Akello is married with three school-aged children and works part time as a community worker. She migrated to Australia in 2005. Akello suffered emotional distress after giving birth to her children in Uganda but went untreated. She was diagnosed with depression in Australia in 2010 when she was put on antidepressant medication by her doctor and referred to a psychologist as part of a mental health plan.
This interview has been sourced from Healthtalk Australia. Healthtalk Australia is the Australian collaborator of healthtalk.org (UK) which conducts award-winning research into patient experiences in conjunction with the Health Experience Research Group at the University of Oxford, UK.
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Akello was first diagnosed with perinatal depression by a gynaecologist in her home country in Africa. After immigrating to Australia, she was diagnosed with depression by a doctor.
Yes that was the gynaecologist.
And, when the doctor told me I felt like, yes I already knew. That’s how I felt. I already knew that this was it, but I was too scared to say it because I could have been wrong.
She sent me to a psychiatrist.
After her doctor left the practice, Akello considered herself ‘lucky’ to find another one she liked. She described the qualities in doctors that she appreciates.
The first GP I liked – I would talk to her the way I am talking to you, you know. she doesn’t have this air that I’m a doctor, I’m a medical doctor, I’m well learned, I’m very clever to be doing this, you know, sort of thing. She was so down to earth. And she’d also been seeing my children when they are like ill and she would laugh.
You know one day I took my son to see her and she just laughed and she - I said why are you laughing? She said, he’s got such an Australian accent, you know, he speaks - my children all speak like Australians. And I found that more relaxing. It’s not, you know, she made me - it’s like she released the tension I would be having and she didn’t make me feel like I’m much more sick than I thought I was, you know.
When I got out I would feel like I’m getting better immediately, not - normally when I get out of the doctors, some doctors, I feel like okay, what did he say to me and I feel like, ah I really didn’t understand this, I didn’t get this. But she seemed to understand me well, so - I maybe also just, just biased because she was not, she was - I thought she understood me better, she’s not an Australian. She’s not of Australian origin.
Akello established some boundaries with her children, so they became more self sufficient and less reliant on her.
They do and they give me space, especially my older one. He tells the younger ones to leave me alone, but I try to hide it so much. It’s only when I got to a point where I used to hit rock bottom and I wouldn’t take in anything, I would just be taken away by feelings that I couldn’t describe and the kids would know that it’s time to leave her alone. They wouldn’t ask me silly questions.
I had got to a point where I think I used to let my children use me or abuse - I can’t call it abuse, because they would ask for stupid things, you know, or they would cry because they can’t do a trick that they saw on telly - I can’t do this trick, I’m dumb, and that would affect me and I would try and tell them you know you’re not dumb, you’re alright, you’ll get to know it. They did going through practice but they would still cry, especially my middle child.
And I got to a point where I thought, hey that’s enough. I don’t see why I should carry on their problems. They know - I stopped enabling them when they couldn’t do something and there’s - there are bits when they come crying, I can’t do this, I say of course you can. No I can’t. I say, it’s up to you. If you say you can’t then you won’t do it. How do you want me to help you? They say, I don’t know. I say, who can help you? It’s only you who can help yourself. I can’t help you.
Akello could not translate ‘depression’ into her own language. She described how people in her African country of origin hide mental health conditions because of fear of stigma, as well as her friends’ attitudes towards antidepressants.
I still don’t know it in my own language. Because depression is a mental illness and when they talk about mental illness nobody wants to identify themselves with mental illness, because mental illness means someone is crazy and of course the crazy people are seen as people who run in the street, they’re half dressed or they’re doing things that are not nice or they’re throwing stones.
There was one particular one who used to walk from one - round the city. He walked - they say he walked day and night - and one day he just collapsed and died.
So those are the sorts of people - they’re dirty, they’re, you know, that’s what - that’s - it’s stigmatised. Mental health is so stigmatised that people who are mad and crazy - and even the mental institutions, no one wants to identify with them because people who are mentally sick and mentally sick is crazy. Yeah, so, it’s not a good thing.
So where did you get - where is all this information - information were coming from?
From my friends. From my friends - mostly my Christian friends. One particular one said to me depression is from the devil and you should reject it, you should refuse it. You know, it’s - don’t take those antidepressants, they’re not good. You know, and I didn’t - I chose not to listen to them. And others who understood said to me – one particular one said to me did they put you on antidepressants? I said yes. She said, continue with them and just don’t talk about it with anybody.
So I’ve stopped, I haven’t, I don’t tell many people that I’m on antidepressants and I’m happy with that.
Source: Experiences of depression and recovery in Australia, 40-49 Akello
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Last reviewed: September 2013