Speaker spotlight: Sandi Givens

Sandi Givens 3

Please be aware that Speaker Spotlight stories often share experiences related to anxiety, depression and/or suicide. If needed, we encourage you to reach out to your available supports such as family, friends or support services like Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636 or Lifeline on 13 11 14 

Sandi started her journey with Beyond Blue, signing up as a Blue Voices member in 2016, and soon after became an event volunteer and Speaker.

Sandi’s brother died by suicide 46 years ago, when mental illness was still a taboo subject. Sandi and her family found it very hard to come to grips with her brother’s death. The unanswered questions nagged at her constantly – and sometimes still do.

Years later, Sandi was diagnosed with post-natal depression when her son was five months’ old. She initially rejected the diagnosis, believing she was just exhausted, and things would improve when her son’s sleep routine improved. By the time her son was eight months old, Sandi was admitted to a mother-baby unit in a psychiatric hospital where she stayed for four months. She continued to deny her health condition, but when she started being treated by a doctor who she felt comfortable with, it allowed Sandi to acknowledge the truth of what was going on and she was able to begin her recovery journey.

After her own experiences with post-natal depression, Sandi became a Speaker as she wanted to help reduce stigma in the community so people who need help feel safer to ask for it. She believes that by Speakers sharing their unique stories in the community, it is building an understanding and acceptance of mental illness in our community.

Being there for others

One of Sandi’s stand-out moments as a Speaker was a presentation to a group of midwives. After her talk, one of the women approached her in tears, asking if her son bore any ‘scars’ from seeing her sick for so long. Like Sandi, she had post-natal depression when her child was young and she had the same worry. For Sandi, it was so heart-warming and gratifying knowing that she could be there for her and was able to reassure her that things were going to be ok!

“I absolutely relish the opportunity to reduce the stigma of mental illness – to help people see that looking after our mental health is as important (and ‘normal’) as looking after our physical health.”

When looking after her own mental health, Sandi checks in on herself on a daily basis, comparing how she feels on the mental health continuum. Based on her answer, Sandi is very proactive in taking steps to ensure she has plenty of self-care such as scrapbooking, going for a walk in the fresh air, looking after her nutrition and allowing for plenty of rest. She also calls friends, family – and the Beyond Blue Support Service when she feels she needs to.

“I’m happy when I’m learning anything new”

When Sandi is not busy volunteering, you’ll find her card making, scrapbooking, cooking, playing the piano, playing cards and strategy board games with friends. And most importantly, spending time with her son, daughter-in-law and her ‘grandpuppy’!

Sandi leaves us with some advice for other Speakers: “If ever you doubt that your words make a difference, think of the ripple effect. You truly never know whose life you have helped by being strong and courageous in sharing your story. They may not be in the room in front of you, but are connected in some way to those who hear you speak. And your audience may become more aware of how to help them after hearing your story.”