WITH today marking World Mental Health Day, a local student has spoken of her journey through depression to help break down the stigma surrounding mental illness.
Noosa CQUniversity student Kristi Smith switched from taking on a graduate diploma in midwifery to mental health after overcoming depression, and wants her story to remind others that they are not alone.
Ms Smith said being a young mother of three, juggling university and dealing with a relationship breakdown led her in to a depressive state.
"I went to see my GP, who was amazing and explained depression to me,” Ms Smith said.
"I went on my own little recovery journey to get myself to a better place.”
The 25-year-old studied mental health units during her undergraduate degree in nursing, which she said helped her understand the importance of mental well-being.
"Before my nursing degree, I didn't understand mental health and the thought of doing a placement in a mental health facility actually worried me,” Ms Smith said.
"It was a fear of the unknown and the stigma surrounding mental illness that actually put me off.
"But then I did the placement in a mental health facility and I loved it.
"I now know I want to make a difference to people's well-being.”
As a mother to Imogen, 8, Jaxon, 2 and Noah, eight-weeks-old, Ms Smith credits the flexibility of studying at CQU as key to managing the balance between motherhood, study and maintaining positive mental health.
Ms Smith's children even join their mother at the campus while she studies.
With October being Mental Health Month, Ms Smith said she is taking every opportunity she can to help break down the stigma surrounding mental health.
"Initiatives like Mental Health Awareness Month are great as they get people talking about the importance of mental health,” Ms Smith said.
"I would love for us to all get to a point where there is no stigma or misconceptions surrounding mental health, as ultimately mental health affects every single one of us.”
Looking to graduate next year, Ms Smith has her sights set on perinatal mental health to help other struggling mothers.