March With Me 2017 is bringing together people from all walks of life. Here we learn more about the personal experience and motivation of another fantastic participant.
Monbulk local Misa Eng was born and raised in Japan where mental illness is still lurking in the shadows due to the cultural emphasis on shame and accepting responsibility for one’s actions.
“There’s a strong social stigma against discussing mental health issues over there. Unfortunately, many people live in denial of their mental illness and they are perceived as simply weak,” said Misa.
To paint the picture further, more than 25,000 people took their own lives in Japan during 2014. This equals 70 people each day and the vast majority are men.
Family history of mental health
For Misa, mental illness is a very personal topic.
Her mother’s twin brother attempted suicide in 1995. He never sought help or shared his feelings with anyone, eventually taking his own life in 2007, he was only 47.
“My family is ashamed of it and the hide the fact he killed himself. They are in denial of his mental illness,” said Misa
Her mother was also touched with mental illness, using alcohol and psychiatric medication as a means of escapism. Misa’s mother eventually sought help, but it was too late. She ended her own life in 2014, when she was 54.
Personal experience and motivation
Misa has also had her own brush with mental illness.
“I’ve been struggling with mental health issues since I was a child and later found out that I had developed PTSD, social anxiety and depression,” said Misa.
In order to distance herself from the past, Misa moved to Australia in 2013 when she was 20 and is motivated to beat her illness.
“This year I’m determined to do everything to overcome my struggle, and I’m very grateful for the help and support available for mental illness in Australia.”
“I could have been the next one in my family to die of mental illness if I remained in Japan,” she said.
Excited to be involved with a good cause
Misa was inspired to join the walk this year after finding out about it through another participant Kirsten Van De Hoef. She will join participants on day two as they walk from Frankston to Port Melbourne, a total of 54kms.
With the driving force of personal experience behind her, Misa is ready for the challenge.
“This walk is giving us a chance to help others as well as helping ourselves and I feel very privileged to be a part of it.”
“I also want people who are struggling alone to know that there’s hope and that we don’t have to fight it alone, we can walk our journey together,” said Misa.