Anne Devenson (1930 to 2016) author of ‘Tell Me I’m Here’ was a pioneer in an era where many did not understand the turmoil mental illness could create for individuals and families. Through her ground breaking book she unpacks the raw reality of mental illness on her family and her son.
‘I was asked to write a book about schizophrenia for the general public at a time when there was hardly any knowledge of it. I didn’t do it while Jonathan was alive because it was too hard. And it was only after he died, about two years later, that I left the film school which I was running, in order to actually spend 2-3 years or so putting something back into that whole world of mental illness.
And I realised almost within the first week that the story I needed to tell was our story of what had happened to us. Because it seemed to me that this sort of thing was happening all over Australia. It wasn’t just our family that was in chaos, and it wasn’t just our family that was lurching from one disaster to another without proper help, with a huge amount of stigma.
And that unless I could tell this in its full reality and be honest about the sorts of experiences we were going through, particularly me as a mother, going through those ambivalent feelings, you know, when you love your child but you can sometimes be enraged at the way the illness is making them behave. You want to get rid of them. And unless you can really be honest about this, nobody knows what’s actually happening.’
Anne Devenson ABC Compass Interview Feb 2004
Anne’s legacy is the light she was able to shine on mental illness particularly schizophrenia, and the impact it can have on our children, families and communities. She paved the way for people to see the reality of what is often hidden in plain site across our communities.
Thank you Anne for your courage and gifts.