“They showed me that I was worth it, worth life.”
These are Brad Cowan’s words reflecting on the care and support of mental health professionals during the most difficult time of his life.
For more than 15 years Brad struggled to overcome an alcohol addiction and mental illness that impacted his ability to maintain relationships, employment and general wellbeing.
Now the 41-year-old holds a role with Mackay Hospital and Health Service helping others on their journey in recovery from mental illness, is studying a Certificate IV in Mental Health Peer Work and enhances community understanding on mental health as a lived experience speaker.
This Mental Health Week Brad is sharing his story of recovery and encouraging people to share, speak up, learn and support each other to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health.
“At the age of 16 I started my apprenticeship and began working with people who were big drinkers and occasional drug users,” Brad said.
“My alcohol addiction stemmed from my eighteenth birthday, the first time I consumed an alcoholic drink.
“By my twenty-first birthday I had achieved a trade qualification, but I had a drinking problem and soon the pressure of work and alcohol dependency saw me being prescribed antidepressants at the age of 24.”
Over the next decade, Brad’s family life and career fell apart landing him at a point where he needed help to rebuild a new life.
“For me it began with being brutally honest with myself, taking responsibility for my actions and admitting my faults,” Brad said.
Brad experienced a series of rehabilitation treatment, including stay at the sub-acute residential service Step Up Step Down (SUSD).
“The service helps people ‘step down’ from hospital to community and allows people living in the community to ‘step up’ and avoid a hospital admission,” he said.
“The biggest benefit I got from SUSD was that the staff there loved me when I couldn’t love myself.”
Hard work and commitment to manage his condition recently saw Brad secure a role working with Mackay Base Hospital’s Mental Health Inpatient Unit and SUSD helping people who are experiencing depression, anxiety or related mental illness.
“I am extremely grateful for the opportunities which have presented themselves. I guess if you put love into your job, you get loved back,” Brad said.
“If I spend the rest of my career in the mental health industry and I can prevent one person from attempting suicide, it’s worth it.”
Queensland Mental Health Week (10-18 October) is an annual awareness week that aims to shine a spotlight on individual and community mental health and wellbeing.
Amie Galletly | Communications Officer | 4885 6808