Kyle MacDonald is an experienced psychotherapist and regular co-host on the NewstalkZB mental health awareness show The Nutters Club.

Kyle MacDonald: The healing power of sharing your story

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We need to know that our experiences have been received and understood by another person. Image / NZ Herald
We need to know that our experiences have been received and understood by another person. Image / NZ Herald

This week, I decided to ask myself a question:

"What is the People's Review of the Mental Health System, and why are you asking for people's stories?" Kyle

I hear people's stories all day. Therapy is about stories, how we author the chapters of our own lives, re-writing and editing them as we move forward through life. While most will never actually write their own memoirs, we all have a detailed autobiography writ large across our minds, and hearts.

It's always been this way. Humans seem to innately understand their existence through stories. Myths, legends, creation stories, family tales told over Christmas dinner. It's universal.

Good storytelling is powerful. Scriptwriters and authors get that. Advertising companies get that.

And therapists get that.

Healing doesn't just happen through the experience of telling our story. It also needs to be heard. We need to know that our experiences have been received and understood by another person. We also know that the experience of not being heard whilst growing up, what therapists call "invalidation" is actually quite damaging. It can be one of the factors in developing problems with regulating emotions as an adult.

What "invalidation" also does is convince us that our point of view and our stories don't matter. Or worse, that someone else is the author: More an unauthorised biography than an autobiography.

It's one of the things that stunned me when I became involved with the show The Nutters Club: not just the sincere openness that the show allowed people to express, but the way that telling their story of struggle and mental illness seemed to be genuinely healing. I was used to people telling their stories to an audience of one (me), but this was as public as it got.

And for many it's transformative.

Of course, you have to be emotionally ready to be that open. I'm also not naïve enough to think that for some people it's simply not possible to talk publicly about their experience of mental illness and trauma without consequences.

Stigma is still alive and well, sadly.

Recognising the power of stories to engage people, and create change for both the storyteller and the audience, is what brought the People's Mental Health Review to life.

This review is your opportunity to share your experience of the mental health system here in New Zealand, good bad or otherwise. We want to hear your story. And if you don't feel ready to talk publicly, you are welcome to tell your story anonymously.

We hope it will help create positive change, for all who need to access mental health care. And it might even help you to be the author of this chapter of your life.

For more see: publicmentalhealthreview.nz

Follow Kyle on Facebook and check out his website here.

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Kyle MacDonald is an experienced psychotherapist and regular co-host on the NewstalkZB mental health awareness show The Nutters Club.

Kyle MacDonald is in private practice at the Robert Street Clinic in Auckland. For more: psychotherapy.org.nz or his Social Anxiety resource site: overcomingsocialanxiety.com.

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