Piercing mental illness

Jacinta Haggar. Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS

By Jed Lanyon

Woori Yallock body piercer Jacinta Haggar is looking forward to seeing coronavirus restrictions ease in the coming months in order to get back to doing what she loves.

Ms Haggar, 21, fulfilled her dream of opening her own body piercing and tattoo business in November last year, only to immediately be hampered by Covid-19 restrictions.

“I started getting piercings at 13 and then really hit a craze for it. At 15, I really wanted to do it myself and it lit a fire under me, I knew it was my calling. I had to wait until I was 16 to get qualifications and do my apprenticeship.”

Ms Haggar then moved around to work at multiple different shops in Melbourne, building a reputation in the Yarra Valley, before opening Emire Body Piercing and Tattooing in Woori Yallock.

Ms Haggar said she does her best to create a welcoming environment for all at Emire, while making a conscious effort to help the business be anxiety and autism-friendly.

It stems from Ms Haggar’s own experience with bipolar disorder, as well as having her younger sister Storm, who is diagnosed with autism, help at times in store.

“Having Storm as a sister and watching her grow up allows me to have an immense understanding (of her condition), I don’t 100 per cent understand it, but Storm might have a big sensory problem in a supermarket where there might be too many people or too much noise, so I apply that to my shop in thinking how can I help reduce anxiety for people.”

Ms Haggar said Emire will happily cater to a customer’s specific needs, whether it’s eliminating the ‘waiting room’ feeling of a business or allowing a friend to come along for emotional support.

Despite being diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 18, it didn’t prevent Ms Haggar from carrying on with her goals in life. She now hopes to inspire others battling their own mental health issues.

Ms Haggar said she wished she had the opportunity when she was younger to read a story of positivity from someone going through a similar experience.

“I would have had a lot more hope for myself,” she said. “I would have appreciated a story from a local and it would have made me feel a lot less alone.

“To all the young people who are going to be reading this, who might feel like you can’t do anything or that you won’t be taken seriously, I want to say that you absolutely can.

“Despite having a mental illness you can still have value as a person and be as productive as anyone else.”

Ms Haggar’s advice is for people to focus on the positive side that comes from their mental illness. In her case, she enjoys bouts of creative productivity where she will write songs, create poems and draw.

“The beauty of having bipolar is that it’s not all bad. My advice is for people to focus on the good and always write down their ideas and dreams and to create a vision board.”

Ms Haggar shared how her experience with mental illness helps with her work at Emire.

“Having bipolar, and having that empathy in recognising mental illness helps me have an understanding of human connection and how much our industry plays on that,” Ms Haggar said.

“I have had people start crying during tattoos, it may be because they’re getting a memorial tattoo or the pain of the tattoo reminds them of the emotional pain they are in.

“Someone might be going through a tough time, and oftentimes they want to get something beautiful to help themselves out. They might be getting a piercing because they’re going through a breakup and we’ll be there to just say, ‘boys suck, we know’… We’re all human, and we need someone to be there for us.”

Ms Haggar strongly urged anyone who might be experiencing mental health issues to reach out for advice and assistance.

For support, visit: https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au or call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.

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