The sole purpose of mental illness is to destroy your self worth. ~Wayne Schwass

As part of the 2015 Mental Health Week the ABC ran a number of highly useful programs, one of which was a special Q&A on October 5th Mental As Q&A with a great panel and some of the most candid discussions around mental illness; described by the ABC as:


Wayne Schwass, former AFL star

Mental As Q&A shines a light on depression – one of the most common yet misunderstood mental illnesses in Australia. On the panel: Ian Hickie; Wayne Schwass; Professor Pat Dudgeon; Fay Jackson; and Dr Roderick McKay. #QandA

There were many highlights, but in this post, I only wanted to emphasise and expand on a heartfelt word of wisdom by former AFL star player Wayne Schwass arising from  his lived experience of overcoming severe depression.

In response to an audience question around self stigma and then Tony Jones (the host) pretext saying to Wayne:

“I know there was a point at which you actually hated yourself even though everyone thought you were one of the most high achieving people in the game, you actually despised yourself.”

Wayne responded by saying: “The sole purpose of mental illness is to destroy your self worth.” “It’s interesting that you can be successful in your chosen profession, yet you see no positive benefit of anything that you are doing. And I lived through that for a long period of my life.”

Wayne’s long and courageous battle with sever depression transformed him from who he was: an amazingly successful football player caught and crippled in the claws of depression; to a healthy natural person still active in the periphery of the sport as well as being a mentor and role model. Considering this wonderful and inspiring journey of transformation, one might ask which “self” did Wayne mean that its worth is to be destroyed by depression?

There is a hidden gem in this seemingly negative and morbid statement by Wayne. If the self to be destroyed is our self-image; which is who we build up with huge effort and take ourselves to be for the sake of others; then its destruction is good news. Because out of the ashes will rise the phoenix of our authentic self. Sometimes depression is rooted in one’s soul crying out to be heard. Seen in this light, depression can reveal how badly invested we can be in our life story and how sadly attached to our self images. This insight can then lead to awakening to our authentic self without forgetting our life story.

What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves? This is the most important of all voyages of discovery, and without it, all the rest are not only useless, but disastrous.  ~Thomas Merton

If you want to be reborn,
let yourself die.

If you want to be given everything,
give everything up. ~Tao te Ching