For Karalyn Hingston, gaining access to the right care for her at a time of mental ill health was a defining moment in her journey, and she received this care by accessing a private inpatient facility in the North of the state.
Karalyn was struggling with what she initially thought was a physical medical condition, experiencing a range of physical symptoms such as her skin feeling like it was on fire and complete physical exhaustion. In the lead up to her seeking help resulting in admission, Karalyn was sleeping up to 20 hours a day and described how making her way from the bedroom to the kitchen just to get a glass of water became a huge, two-hour physical effort. Reflecting on this, Karalyn stated, “if you’d told me that your head could do this to your body, I just wouldn’t have believed it.”
Karalyn now speaks openly about her experience, highlighting the importance of increased education and open dialogue around the symptoms individuals experiencing mental ill-health can present with, whilst advocating the importance of eradicating the stigma and stereotypes that exist around both mental illness and the treatment options available.
Karalyn described her 18 night hospital stay as far different than she’d imagined the experience of being an inpatient in mental health environment would be. Karalyn had visions of cold and uninviting hospital rooms and hallways, and was pleasantly surprised to find that this was not at all the case. Not only did her stay enable her to have intensive support and access to the specialists and medication she needed, she also had the opportunity to engage with group sessions such as classes with dieticians and yoga sessions. Additionally, Karalyn spoke of the important role the staff played, all of whom are trained in mental health, and how invaluable that support was, stating, “the staff were astounding. They know when to comfort, they know when to support, and they know when to push. They balance it perfectly.”
However, whilst Karalyn is incredibly grateful that she had the opportunity to receive such exceptional care at such a critical time for her, she highlighted the sadness she felt around noticing that the facility was a 13 bed ward but had no more than six inpatients during her stay, with some nights of the stay having only two other people on the ward. With a significant identified need within our state, Karalyn is now passionate about speaking out - not only to reduce stigma around mental illness, but also to increase awareness about the impact of having access to the right care at the right time can have on an individual’s life.
Following her stay in the clinic, Karalyn reflected on the fact that she doesn’t remember ever feeling as she does now, stating: “I’m calm, peaceful and happy. I don’t worry about things whereas I used to worry about every single thing. It’s incredible.” Karalyn expects she may need to utilise medication for the rest of her life - and she is okay with that, in her words, “why change it if something is working? Many people will be on medication for a physical illness for the rest of their lives, what’s the difference?” Importantly, Karalyn is prioritising self-care to maintain her mental health, “exercising, walking, bike riding and gardening, I really love gardening. [...] If I was getting anxious or concerned about something, I meditate. People had suggested mediation multiple times and I thought - oh no. But I can still remember the first time we did it at the clinic and I was gobsmacked - but what works for me won’t work for everyone. And I was ready, it was the right time.”
Karalyn’s story, and her passion to speak out and help others is incredibly inspiring - and her openness and honesty is just so important, contributing significantly to breaking down the stigma and negative perceptions around mental ill health. Karalyn’s story is a timely reminder of the importance of every Tasmanian having access to the right care, in the right time, in the right way - and what a difference this can make. Karalyn believes it is clear we have a long way to go to ensure people have easy and timely access to mental health services. She has said “a person’s access to treatment should not depend upon the resources they have access to." Stories like Karalyn’s will help us to strengthen our system and make these options available to all Tasmanians – we can together move towards a mentally healthy Tasmania. #forallofus