-a-half times our national road toll. It’s more than eight people every day, one person every three hours. Clearly, mental illness and suicide need to be discussed every week, every day.

Talking openly about our experiences with mental health is a powerful way to shatter the stigma and silence still attached to it. That’s why, in this edition,
we’ve included a series of personal stories from people affected by different kinds of mental illness, both in their own lives and of those they love. The Big Issue’s former associate editor Melissa Cranenburgh writes about the devastating grief of losing a sibling to suicide; award-wining writer Fiona Wright shares a piece about her ongoing battle with an eating disorder; and one of our Big Issue colleagues Fyn talks openly about the ripple effect of trauma and suicide in the hope it helps others find a better solution. As Fyn says: “I want to give people hope, to tell them that there’s another way, another option.”

We also look at the increasing use of service animals in helping people with mental illness such as depression, anxiety and PTSD. Eliza Henry-Jones (‘Always by my Side’, p14) discusses her own work with therapy dogs, and the wider use of service animals to provide assistance and therapy, and ultimately to help save lives. And Big Issue vendor Jai talks about her special bond with her service dog Bella (p17): “No matter how bad things get, Bella is by my side. And that’s what
companions do, what your mates do.” Many thanks to all of our contributors for sharing their deeply personal accounts, and perhaps sparking many more much-needed conversations.

Amy Hetherington, Editor