With World Mental Health Day held on 10 October and Mental Health Week in Australia commemorated from 7 to 13 October – and against a “Mind Your Health” backdrop – it is important that we remember that if we are to be healthy as a whole, mental wellness plays a vital role.
We also need to remember that our focus on wellness, support and community should not be confined to a single week of each year when an array of worthy events and activities raise our collective awareness and hold our shared attention.
Rather, it should be a living, breathing part of our everyday life, in all the days leading up to Mental Health Week and in all those that follow.
In other words, it needs to be a 365 days a year effort for, as the old saying goes, “There can be no health without mental health.”. Indeed, when it comes to true wellbeing, our mental health is every bit as important and in need of nurturing and protecting as our usually more visible physical health.
As a society, we still have much to do in the area of mental wellness, starting with giving it our all to reduce – and eventually eradicate once and for all – the stigma and discrimination that is still largely associated with mental illness.
As a community hospital, we would strongly encourage you to commit to just three things each day – look after your mind, stay connected and, if and when needed, seek support.
Mental health, like charity, begins at home, so it is paramount that you look after your mind first. You can do this in a number of ways, starting with getting enough sleep each night, following a balanced and nutritious diet, exercising regularly and reducing your alcohol consumption. Learning to manage stress, keeping yourself safe and maintaining healthy relationships will further contribute to your personal mental health. And a great by-product is that you will be in a position where you are able to lend support to others’ wellbeing.
That’s a convenient segue to our second point, staying connected.
By making connections and being a part of your community, you become involved in the community, you find out what is happening in your community and as you gain a sense of belonging, bonds begin to develop and your sense of worth starts to grow. So make a point of checking in with your mates, your colleagues and your associates, sharing time in each other’s company and talking things over while enjoying a coffee break. You will be contributing to both your and their mental health.
And if you have a personal story to tell that shares your mental illness journey, your challenges and your triumphs, you might consider joining Mindshare, a vibrant on-line community that showcases the work and views of people who have lived with or continue to experience mental illness.
Finally, do not hesitate to seek support when you need it. Start by talking to people you trust – family members, friends, your GP, perhaps – and check out and familiarise yourself with online services such as BeyondBlue, ReachOut and Headspace.
In times of crisis, remember that both SA Health’s Mental Health Emergency number (13 14 65) and Lifeline (13 11 14) are staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and ready to take your call.
So, before we observe and get involved in Mental Health Week 2019 next October, let us be sure we greet it knowing that we have all gone a long way towards reducing the stigma of mental health and promoting an all-round healthier community.