With the beginning of October began mental health week here in Australia. Mental Health Week has been an annual week of raising awareness, educating and promoting healthy minds for a few decades now. This week, celebrated nationwide, coincides with World Mental Health Day, created by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1992 , ‘with the overall objective of raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health’.
This event and week in Australia is supported by both government and non-government organisations at national levels and at a more local level. The ABC’s segment ‘Mental As’ and Triple J’s Hack program drew on personal experience and current research both informative and emotive to achieve this aim of promoting awareness and creating a conversation.
Locally, the city of Adelaide had a number of events such as ‘The Festival of Now’ – set up in Rundle Park with numerous community mental health organisations setting up stalls to promote well-being and educate us on what services are available for those in need. I had the pleasure of meeting with some individuals from these organisations to have a chat and explore different areas of issue within Adelaide. Attending this event reinforced my passion for working in such a field. It was exciting to see so many people truly caring about what they do and wanting to share their passion for the health and wellbeing of strangers around them.
In Australia, one in four young people experience some kind of mental health condition. Out of these young people, only half receive professional help. This is highly concerning.
When we speak of tackling these issues we start with advocacy and awareness. And bringing awareness is potentially the most important aspect when looking at creating change on a large scale. This is an extreme positive of mental health week. It gets people talking. It brings issues to the surface that we may ignore in our daily lives. Awareness helps, it is the beginning of something.
We need awareness as it’s the first step of tackling any problem on a large scale and in mental health I dream of many people not simply forgetting the day after it's been and gone, I dream of a day where we don't have to tackle such an issue on such a large scale, where we don't have stigma, a day where we have more than a week of awareness.
You are not born with a mental illness. It can be prevented in many cases, or the severity decreased. After awareness, the next step is prevention. How can we prevent someone from developing such an illness? Once the onset of a mental illness has occurred, how can we intervene early as to prevent further life threatening issues, increase recovery rates and decrease rates of onset? How can we maintain all the awareness that comes from mental health week and turn it into sustainable action.
On the ground, on a personal level, we can continue the conversation – not let it halter at the end of the week. We can keep the awareness alive. On a larger scale, mental health is an issue from what I believe to be stemming from stigma and stereotypes – preventing early intervention. And a culture of ‘she’ll be right’ - which promotes on a superficial level, what some would argue- resilience. But does it?
Resilience is the capacity to withstand stress and catastrophe, it is something we are not born with but that we develop through relationships, through learning of self awareness, of coping strategies, of positive thinking. 'She'll be right' can often evoke a care free attitude, a laid back approach to difficulties and can be amazing. However it can also produce the idea that we don't need help, we can just 'get over it' that things will naturally get better. Unfortunately in mental health it doesn't always work this way.
Resilience can equal prevention. Resilience is built by learning. Learning to manage strong feelings, learning to seek help, have close relationships, and a positive view of self. As can a supportive positive environment and a healthy lifestyle, which can found when we live in a culture that promotes it. If we turn our awareness into these actions, perhaps we can improve the statistics mentioned here. If we can change our attitude into one that yearns for us to be better then we will move forward from awareness to perhaps prevention.
True North Expeditions, Inc. provides adventure therapy programs and services for children and teenagers in Australia. Based in Adelaide, the TNE team writes about child and adolescent psychology, family dynamics and how adventure therapy programs can connect with struggling adolescents.