Matthew Backhouse

Matthew Backhouse is an APNZ news reporter based in Wellington.

Brave Keisha's mental illness battle

'My name is Keisha Castle-Hughes and I am proud to tell you all that I have bi-polar disorder.'
'My name is Keisha Castle-Hughes and I am proud to tell you all that I have bi-polar disorder.'

Oscar-nominated actress Keisha Castle-Hughes has been praised for speaking out about her battle with mental illness after Charlotte Dawson's death.

The 23-year-old Whale Rider star posted a message on her Facebook page yesterday revealing she had struggled though addiction and mental illness, including bipolar disorder, which was an "ongoing battle".

She also called for dialogue and an end to the stigma surrounding mental illness.

"My name is Keisha Castle-Hughes and I am proud to tell you all that I have bi-polar disorder. Let's talk about it!"

Mental Health Foundation chief executive Judi Clements said it was brave for Castle-Hughes to talk publicly about her diagnosis, and it would have a positive impact.

"Good for her to do that. We shouldn't think of it as something shameful or something to be hidden - it really is helpful if people with a profile feel that they can talk about it."

Ms Clements said stories about people making it through difficult times were important.

"Let's face it, we need that encouragement and help - particularly with the sort of tragedy that we've just been reading about so much over the last couple of days."

Ms Clements said the stigma against people with mental illness had reduced, but there was still a way to go. Prominent people speaking out about mental health issues helped.

Castle-Hughes said in the post that the world could be a "scary place, especially for those of us who are wired in a way where the simple ebbs and flows of life can throw us off-balance".

"There is so much stigma attached to mental illness and we have been given an opportunity now to openly have a conversation about what we can do to help others and reach out when we need.

"I have suffered through mental illness and addiction, an ongoing battle for me. There have been times when it all seemed too much and I understand the darkness, how easy it is to not see any way out," she said.

"It is our duty to take the time to ask people, close or stranger, who they are. Charlotte Dawson's death is an absolute tragedy but herein is a very real yet harsh lesson for us all to never ignore any mental illness."

Dozens of comments from friends and family were supportive of her bravery in speaking out. TV personality Stacey Morrison wrote: "Bless you for starting the conversation, for sharing your insights, and for being incredible you x".

Where to get help

* Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865
* Lifeline: 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland
* Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757
* Healthline: 0800 611 116
* Youthline: 0800 376 633, free text 234.

- APNZ

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