Growing up, Alfredo felt he never had a sense of security or belonging. His father, an orchestra conductor, travelled across Europe with his mother so Alfredo was often left at home with relatives. When Alfredo’s family moved from Italy to Australia in 1974, he spoke no English, his father’s alcoholism got worse and he began to feel depressed.
After his mother died and his father had moved back to Italy, Alfredo had lost his job and became homeless. He had started self-harming and was contemplating suicide when he was admitted to the Rozelle Psychiatric Hospital by a nurse who found him sleeping in his car. After two months, Alfredo was being treated for Bipolar II disorder and was able to go back to work.
Alfredo went to university to study sociology and anthropology which he says helped him understand society and human nature. “I started to understand the way that people look at other people who live with mental illness is wrong. I could see the problem was not just in myself, but also that people had so much prejudice towards mental illness,” he said.
When Alfredo married his wife he said he finally felt a sense of security and someone that accepted him and his illness. Alfredo now cares full time for his wife, who was also diagnosed with Bipolar I disorder.
“Over the years my wife and I have come to understand that we need the help of a therapist. I don’t know how a person can manage without a therapist, you need someone there to help you. It is so important.”
Creativity plays an important part of Alfredo’s life. Once a month he and his band play a concert to raise money for the local hospital, and he uses visual arts to help the recovery of others.
“I become friends with people using my art. I share my experience and my creativity and then many people are able to talk to me about their own experiences. Art is the key for me to start the conversations.
“I am able to show people that it helps to discuss your problems and work around it with someone who understands and is willing to listen,” Alfredo said.