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Introducing Perth cast member Tandi Kuwana

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. (where are you from, family, hobbies)

Zimbabwean born and only girl in a family of 3. married with 2 kids. Enjoy reading biographies and memoirs. 2. How has mental illness affected your life?

A situational crisis left me depressed and anxious. Having worked in mental health services I had insight into my mental state and had to fight my own stigma against mental illness. I found myself experiencing symptoms I had only seen in the patients I had looked after. I knew what was happening to me and was reluctant to admit I had depression because that would be contradictory to the beliefs I held about myself. Even though I know that it is a mental illness, I felt more comfortable with the 'depression' label. Now being on the other side of the treatment table, I realised just how heavy and negative the 'mental illness' tag is. I remember being very afraid about the future, feeling extremely low, paranoid, hopeless, irritable, amotivated and not eating or sleeping. I didn't want to leave the house and started neglecting myself, my husband and kids. I couldn't recognise who I had become and was on the brink of losing my career, marriage and the people around me. I was in a lonely place. My education and training went out of the window, replaced by nagging thoughts about mental illness in the context of my cultural beliefs. Mental illness is attributed to being possessed by evil spirits or being bewitched. Having grown up believing I had to trust in the LORD with all my heart and not lean on my own understanding, I felt like I didn't have enough faith in God. Some said I had to have been bewitched. Growing up in my native Zimbabwe I didn't know a success story of a mentally ill person. Admitting to myself that I had a mental illness left me completely hopeless and I could see no way out. I went to see my psychologist every week despite not believing in 3. Why did you want to be a part of This Is My Brave?

I fought very hard against my own stigma against mental illness and sought help that I once believed was only for Westerners. I am hoping to inspire the people who share the same beliefs as me to seek help. I want to reassure them that seeking counselling, accessing mental health services is not a sign of weakness. It does not mean you do not have enough faith in GOD or having a mental illness does not mean you are possessed by evil spirits. I want to destigmatise mental illness within CaLD communities so we can start having a dialogue. I hope to change the narrative about mental illness in my community 4. What inspires you to get or stay mentally healthy?

My kids, husband, friends and family. 5. What do you hope the audience takes away from the show?

I have beliefs, faith and cultural traditions that I hold dearly. World and life problems are universal. Mental illness is a journey and I AM NOT MY MENTAL ILLNESS. We are made up of different specificities and I am more than just an African woman with depression. Mental illness does not define me as a person. I am not ashamed to say I once suffered from depression and anxiety. Seeking treatment has given me the strength to take a stand and fight the stigma attached to mental illness. Seeking treament has inspired me to be the voice of others who might be going through the same thing but scared to seek help. I hope to change beliefs surrounding mental illness in my community and inspire others to start having conversations about mental illness like we do of headaches. The more conversations we have the more we will encourage each other to seek help.