Interview with Izzy Calero
Soapbox: What is the reason mental health issues in Sydney are so high?
Izzy: I think mental health issues exist everywhere. It’s a problem that everybody faces at least once in their lifetime. The scariest thing is that not everyone is diagnosed and, without an official diagnosis, it’s very difficult to get support. And the reason I feel it is very high in Sydney is that there is a lack of conversation. Unfortunately, a lot of people feel it’s not worthy of talking about it. Lack of knowledge about the issue is also detrimental. Moreover, acquiring that required knowledge about mental health issues isn’t easy at all.
What can people do about it?
I am a representative of youth so I will be telling about how young people can contribute. A lot of people think that social media such as Facebook, Instagram are a negative influence, but I really do believe these platforms can be a blessing! Using these platforms, young people should be talking about the issues without having a fear of people judging them. They should never shy away from sharing their stories. More people can learn about these problems when a lot of public discussions happens.
What is being done about it?
I feel the conversation we are having now is important. There are more people also having the conversation, but I don’t think it's enough. There are organisations like Beyond Blue, Headspace and more incredible organisations. They dedicate their whole work to making a little bit easier for those people suffering from their mental health. However, I definitely just think that more individuals do really need to do their part to make it a better environment for everyone else.
What is a particular area that needs more attention or support?
I would say the transgender community. I don’t know too many transgender people myself. But after working with organisations for about 12 months now, in regard to bettering our community, I definitely have to say that the transgender and gender diversity community are in really in need of extra support. A lot of the time they fly under the radar. I feel it’s awful how people can be so dehumanising to such a diverse community. There must be enough support for them. “Be patient with yourselves”
What are the challenges in advocating for LGBTQI community?
As an activist, sometimes, I feel challenged because I am never sure if I am angry or empowered by my position. A lot of activities and advocacy I have done in past months, so it really does affect one’s mental health when you are investing so much time to ensure the community is safer, healthier and happier. So, you need to focus on yourself and make sure that you are safe and healthier too.
What are the strengths of advocacy in this field?
As I mentioned, sharing the story and having a conversation is a huge strength. Advocacy and activities are always essential to fight against injustice. For example, marriage equality was a result of that strength.
What makes you passionate about mental health care and also drives you to invest in ones mental health?
I have a lot of people in my life that struggle with their mental health, obviously myself included. My dad went through some horrible experiences a few years ago. My partner, my best friend, every person in my life, and as I mentioned everyone struggles with mental health at least once in their lifetime. But, I have some very important people in my life that have had their fair share of battles. And also I am a human rights activist, and I see due to system lot of people fall through the gaps. All these are the driving forces.
What can family members and friends do to help someone out?
Listen and respect the person.
What would you say to someone who is having trouble coming out?
Be patient with yourselves. There is no rush to come out. Also, be patient with the people around you. Because not everyone going to understand straight away and you cannot expect them to as much as I expect them to understand.
What are some of the unique mental health challenges that the LGBTQI community face?
Internalised homophobia. One of my best friends went through a short period where he was like, ‘I am disgusting. I am horrible because I am gay’. As human being our biggest enemy is ourselves. So yes, internalised homophobia is the unique mental health challenge.
What is your opinion on the soapbox model?
I do think Wellbe/Soapbox is quite brave and it’s very empowering to have an organisation put out so much of their time and energy into a project like this. As a young person that has battled with my mental health for seven years. I am definitely grateful, and a lot of people would be grateful once they know about it.