MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS WEEK, LET’S TALK ABOUT IT!
By Emilie LAUER
Today, the 10th of October, marks the 26th World Mental Health Day, a global event that aims to promote community awareness, education and interest in wellbeing and mental health.
Worldwide, mental health disorders affect a large proportion of the population. Mental health problems affect all layers of society. Australia is no different with 45% of us suffering from a common mental disorder in our lifetime (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2017 report).
According to Julia Taylor, Clinical Hypnotherapist “mental health includes our psychological, emotional and social wellbeing. When we are mentally healthy we are more resilient to every day life stresses, we have more accessibility to our resources and more stability which allows us to flourish”.
Although awareness of mental health continues to grow and treatments continue to evolve and become more accessible, we are not seeking as much help as we should. Mental health concerns often take second place to physical concerns despite the fact that 1 in 5 Australians are affected by mental illness at any time (The Black Dog Institute, 2018). The 2010 National Mental Health Report found the proportion of people with mental illnesses accessing treatment to be half that of people with physical disorders.
So why aren’t we seeking help?
Today, in an age of excessive social connectivity, we live in a fast paced environment with global access to the world. Yet, we seem to be more isolated than ever. Could Social Media be partly to blame?
With our current social tools, it is easy to lose ourselves while scrolling down an Instagram feed. It has never been so effortless to compare ourselves and see only the cherry picked moments from other peoples’ lives. An illusion of the perfect life, with no behind-the-scene access. Are those “perfect life illusions” creating unrealistic standards and expectations of how our lives should be and passively discouraging us from seeking help?
Yet, mental illness has existed long before the Internet and Social Media is not the only explanation of why people don’t seek help. Stigma is another major contributor. According to Beyond Blue, 1 in 5 Australians are affected by mental illness, yet many don’t seek help because of stigma. This is why initiatives like World Mental Health Day and RUOK are so important to increase knowledge and support at a ‘grass roots’ level.
“Being cognisant of mental health and wellbeing at a personal level can itself can be a preventative measure against mental illness. It also promotes understanding and encourages support at a community level” says Taylor.
So what can we do at an individual level?
Awareness and compassion are the key. Knowing that such a large number of people with mental health concerns do not seek professional help, we should all aim to be more conscious of our fellow human beings. We do not need to provide counsel or advice because most of us aren’t qualified to do so but sometimes an attentive ear can provide invaluable comfort. We should all strive to have empathy and understanding and provide encouragement when it is possible.
“Remember that everybody has their own story and things that they are dealing with whether we see them or not. The smallest act of kindness may just make the biggest difference to somebody else and the smallest show of support may be all they need to encourage them to seek help” explains Taylor.
Mental health awareness is important at a preventative and a remedial level. If this article has raised any issues for you, please make sure to seek help and contact Beyond Blue at 1300 22 4636.
Let’s be more aware of mental health!