Why Mental Health Awareness is important to me:
Mental Illness is a topic that is very close to my heart. It is something I believe should be talked about as much as possible, instead of being swept under the rug. Many people suffer for far longer than they need to, simply because nobody wants to talk about the issue – they dance around it instead.
After years of not understanding the reasons behind many of my feelings, actions and responses, learning about Mental Illness was the first step in understanding myself. To finally have a reason for feeling the way I did validated me so much. I realise now that many people suffer, sometimes for far longer than they have to, simply because the issues they had weren’t being talked about.
So let’s talk about it.
The Stigma surrounding Mental Illness:
Stigma. The major flaw in our humanity. Defining someone by their condition, characteristics or environment, rather than them as a person. Stigma does not encourage people to talk about their conditions, feelings or thoughts. Instead, it creates an environment that breeds shame, isolation and a reluctance to ask for help.
Stigma comes in many shapes and forms, such as telling boys to ‘toughen up’ or telling someone that their condition is ‘all in their head’. It’s openly bullying and discriminating people, it’s snide comments and leaving people out. It is the reason so many people suffer in silence.
But we must also remember – the root of stigma comes from misunderstanding, misguidance and lack of knowledge. Some people simply haven’t been brought up to understand the complicated nature of what someone else may be experiencing. Hopefully, with open, honest forums, one day the stigma will die down.
So if you’re suffering from mental illness, please remember:
You are not your illness.
You are you. You matter. And there are people who care. And most importantly – you’re not alone.
3 million Australian’s are currently experiencing anxiety or depression.
There is more than one type of anxiety disorder, including: Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Social Anxiety, Specific Phobias, Panic Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
1 in 5 adolescents experience depression by the time they reach the age of 18, with 75% of mental health conditions occurring before the age of 25.
Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide.
40% of those suffering with a mental health condition also have chronic physical illness.
Only 35% of people suffering from Anxiety and Depression seek treatment.
There are approximately 3,000 suicides per year in Australia. Men accounted for 75% of this number (2,250).
This means that approximately 6 men take their lives every single day.
1 in 5 Australians will experience a mental health condition in a given year, and almost 1 in 2 at some point in their lifetime.
Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia. 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men will experience anxiety at some point in their lifetime.
In any given year, 14% of the population will experience an anxiety disorder.
Up to 40% of the population will experience a panic attack at some point in their lifetime.
You can see these and more facts here.
What we can do for those around us:
The most important thing we can do to help the people around us is to talk about the issue. The more something is out in the open, the less people will shy away from it. Being an advocate for Mental Health Awareness is an incredibly powerful way to help the people around you that may be struggling.
Getting the facts out there and letting people know you are always there to help are also great ways to show your support, as well as standing up for the people around us who may not have the courage to.
If you’re ever in a situation where someone comes to you for help, remember that it takes a lot of courage for someone to speak. The fact that they chose you means they respect and trust you, so it is important that you respond in an encouraging, non-judgmental way. Below are a few of the things you can do to support someone who comes to you for help, or someone you think may be going through a rough time:
Simply saying: ‘Thank you for feeling like you can talk to me’ can be relieving and empowering.
Remind them that they are not their illness.
They are not depressed – they have depression. They are not schizophrenic – the have schizophrenia. Words are powerful. And an illness shouldn’t and doesn’t define you.
Every person deals with things in different ways, and what may work for one, may not necessarily work for another. Really listen to what someone is trying to tell you, before you think about giving any generic advice.
Don’t be judgmental.
Sometimes this can be hard. Especially is they say they want to or are hurting themselves. Although at the end of the day, their well-being is paramount, it helps to try and see things from their perspective. Not everything is black and white. If you judge them, chances are they won’t want to open up to you again.
Offer to come with them to counselling/ therapy.
Even if they say no, it’s nice to offer, and a lot of people really appreciate the gesture.
Look after yourself, too.
