Promoting Mental Health Awareness – How you can help!

Mental Health Month 2013

HealthEngine welcomes today Nurse Naomi Cook to our blog. Naomi Cook will be a regular contributor to our blog and social media pages as she shares weekly tips for staying well and managing your health.

Hi everyone, it’s Nurse Naomi here! Before I get started I’d like to ask you this: Can you remember the last time you did something purely for your own sense of emotional wellbeing? How about the last time you stood back and looked at yourself with compassion? Have you ever consciously tried to be ‘kinder’ to people around you? Well, I don’t know about you, but I definitely had trouble answering those questions but what’s this got to do with Mental Health Awareness I hear you cry? Read on and you’ll find out…

October 10th is World Mental Health Day. Over all Australia different states will be celebrating this by a dedicating the day, or a week (6th to 13th) or even a whole month to raising awareness about Mental Health. Western Australia has a theme of “Celebrate, Connect, Grow” and Queensland a cool “Inner Super Power” theme, but it is NSW in particular that has caught my eye. NSW have dedicated the whole of October to raising awareness, and the month is flavoured by a gorgeous theme: Kindness.

The ‘Kindness’ theme aims to prompt us to view ourselves with kindness, a form of self-compassion. It also aims to remind us about being kind to others, reminding us that caring for the feelings of others is a worthy act in itself, as well as being good for our own mental wellbeing. From small everyday interactions with strangers on the street to deeper relationships with those we know, this theme is a great reminder of some the basic (but easily forgotten) ingredients necessary for our everyday emotional health and wellbeing.

Mental Health Month Kindness 

Here is a handful of questions I thought you might have about what this day, week and month is all about and why being involved is such a fantastic idea:

What does “Mental Health” really mean?

‘Mental Health’ is a broad term encompassing emotional wellbeing as well as Mental Illnesses. Some illnesses are commonly known and are well associated with what it means to be mentally ill; Schizophrenia, Eating Disorders and Depression are some examples of those. But you may be surprised to find out that the term ‘Mental Health’ also covers other aspects of mental health and wellbeing such as Cyber Bullying, Grief, Stress and Anger Management. There are fact sheets on these aspects of Mental Illness here.

OK, so what’s the point of Mental Health Awareness Day, Week or Month?

This October, people all over Australia are being encouraged to set up and participate in community events or projects that aim to raise awareness about Mental Health. Raising awareness on issues that people may find hard to talk about helps to reduce social stigma and may also encourage people to seek help if they believe they are suffering from a Mental Illness.

Why should I try and raise awareness about Mental Health?

There are loads of reasons why it would be an awesome thing to do, but here are just a few:

  • Because 1 in 5 Australians are estimated to be affected by poor Mental Health in (only) a 12 month period. See the report here.
  • Because severe Mental Illness has a huge impact on our community, both socially and financially.
  • Because you or I could be affected by poor Mental Health at some point in our lives. Maybe someone we know and love is affected right now.
  • Because there is a stigma attached to being Mentally Ill. By helping to raise awareness about Mental Illness, we can help to reduce that stigma.
  • Because when Mental Health is brought in to the limelight, more people who are suffering in silence may be prompted to seek help and care. This could help to save lives.

Imagine, by setting up and  by taking part in community projects you could play a pivotal role in prompting someone suffering from a Mental Illness to seek support.

What do you mean by ‘events to raise awareness’?

Laughter Yoga and a Free Tai Chi Class are two examples of events people set up and ran in their local communities last year.

All over Australia events have already been planned, for example, in Queensland, children have been invited to participate in a range of competitions that have the “Inner Super Power” theme. For details on that, click here.

Here is a list of events already planned for areas in NSW that you may like to consider attending.

But it isn’t too late for you to set up something yourself, in your area, particularly if you live in NSW, there’s loads of time left! This fantastic leaflet by the Mental Health Association NSW will give you a step by step guide on how to go about organising something!

Now I’m bubbling with ideas for things you could do and simply have to share them with you, what do you think of them?

Something Sporty:

How about a succession of fun runs? Running freestyle, and a run carrying a burden of some sort, followed by running three legged with a partner? These different runs could be symbolic of Mental Wellness and Poor Mental Health laden with heavy, sad thoughts. Or you could just scrap the symbolism and do a crazy run for fun!

Something Foody:

A themed bakeoff (happy/sad faced cookies/cakes?)

Something Arty:

Local art competition for children (drawing/painting what it looks and feels like to be sad or happy).

Local Community Giant Poetry Competition. Get members of the community to each add a line to one massive local poem and then join all the sentences together to see how members of your community view Mental Health (oooh, I’m so tempted to run this one myself!).

Health and Wellness Tree, in a well chosen spot invite people passing by to write what having Good Mental Health means to them on a bit of paper and then tie it to the branches of a tree.

A Themed Sandcastle Building Competition.

Giant Street Drawing/Painting  (on paper, not the street)  where you could ask people passing by to add their own arty input to a massive community picture of what good/bad mental health looks like to them. (I’m in love with this idea too!).

As mentioned above this Starter Kit has all the info you may need to help you get started including funding ideas and tips on how to advertise your event. Don’t forget to check with your local council what may or may not be permitted.

I’d really love to know if you are planning anything and if you do carry out or attend an event of any sort, please do let me know how it went! Photos would be fantastic as well as a commentary!

Resources

Beyond Blue – A website for those suffering from and for those supporting sufferers of Depression and Anxiety.

Headspace – National Youth Mental Health Foundation

Mental Health Association Australia (Queensland)

Mental Health Association NSW

Mental Health Foundation of Australia (Victoria)

Western Australian Association for Mental Health

 

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Nurse Naomi Headshot

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Nurse  Naomi is Registered Nurse, Mum, Writer & Children’s Author. Nurse Naomi also considers herself to be a rather passionate health activist. She writes about Health, Wellbeing, Germs and her local Community Health Projects on her blog. You can also find her on Facebook under Naomi Cook Writer/Author and follow on her on Twitter @NaomiRCook.

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