Sunday 10th October is World Mental Health Day and October is Mental Health Awareness month. For more about the events for the month, check out https://lookafteryourmentalhealthaustralia.org.au/.
The theme for this year is:
“Look after your mental health, Australia.”
I love the theme this year, as it not only implies that we should all look after our own individual mental health, but as a collective too. We look out for ourselves, each other, and every person in Australia (and it applies to wherever you are in the world). As Aussies, we are always ready to support a mate in a crisis, but we still have a long way to go before we are comfortable talking about our mental health openly.
Having the support from the people around you can make a huge difference to how to handle your own mental health. Just knowing that you have people who genuinely care about you and are willing to be there for you when life gets tough, means we are more willing to reach out for help knowing that there is a safety net to catch us.
Mental health is a tricky thing to notice in yourself and in someone else as it is not always obvious that it has become a struggle. Sometimes a dip in your mental wellbeing or the development of mental illness can come on so gradually that the changes are only obvious in hindsight.
One of the most beneficial things I did for my mental health was seek professional support. There are wonderful doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists available to help guide you through this stage in your life and sometimes we can’t do it alone. We need people who know the roadmap back to a safe, stable and healthy place.
So what can we do to support mental health?
First – check in with yourself.
This is an important action for two reasons: we need to monitor our own mental health to see if anything is changing, and also because we need to make sure that when we are supporting someone else with their mental health, that it is not triggering our mental health into a difficult place.
Taking care of myself isn’t “me first”, but “me too”.
Allocating time to take quality rest or do activities that help you manage your mental health is vital. We can be so driven by society to prioritise work and busyness, but we need to equally prioritise things that don’t result in a productivity gain such as rest, creativity, and nature time. The ironic thing is that we gain more energy to be productive if we take time out to care for ourselves.
So how can we become a mental health ally?
Learn more about mental illness conditions and the symptoms. Know what to look for. We need to treat mental health just like we do with physical health. This is exactly the same as if we were looking out for physical symptoms for a stroke, heart attack or seizure. You don’t have to be an expert on each illness or diagnosis anyone (highly do not recommend), but it’s beneficial for yourself and others if you know what might be a warning sign or out of character behaviour.
Let the people around you know that you are looking out for them and that you are available at any time to listen if they need to talk. The best thing we can do for someone is to listen – without interrupting or judgement, or providing advice or opinions – just listen.
You are not alone. There is always someone available to listen.
If you are in a position where you are managing staff or notice that people come to you for your support, consider Mental Health First Aid training. It is an incredible and comprehensive course on how to support the people around you and what to do in the first instance to help someone towards professional help. You can read more about my experience with the training course from the blog post Have You Considered Mental Health First Aid Training?
Mental Health First Aid Australia is also celebrating its 21st anniversary this month – Congratulations! What a wonderful legacy it has created in Australia and around the world!
What we don’t need in the midst of struggle is shame for being human.– Brené Brown
In the bigger picture of mental health, we need to continually work on ending the stigma around mental health, call it out inequalities, challenge the media, and normalise the situation. We need to be able to feel safe enough to talk about it when it is a small issue, and before it snowballs into something bigger. The longer we hold off talking about a stigmatised issue, the bigger the problem gets and the longer the recovery can be. We can’t afford for anyone to stay silent about their mental health issues.
If you would like to read more of my posts about Mental Health, check them out here.
May we all find the lighthouses we have been seeking for so long. May we be granted safe harbour from the cruellest of storms.– Nikita Gill
Take good care, Readers. I’ll keep the light on.
If you or someone you know is affected and needs support, please contact the following organisations:
Beyond Blue – Beyondblue.org.au
Lifeline – https://www.lifeline.org.au/
SANE Australia – Sane.org
Black Dog Institute – https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/
RUOK? – Ruok.org.au
Headspace – Headspace.org.au
Kids Helpline – https://kidshelpline.com.au/
MensLine Australia – https://mensline.org.au/
We are all aware of the mental health campaigns urging us to check in with each other, to start the conversation about someone’s mental health… but do you know how to support and guide them to resources if they say “No, I’m not ok”?. What are the next steps to take? Do you feel confident to have that discussion? Read more about my experience completing the Mental Health First Aid course.Keep reading