Start a conversation around mental health this World Mental Health Day.
More than two in five Australians will experience a mental health issue at some point in their life, which is why everyone is encouraged to start a conversation around mental health this World Mental Health Day (10 October).
Community Engagement Coordinator at Lifeline New England North West, Kimberley Squires, said days like this are a great opportunity to check in with ourselves and others.
“It’s a great opportunity to have a think about where you’re up to, how you’re feeling about things, and how others around you are feeling about things,” she said.
“Sometimes we can feel anxieties, depression, sadness, or worries and they can impact how we are feeling. But sometimes we don’t even realise that they’re having an impact on our relationships and what we do in our every day.”
She also said it’s a day about accepting that its okay to not feel great all the time and that there are things we can do to help that process and help us feel better.
“We know people are less open to talking about mental health in regional areas”
Just today, new data from Mental Health Australia and the University of Canberra was released showing alarming disparities in the distribution of mental health services across Australia, with severe inadequacies in regional, rural, and remote areas.
Those living in regional and rural areas experience a range of stressors unique to living outside major cities.
They also have the triple disadvantage of poorer health, larger distances to travel and less access to health and medical care providers.
Not to mention they also face natural disasters through fire, flood, and drought.
Ms Squires said there has been some progress made in regional Australia, despite the stigma that still surrounds mental health conversations in the country.
“We know that people are less open to talking about mental health in regional areas and that the New York idea of seeing a therapist is far more accepted in metropolitan areas,” she said.
“However, what we have noticed in recent times is the huge inroads in regional areas, particularly in Tamworth, around suicide being something that is okay to talk about.”
The media’s involvement in this change has been extraordinary, said Ms Squires.
“Newspapers are mentioning suicide on front pages, TV and radio are having open discussions about suicide. It’s great,” she said.
“Being open about suicide in the media is great because when someone has thoughts of suicide, they’re not afraid to talk about it and have an opportunity to get care earlier.”
Mental health a major issue for young people
World Mental Health Day also presents an opportunity to highlight the importance of protecting the mental health of children and young people to ensure they are equipped from an early age with the knowledge and understanding on how to seek help when they are not feeling okay.
Mental health, emotional wellbeing, and suicide-related concerns now account for 61 per cent of all counselling contacts to Kids Helpline.
Kids Helpline Virtual Service Manager, Tony Fitzgerald, said this is an indication of both the ongoing prevalence of emerging or existing mental health concerns among children and young people as well as a willingness on their behalf to reach out for support.
But at the moment Kids Helpline are only able to respond to two out of every five contacts and with more in depth and ongoing counselling required when they do get through, further pressure is placed on them to respond.
Is there more support on the horizon?
The NSW Government announced this week they are funding innovative strategies to support teenagers across the state, starting with a pep talk app.
Evidence-based stress and motivation management company, Hey Lemonade, aims to tackle smaller mental health issues before they become bigger.
Through their pep talk app they provide hundreds of bite-sized, evidence based pep talks delivered by a range of well-known Australian voices to deal with everyday problems in a pragmatic way.
The pep talks are designed to manage stress, increase confidence, build resilience, and drive motivation.
A trial of the Hey Lemonade High app has been rolled out in year 9 and 10 cohorts across 15 select NSW high schools, with plans for a broader roll-out in 2024.
How to start a conversation…
Starting a conversation around mental health can be a daunting and tricky task, but there are a few ways to approach it.
1. Ask open-ended questions such as ‘how are you doing?’ or ‘what are the things you’re thinking about at the moment?’
2. Have resources on hand to provide if someone is not feeling okay.
3. Have the conversation in an open environment such as a gym, café, or nature walk.
Beyond Blue’s top 5 tips to boost mental health…
1. Deal with problems one at a time – breakdown problems into bite sized pieces.
2. Notice common thinking traps – all or nothing thinking, self-blame, repetitive thinking.
3. Have realistic goals – make it achievable, it doesn’t have to be perfect.
4. Balance is key – schedule pleasurable activities as well as work/family commitments.
5. Healthy habits – keep both body and mind healthy.
If you or someone you know needs to reach out for support, the following resources can be used.
Lifeline: (PH) 13 11 14
Kids Helpline: https://kidshelpline.com.au/
Beyond Blue: https://www.beyondblue.org.au