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Speaking Out: A Change in Focus is Required

There are lots of reasons why family members don't speak out about their experiences of being affected by mental health, alcohol and other drug problems. The most obvious reasons relate to stigma and discrimination, judgements from others and a total lack of community understanding about the complexities of these problems. But what is rarely talked about is that we can stay silent to protect the people we love who are directly affected by mental illness, alcohol or other drugs. And it can feel as if we are taking something away from them, or being disloyal or selfish if we speak out about how we are feeling and what we are experiencing. Especially when the people we care about are living with so much. So protecting them, keeping them safe from the outside world and maintaining their privacy is important. Not to mention that their life story is their story to tell. And it's hard talking about these problems in relation to us because our story is all tangled up in the story of the people we love, because that's what happens in families. Of course there are overlaps and similarities in stories to be told but each person's experience is unique to them. So mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers or grandparents seeking to tell their story can find it difficult to speak out because what is required is a shift in focus to self, which also feels selfish. And it takes time and attention to tease out the different parts of the story and identify which bits belong to who. There are lots of reasons why we stay silent.

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