We're very proud to introduce our newest Ambassador for ANZMHA: Suzanne Dang.
Born and raised in Brisbane, Suzanne Dang wants to end the stigma of mental illnesses through sharing her lived experiences of Bipolar Disorder Type I and doing work as an Ambassador for ANZMH. Suzanne dresses with style and expresses her love for fashion through her blogging. Suzanne even has an ‘elevator pitch' about her story and her advocacy ready for when she meets people at fashion events. She loves attending these solo, so she's forced out of her comfort zone to mix and mingle with new people.
Suzanne finds sharing her story in a positive, empowering and vulnerable way through social media very rewarding, and these interactions are very natural to her.
She works full-time as a Mental Health Peer Support Worker, and teaches art to adults with severe and complex mental health issues. She enjoys getting creative, in particular as an Artist - and has had her artwork exhibited in various exhibitions in the past.
Q: Why is mental health/wellbeing important to you and what made you want to become active in this space?
A long time ago, I received a comment on a Mental Health YouTube video of mine and they commented saying, “I was going to end my life today, but I watched your video and I didn’t.” This was a turning point in my life. And I thought, “If I could help save a life by sharing my story, why not?”. I have been actively writing and sharing my story of hope on my blog since 2013. I am also a fashion blogger – and when I meet new people, I say – “Hi. My name is Suzanne Dang and I use my diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder Type I to share my story using my social media platforms.” – this is my favourite elevator pitch.
I haven’t always been this open and confident with sharing my story on social media – as a Vietnamese person, I was stigmatized and once ashamed that I had a mental health illness. It’s taken a while for me to be how I am now.
I believe my mental health is my superpower too. I confidently, honestly, and openly share my journey to inspire others who may be going through similar things to me. I am a living example that one can overcome their mental health issues and live a fulfilling life.
Q: What do you think people should be aware of when trying to overcome anxiety?
To overcome anxiety, it will take many trials and errors. Know that there’s no perfect mental health hospital system, no perfect support network, and no perfect combination of mediations. And don’t give up on hope – it will get better in time. You may have days that are worse than others, and that’s perfectly okay – because mental health recovery is not linear, it will always be up and down.
Also, be curious in your mental health recovery. Be willing to try new things. As a person with Bipolar Disorder Type 1, I’ve always been open with trying new strategies (such as DBT – Dialectical Behavioural Therapy)…and my favourite DBT skills to date includes: Opposite Action, Mindfulness and TIP skill.
When I am unwell, I hear voices. I have racing thoughts. I speak really fast. I have poor sleeping patterns.
So try to become self-aware emotionally and mentally, and it will get easier to find new mental health strategies.
So don’t give up on yourself – there may be rain, but there’s always sunshine after a rainy day.
Q: What does becoming an ambassador mean to you?
As an ambassador, I want to continue using my voice to end the stigma around mental health illnesses – in particular, using my social media platforms as well as my mental health blog in a different way to promote mental health education, awareness and advocacy work. There is still a lot of stigma, and a lot of work to do, but I am thankful and blessed that I can use my passions for mental health awareness. I also work full-time in Mental Health Peer Support work – I would love to share my experiences attending the International Mental Health Conference (2021) with my work colleagues, and educating them through my experience.
Q: How can friends and loved ones best support each other through anxiety and other mental health issues?
Hold onto hope – there is always light at the end of the tunnel. Also, be a good listener. 99% of the time when someone is unwell, they just needed someone to listen to them – not tell them to ‘snap out of it’ or ‘be stronger’ or be given quick fixes. Sit down with them and listen to their needs and help them find resources that are appropriate for their situation at the time. Believe that there will be better days to come. A good quote is, “Never give up on someone with mental illness. When the “I” is replaced by “We”, ILLNESS becomes WELLNESS.
Thank you and welcome Suzanne! You'll find her at the 22nd International Mental Health Conference on 26-28 July!