Deirdre Fidge: “Nobody is immune to these challenges”

Melbourne-based comedian, writer and social worker Deirdre “Dee” Fidge writes regularly for SBS Comedy, ABC’s The Drum, The Vocal and Archer magazine. Her writing (and prolific, hilar tweets) focus on mental health, millennial life, current affairs and LGBTI rights. By Grace Jennings-Edquist

As a comedian, are there any topics that are off limit? Or is everything fair game if it’s tacked correctly? 

In theory everything is fair game depending on who the butt of the joke is, but in practice it can be really difficult and clumsy. It mainly comes down to who or what the punchline is. You have to be really sharp to nail a joke about certain topics and I very much enjoy steering clear unless I’m certain the tone won’t be misconstrued.

First word that comes to your head when it comes to:

… Tony Abbott: Terrifying

… Penny Wong: LEGEND.

… Pigeons: suspicious.

… Marriage equality: overdue.

You’ve spoken pretty openly about mental illness in the past. Why is it important or helpful for people in the public eye to speak frankly about mental health?

It’s such a common and growing issue for so many people; it feels disingenuous to not talk something that affects your life to such a degree.

As much as awareness raising campaigns are helpful and successful, there is still a huge stigma around elements of mental health (suicide) or certain illnesses and symptoms that are misunderstood (trauma, PTSD, schizophrenia..). It helps when public figures speak out because it reminds us that nobody is immune to these challenges and depending on where we are at, it can inspire hope.

You’re a social worker too. How do you practice self-care in such an emotionally demanding job?

Unfortunately, due to aforementioned mental health struggles, I’ve had to take an extended leave of absence from my previous job. (Extended leave of absence sounds better than ‘had to resign due to being Very Sad’.) I miss working with young people a lot and am working hard to ease my way back into the field again.

Self-care is so vital with social work and it’s often placed down the bottom of priority list in workplaces with demanding workloads, limited funding and no spare time. I’ve been really lucky to work with incredibly supportive managers who look out for their team as well as the people accessing our service. My previous manager gave me some tips on looking after myself that I still think about even though I’m not working right now. A lot of it comes down to acknowledging and embracing the empathy without letting it overwhelm you.

You can read Dee’s very important opinions about pigeons and breakfast foods on Twitter here, and read her latest piece for Junkee on seeking help for mental illness here.