Tattoo For Mental Health : Campaign to support those in need

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By SAT News Desk

MELBOURNE, 23 March 2021: Raelene Sebastian, 23, has suffered from anxiety and depression for the past 10 years. At her darkest moments, she used self-harm as a way to escape the mental health problems by provoking physical pain. “I cut myself as ‘escapism’. I was nearly on the verge of killing myself. If my dad had not walked through the door at that moment, I would not be here today to see the wonderful things I have done after that. I was holding the knife when he came in”, she says.

Raelene was a victim of bullying at school. “I was very insecure, being put down all the time, being told ‘you are not good enough’, ‘you are too fat’, ‘you don’t look great’, ‘you are not pretty’. Back in High School, where the cuts come from, I felt so alone”, she says.

Now, Raelene has chosen ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar” tattoo to cover self-inflicted cuts on her left arm. “When I grew up, my siblings used to read to me a lot. Now, as a teacher, I do the same for the children that I look after. I want them to understand that it is important to look after themselves, both physically and mentally”, she explains.

Raelene’s tattoo was possible with the partnership between Beyond Blue and the Tattoo Artist Fernando Hideki, who volunteered his time to help mental health patients regain their confidence and boost their self-esteem with the ‘Tattoo for Mental Health’ Campaign. “I lived in Ireland, which has high suicide and self-harm rates, and I noticed the same – or more – when I moved to Australia. I thought it was not normal, and I realised I could help. By supporting Beyond Blue, we can help more people to get professional advice, perhaps stopping them from hurting themselves”, he explains.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, in 2018, 3,046 deaths by suicide were registered in Australia—an average of about 8 deaths per day—more than two and a half times that of the national road toll in the same year (1,135 road deaths) (BITRE 2019). Suicide and self-inflicted injuries were the third leading cause of premature death from injury or disease in 2015. Beyond Blue website states that, in 2019, depression was associated with 37.9 per cent of all suicides in Australia. Anxiety was associated with 14.9 per cent of all suicides.

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Ellen O’Neill, 26, also had suicidal ideations. “There were a couple of times that I would walk up to the road and sort of think about ‘Do I step in front of a car? What do I do?’ I was standing there, super confused”, she says. In 2017, Ellen got a dog that helped her overcome the troubling thoughts.

“She was a massive help. Even though I still had those feelings, I felt a sense of responsibility to care for her. I resented her for that, in a way, because I didn’t want to be here anymore and she was annoying me by keeping me here. But I am so grateful it did happen. Sometimes I still fantasize about it and, sometimes, I still have suicidal ideations – I am not saying it goes away – but at the end of the day, being able to stand in 2021, I feel really proud about myself”, she says.

Ellen also got a tattoo with Artist Fernando Hideki as part of the ‘Tattoo for Mental Health’ campaign. “I think Fernando is amazing, a professional with great artistry. I have admired his work for a very long time. For most people, it is hard to recognise what symptoms equate to depression and anxiety. Usually, you just internalise and feel bad about that, but it is important to know that there is treatment. Beyond Blue brings visibility and understanding to mental illness”, she says.

Joshua Parsons, 30 – who thought about hanging himself in the school hall to show the bullies that they were responsible – has also chosen a tattoo to eternalise the fact that he overcame the worst moments of his anxiety and depression. “For me, Beyond Blue means ‘you have to see through it’, ‘there is light at the end of the tunnel’. It is a great cause and I really admire Fernando donating his time, because the more people talk about depression and anxiety, hopefully the more lives we can save”, he says.

Joshua tattooed a dolls pull string on his back, a drawing he did at the age of 17. “In the worst moments of my anxiety and depression, I felt like a shell, as if I had nothing going on inside. I had no drive. Being the youngest growing at my house, I was never allowed to speak out. People used to call me George as I mumbled and could not speak my name properly and I was also really shy, so they used to dress me up, take me out and speak for me; that is where I got the idea of having a dolls pull string on my back because I was constantly that”, he recalls.

Tattoo Artist Fernando Hideki also suffered with anxiety issues in the past. “I was part of an abusive relationship, and the only help I got was from a professional who treated my anxiety. I was in a bad place with that toxic relationship in my mind, my productivity dropped a lot, I got away from my friends, had problems with my family, etc.”, he says. That is one of the reasons he decided to help, with the support of Tora Sumi, a tattoo shop in the Sydney suburb of Balmain that offers their space for mental health patients and the campaign.

“Beyond Blue is a very serious organisation with many years of history that touches most of us who work here. Depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses are great problems of the modern world, and they bring information and assistance to people in need. My wife suffers from depression and I did not know how to help at first, so knowledge is fundamental”, says Bruno Giacomazzi, Tora Sumi’s Business Director.

“If there is anyone who needs help, just come and talk to us and we will help and guide you in the right direction. If there is a place with no discrimination, it is a tattoo shop. We hope we can get to a better society, where people look after each other. Everybody is welcome here”, says Giacomazzi.

Proceeds from the ‘Tattoo for Mental Health’ fundraiser campaign go towards the Beyond Blue Support Service, which is funded entirely by donations. The service is staffed by skilled mental health professionals who are ready to provide free counselling, advice and referrals 24/7 to everyone in Australia. “Beyond Blue values each and every one of our community fundraisers. The efforts of fundraisers such as ‘Tattoo for Mental Health’ help us support the mental health and wellbeing of hundreds of thousands of people each year”, stated a Beyond Blue spokesperson.

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