Mental health month: Hunter events

ZORICA Ciganovic has been through a great deal in her life, but one of her biggest battles has been anxiety.

Ms Ciganovic, of Newcastle, was a Serbian living in Croatia when the war in Yugoslavia broke out in the 1990s.

She was seven months’ pregnant when she and her family were forced to flee to Serbia at a moment’s notice to escape genocide.

Her husband needed dialysis three times a week and they had to find him treatment throughout the war.

She lost friends and close family during that time.

Her husband died 15 years ago and Ms Ciganovic and her family came to Australia as refugees in 2004.

Once here she had to learn the language and brave the cultural barriers, while caring for a family member with a mental illness.

She said being a carer was one of her biggest challenges and it was only once she came to Australia she developed anxiety.

“You don’t have any friends, you don’t know where to go, what to do,” Ms Ciganovic said.

“Your heart starts beating a lot, your hand trembles and you get that choking feeling.”

She said she would not have recovered without the help of the mental health support group Arafmi Hunter.

Now she is in her fourth year of a social work degree.

Ms Ciganovic has spoken of her challenges to highlight living with anxiety during Mental Health Month.

Mental health issues affect one in five Australians and anxiety is the most common problem.

“It’s important to know how much people can survive and still be functional,” Ms Ciganovic said.

“You can function if you find the right help.”

She said that while anxiety was a normal response to stress, it was not normal to feel anxious all the time.

“Anxiety is a fear of fear,” Ms Ciganovic said.

“If a person is isolated it just increases it”, and it “is not predictable”.

CALMER WATERS: Zorica Ciganovic knows a lot about being anxious. Picture: Peter Stoop

Ms Ciganovic encouraged carers who were struggling to get help.

■ARAFMI Hunter: 49616717


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