It’s not common practice for one to interview their ex-girlfriend, but this ain’t a common blog. It’s an expression of who I am and how I see the world, and if you haven’t caught up by now, by societal standards, I’m an anomaly. You want proof? My ex-girlfriend and I are best friends.

I met Fransiska during high school; you know the place you either loathe, or reminisce of when you’re in your thirties and still trying to figure out what the fuck you’re doing? Yeah, that place. I cannot recall the specifics of our coming together, but all I know is that one day our trajectories collided, and they’ve stayed that way ever since.

“What do you think of the whole stigma that exes can’t be friends?”

To be honest, I can understand that with other people, but not us. I don’t know if it was because we were young, or because we weren’t as physical, but it just didn’t go like that for us. I remember that a week later, we were at a party and we took turns kissing a certain someone on a water tank. Most exes can’t do that, but we did.

Let me contextualise that. Although Fransiska and I were young and in the midst of teenagehood, we both possessed a similar kind of intensity. We questioned everything we saw, and openly discussed each thought that fell into our minds. That didn’t stop when we broke up, and thus, taking turns kissing someone at a party, didn’t affect us at all. If anything, it proved that we were going to have to go through a lot more than a breakup to stay out of each other’s lives.

Four years later, we’re both in new relationships, we’ve stopped partaking in hormone-fuelled kissing games, and we’re at university pursuing our lives’ work. For Fransiska, that means studying the complexities of psychology.

At the end of the day, I just want to help people. The mental health crisis, and you can call it a crisis in New Zealand, is scary. We have one of the highest rates of depression, according to the World Health Organisation, and we have so little to fight that.

Yes, I could throw in a thousand statistics and drone on about how the current political climate is inhibiting the mental health system, but that ain’t the point of this article. The point is Fransiska.

Are you scared to work in a system that’s perpetuating the crisis?

I think you have the tools to not do that. Look at Maxine for instance. I actually know so many people working within the system that are trying to change it. Don’t get me wrong, there are bad stories out there, but there are good ones too.

What do you think are the biggest challenges currently facing the system?

How we stigmatise mental health. I always see on Facebook people trying to raise awareness by sharing those posts and pictures, but when it comes down to it, none of that makes mental health any easier to talk about. It’s just putting a blanket over it all.

Damn right. Seeing that ‘it gets better’ bullshit plastered around Facebook infuriates me. It changes nothing. In fact, it’s kind of patronising. You’re taking a complex mental health issue, such as depression, and attempting to epitomise it in one image or post. It simply cannot be done, and when it is, it only further contributes to the stigmas that taint this country. We need real stories, real experiences and real people… not surface-level illustrations that lay a blanket over mental illness. Blankets of that sort can kill people.

Whichever path she decides to walk with her bindle of psychology in hand, I know she will prosper. I know this because I know her. She may be small (5ft), but within her tiny frame is a heart big enough to nurture an entire city. Although this may not resonate with all of you, I think her answer to my final question, is at the essence of her humanity.

“Why are you vegan?”

If I have the power to not contribute to cruelty, then why should I?

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