Sometimes people suffering from Mental Illness can put you in a stressful position, without even realising it. It’s important to look after yourself too, because you can’t help the people around you if you haven’t helped yourself.
My Top 10 Tips for Surviving (and Thriving):
‘My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour, and some style.’
– Maya Angelou
Make your bed.
I learnt this from watching a video of a Navy SEAL Commander from Texas (you can watch it here).
The idea is that if you make your bed in the morning, you will have accomplished your first task for the day. This will give you a sense of achievement, which will encourage you throughout your day to complete another task, and another, and another.
Sometimes the world feels a little dark and gloomy, and it doesn’t seem like anything could possibly cheer you up. And that’s okay. What I’ve found is that by writing down 3 things I’m grateful for each day, it puts me in a better mood.
It doesn’t have to be anything spectacular. For example, maybe you’re grateful for your sister, or that your dog didn’t poop on the floor this morning, or that you can get a whole bucket of Popcorn Chicken from KFC for $10. Whatever it is that you’re grateful for, it shines light on the things in your life that aren’t so dark and gloomy.
Find a creative outlet.
For me, it’s ‘The Art of Overthinking‘. For others, it’s poetry, or painting, or finding inspiration for your next tattoo. Maybe you like writing, singing or dancing. Perhaps you like to go to the gym – whatever it is, don’t underestimate the potential impact it has on your life.
Your creative outlet doesn’t have to be public, but it’s about finding something to take your mind out of your current environment, and into something you can be proud of.
Sometimes, laughing seems impossible. But having a Mental Illness doesn’t prevent you entirely from seeing the humour in life – even if you have a dark, ironic sense of humour like me.
One thing I’ve discovered, even with having a mental illness, is the ability to recognise and absorb the good that does flit into our lives.
Don’t sit still.
This is a big one for me. The more I do nothing, the more I want to do nothing. And if you struggle with things like Anxiety or Depression, you will know that this only leads you down the garden path to feeling guilty, lazy and useless.
Setting goals gives you purpose. They don’t necessarily need to be ground-breaking or jaw-dropping – but setting yourself goals takes your mind off the present, and gives hope to your future.
Look up inspiring quotes.
‘There is no great genius without some touch of madness.’
I love looking up quotes. Even the Ancient Greeks knew how to promote good vibes, thousands of years ago.
If they can do it, when they didn’t even have the blessings of UberEats, iPhone X’s and Sausage Dogs, you can bet your bottom dollar that a little nugget of wisdom from a random old dude like Plato or Aristotle can help you find your silver lining.
You can find daily of quotes on ‘The Art of Overthinking‘ to help get you started!
This is important. And especially important when you don’t want to do it.
I’m not a fan of exercise, but I always feel a sense of accomplishment once I finish a workout. It’s all about finding something that works for you. I love Dragon Boating (yes, weird, I know). But some people love to go to the gym, hiking, yoga or taking the dogs for a stroll.
Whatever it is that you enjoy, get out there and get started. You’ll feel better for it.
Learn something new.
There is nothing better to get your mind off the things you’d rather not think about, than to focus it on learning a new task.
Whether you decide to learn a new language, go back to school or university, or learn an instrument, keeping your mind busy is the best way to forget your troubles. Plus, you get a new skill-set out of it!
Find time for reflection/ meditation.
This can be as simple as having a hot bubble-bath and reflecting on your week, or doing breathing exercises. Sometimes it’s spending time alone, walking along a beach or booking yourself in for a massage.
There are plenty of ways to get back in touch with yourself and your emotions, and there’s even some really cool apps that can help you as well, like Headspace. Find something that speaks to your soul.
Resources for those seeking help:
Remember, your safety should always be a priority. If you are in crisis or your mental health becomes an emergency, call 000.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
If you, or someone you know needs help, don’t hesitate to use the following resources:
Headspace: 1800 650 890
Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800
MensLine Australia: 1300 789 978
QLife: 1800 184 527
If you enjoyed this article, feel free to check out more at ‘The Art of Overthinking‘.