From Monday 5 October to Sunday 12 October 2015, Mental Health Week activates, educates and engages Australians about mental health. Mental Health Week first began in 1985, and hosts a series of interactive events across the country, from community festivals and art exhibitions to music, theatre and seminars.
The aim of Mental Health Week is to promote social and emotional wellbeing to the community, encouraging people to maximise their health potential, enhancing the coping capacity of communities, families and individuals, and increasing mental health recovery.
Much of the effort of running Mental Health Week comes from dedicated volunteers committed to promoting mental wellbeing and less stigma surrounding the disease. Mental health is something that should be talked about and openly discussed, not avoided.
To get involved this year there are a number of things you can do, including:
Holding your own event
Mental Health Week is all about engaging schools, students, workers and the community to help promote better mental health, as well as opportunities for Australians to understand what mental health is. To help with this, events can be arranged and registered with a number of mental health organisations that will gladly help promote your activity.
Not sure what kind of event to hold? Try one of these great ideas…
- Organise a forum/workshop with a mental health advocate, and discuss topics such as communication, discrimination and prejudice;
- Hold a morning tea with a guest speaker;
- Set up an information board/display; or
- Host a professional development workshop.
- Organise cross-cultural mental health activities between community groups;
- Hold a multi-cultural music concert;
- Hold a multi-cultural fair to celebrate diversity;
- Encourage people to “dress as themselves” for a day; or
- Host a drumming workshop.
- Arrange a team picnic in the park;
- Hold a kite-flying day to promote the release of stigma surrounding mental health;
- Organise a community jigsaw puzzle in a library or other public place;
- Hold a cooking class;
- Host a family fun day with a BBQ, face painting, games etc;
- Organise a community dog walk; or
- Arrange a free tai chi, yoga and other “stress less” session in a local park.
- Organise a community storyboard where pedestrians can draw, paint, or share a quote;
- Arrange a school or workplace art day;
- Set up a free dance class in your local park;
- Hold a concert or street theatre performance; or
- Host a creative writing workshop or competition.
The theme for this year’s Mental Health Week is Act-Belong-Commit, so use your event to promote keeping active mentally, physically, socially and spiritually, joining a club or community group, and committing to a cause or new challenge.
Create a Mental Health Week committee at your work, school or community group, and share the planning of your event.
Mental health issues have a major impact on today’s society, and a large number of organisations are crying out for volunteers. Websites such as www.volunteermatch.org can help put you in touch with such organisations, or search your local area for a cause that lights you up. Volunteering can have a profound effect on not just others’ mental health, but also on your own.
Australia’s helplines and mental health services primarily rely on the generosity of ordinary Australians to help millions of people struggling with mental health issues, from depression and anxiety through to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Help the thousands of volunteers and dedicated people supporting mental health by making a donation to one of the many wonderful organisations such as ReachOut, SANE and Headspace.
Start a conversation
If your gut tells you that something’s not quite right with someone, chances are they’re looking for some kind of support. Start a conversation by asking “Are you okay?”
One of the great things about asking “Are you okay?” is you don’t have to provide the answer. Nor do you have to be okay yourself. It’s simply about lending an ear and showing the person you are willing to genuinely listen and support a friend in need.
Try mentioning specific things, such as “I’ve noticed you’ve seemed a bit tired lately, everything okay?” or “You’re not quite yourself lately. Is everything alright?” If your friend opens up to you, truly listen and take any concerns seriously. If they choose not to talk, remind them that you are there for them should they decide there is anything they’d like to talk about.
Connect with mental health organisations such as beyondblue and engage with the work they do to raise awareness, reduce stigma, and encourage help-seeking for people with mental health issues. Sign up for online forums, share your own story or sign up for an eNewsletter.
Act, belong, commit
Take heed of this year’s theme and take steps to promote better mental health within yourself. Be more physically active by enrolling in a fitness class, be more social by taking part in an art class or community organisation, and mentally-grow by learning something new. Belong by spending more time with loved ones. Commit to a cause by volunteering, educating yourself, or simply making an effort to pick up the phone and call friends more often.
If you don’t quite understand the issues surrounding mental health, educate yourself by reading someone’s story. Every story is different and you can have a far better understanding of what living with mental health problems is like by learning about the stories of real people. You may use this new information to recognise a friend in need or discover you’re battling with your own issues. Books to enjoy include:
Madness: a Memoir by Kate Richard
Bloom: Mental Health and Wellbeing by Tasha Broomhall
Tell Me I’m Here by Anne Deveson All information in this article is intended for general information purposes only. Information should not be considered medical advice and is in no way intended to replace a consultation with a qualified medical practitioner. CBHS endeavours to provide independent and complete information, and content may include information regarding services, products and procedures not covered by CBHS Health Cover policies. For full terms, click here.