Social isolation is a crippling feeling.
Paul Camilleri knows this all too well.
Diagnosed with bipolar in 2001, Paul has battled the stigma attached with mental health for most of his life.
“I’ve always felt a bit different than other people,” Paul said.
“I was bullied a lot at school. And I was the outcast in my family growing up.
“And this caused tension, which came across as disappointment.
“After my diagnosis, people stopped reaching out.
“I used to go out walking my dog just to interact with others,” he added.
At his lowest, Paul found himself homeless, living in a friend’s shed for seven months.
Bad financial decisions and a workplace injury left him with little savings and income.
After reaching out for support, Paul was placed in transitional housing.
He has since found a public housing property and has used Uniting services to connect with people in his community.
Now the 54-year-old is turning his attention to helping others.
“I’m the best I’ve been ever,” he said.
“I’ve developed a newfound confidence and I’ve realised that I’ve got a voice and if I speak up, hopefully I can help others.”
Paul recently completed a course in public speaking.
When Paul was approached to speak at the Uniting Vic.Tas Winter Breakfast in May 2019, he didn’t hesitate.
“I’d like to be a stigma warrior and break down some of the barriers people face because of mental illness or disability,” he said.
“Everyone has a place and deserves to feel like they belong.”
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