1 in 5 Australians aged between 16-85 years old will experience a mental illness in any year. Who knows how 2020 will affect these statistics?
This year has bought many challenges for all of us. For employees, it has bought many months of uncertainty, as well as the fear of potentially bringing a deadly and contagious virus home to their family. For those with mental health conditions, many have been and still are, experiencing more social isolation than ever. The economic consequences of the pandemic are already being felt, with many people temporarily or permanently losing their job, with levels of anxiety, stress and depressive symptoms likely on the rise amongst society.
Unfortunately, 54% of people with mental illness do not access any treatment. The proportion of people accessing treatment for mental illness is half of that for physical disorders. The World Health Organisation predicts that the need for mental health and general psychological support will increase substantially in the coming months and even years.
Various states of Australia have followed the lead of the World Health Organisation’s ‘World Mental Health Day’ (10th October), through forming a Mental Health week or month during the month of October. In NSW, the state celebrates Mental Health Month each year for the month of October, with QLD and VIC running events during Mental Health Week from the 10-18th October.
Mental Health Month in NSW encourages all of us to think about our mental health and wellbeing. The theme for the month this year is to ‘Tune In.’ Regardless of whether we have a lived experience of mental illness or not, the month gives us the opportunity to understand the importance of good mental health in our lives, as well as encouraging help-seeking behaviours when needed. There are many events to coincide with each state’s Mental Health week, including the ‘Let’s Talk’ Fest, as well as initiatives such as ‘Cycle for Mental Health.’
Remember, waves and cycles of good and bad moods, positive and negative thoughts and general mental wellbeing are normal, particularly during a pandemic that we are experiencing at the moment. It is ok to not be ok. The first step in improving your mental health is talking to someone and letting it be known. For many people this may be a family member, it may be a friend, or it may be a colleague. Who knows, it may be a physiotherapist.
Let’s use the month of October to not only recognise the burden of mental illness amongst the population, but also understand how to take action to improve it. Regardless of your role within an organisation, make sure you’re checking up on someone who may be struggling. As we know, it can be as simple as asking ‘R U OK.’