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City councillor who turned her life around

City of Sydney councillor Irene Doutney has been in and out of mental institutions throughout her life. Having been stricken by depression and eating disorders, she sees it as her responsibility to provide a voice for those who are unable to speak for themselves reports Peach Emmett in City News on 5th October 2008.

It’s so easy to become totally powerless,” she says. “It haunts so many people, particularly in the lower economic sector.”

Irene Doutney sees her life as a success story. For many years she had no voice.

“I was incredibly shy, I couldn’t talk in public. My face would burn. Now I just feel that I have made it. I found my voice.”

Cr Doutney will be on hand at the Northcott Housing Complex in Surry Hills this Friday for an event called Looking Forward, Looking Back. The day will include support workshops for people with mental illness, a photo exhibition and free barbecue.

Irene Doutney believes Mental Health Week is an incredibly valuable community event.

“But it’s so empowering to find it,” she says.

Mental Health Week was launched in Martin Place on Wednesday. It marks the beginning of a three-year campaign under the banner of Building Resilience: Appreciate the Little Things in Life.

An important part of Mental Health Week is a discussion of what constitutes good mental health.

It is an issue that Irene Doutney has been grappling with her whole life. Often over medicated, she struggled to find the support she needed.

“It is so much better now than it was,” she says. “Now we need to encourage people to use the services available; inform them of what’s available.”

Though she has only been on the council for less than a month, Irene Doutney says she throwing herself into the community wherever she can.

“I can see how we can do this. I am a little concerned about how much the council will let me do.”

Nataly Bovopoulos from the Mental Health Association NSW says everyone in the community has pressures that need to be addressed but mental illness can make even the most mundane problems seem insurmountable.

“Whether it's our mortgage, petrol prices, workload, lack of time or personal issues, most of us are under an increasing amount of pressure in our daily lives,” she says.