Affectionately dubbed ‘anxious from birth’ by her mother, Rose Clifford has had a long and personal battle with her mental health.
Now, the 25-year-old has taken her own experiences and channelled her energy into giving back to the Canberra community.
After being an anxious child and teenager, Rose says her anxiety levels came to a head during her university years, with little to no strategies or coping mechanisms to deal with them.
“I was feeling really cruddy and really down and a way that I tried to address that was through my eating and my physical health,” she says.
“But it just spiralled into an eating disorder– I found out at that point that I have an obsessive perfectionistic personality style and that became weight loss for me.”
Rose’s recovery, prompted by her parents, was spent while simultaneously juggling her Bachelor’s degree in psychology – a time that is now almost a blur to her.
“My thing was I will keep doing treatment and actively participating as long as you don’t make me stop uni,” she said.
“Retrospectively it was not the smartest thing, but I wasn’t in the mind to make smart decisions, and I got through it and I am surprised that I did.”
Now, Rose splits her time between studying a PhD in eating disorders, volunteering for the Lifeline call centre and Mental Illness Education ACT (MIEACT) and as a tutor and teaching assistant at the Australian National University (ANU).
Her work with MIEACT sees her visit high schools and colleges in the region, sharing her story with students and talking about a range of mental health problems and strategies.
“Once I felt that I was in a place where I was comfortable sharing my story, I looked for way I could help make a difference in the mental health sector without being a clinician and I found MIEACT,” she said.
“For the first time in my rehabilitation process, I felt like I was in control of telling the story how it was for me, and not being told by other people.”
Despite her humility, on Friday last week (24 July) she was named the Young Canberra Citizen of the Year 2020.
Nominated by the CEO of MIEACT, Rose was recognised for her development and promotion of mental health programs through the organisation.
“Having sat there the whole night hearing all of the awards for others, I was shocked because I don’t see what I do as comparable to what any of those other people had done,” she said.
“For me, I am looking around at all these people younger than I am, confronting just as difficult things and I just didn’t get it.
“None of the things I have accomplished or done, I see as an individual thing. “Mental health battles are a shared strength. I borrowed some [strength] from my parents until I had my own, and I hope to lend it to others until they can find theirs.”