MIND YOUR MIND’S HEALTH

THERE’S MORE TO LIFE THAN PHYS­I­CAL FIT­NESS – WE NEED TO LOOK OUT FOR THE EF­FECT OF STRESS, TOO

Life & Style Weekend - - MAGAZINE | MIND - MINDYOU WORDS : ROWENA HARDY

How would you score your over­all health on a scale of 0 to 10, 10 be­ing fab­u­lous and zero be­ing a long way to go? If you then separated your phys­i­cal health from your men­tal health (be­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal, emo­tional and so­cial well­be­ing) how would you score phys­i­cal and men­tal health out of 10 sep­a­rately? The rea­son I ask is that many of us fo­cus on our phys­i­cal health in var­i­ous ways, the way we eat and ex­er­cise, for ex­am­ple, but it can dif­fer­ent when it comes to our men­tal health.

To­mor­row marks the end of this year’s Men­tal Health Aware­ness Week in Aus­tralia which also in­cluded World Men­tal Health Day on Oc­to­ber 10. Around Aus­tralia there have been events to build aware­ness about the im­por­tance of men­tal well­be­ing and while it would be great if we didn’t need to have an aware­ness week, clearly it’s needed and here’s why.

The 2009 sta­tis­tics from ABS in­di­cated that one in five Aus­tralians be­tween the ages of 16–85 ex­pe­ri­ence men­tal ill­ness in any year, the most com­mon of these be­ing de­pres­sion, anx­i­ety and sub­stance use dis­or­ders. And 45 per cent of Aus­tralians will ex­pe­ri­ence a men­tal ill­ness in their life­time. Even though these sta­tis­tics give 16 years as the lower end, there are ser­vices, Kids Helpline for ex­am­ple, that of­fer sup­port to chil­dren as young as five when they’re go­ing through tough or con­fus­ing times.

I’m sure there are myr­iad rea­sons why one in five of us might strug­gle with our men­tal health at times. Life chal­lenges us in many ways or we just be­come over­whelmed and we’re not al­ways equipped to deal with it. But when five-year-olds are show­ing signs of stress and anx­i­ety then clearly it’s time for change.

Cre­at­ing more aware­ness around men­tal health in gen­eral, find­ing out who and what can help us im­prove our own psy­cho­log­i­cal, emo­tional and so­cial well­be­ing and how to ac­cess ser­vices in our com­mu­nity or re­gion is key to mak­ing progress.

Of equal im­por­tance, I be­lieve, is recog­nis­ing that we all need help some­times, so re­duc­ing any stigma around ad­mit­ting when we’re not cop­ing and re­mov­ing any shame we may feel in ask­ing for help is also vital.

A cou­ple of sug­ges­tions to con­sider. Na­tional Ge­o­graphic re­cently pro­duced an edi­tion called Ev­ery­day Mind­ful­ness which is an easy read with lots of help­ful in­for­ma­tion. Many Men­tal Health and Well­be­ing Com­mu­nity Fairs are on to­day.

They of­fer the op­por­tu­nity to talk with peo­ple who have ex­pe­ri­enced men­tal health prob­lems, en­gage with lo­cal sup­port ser­vices, find out how to de­velop and main­tain a healthy mind and body, ac­tiv­i­ties to con­nect men with their com­mu­nity and fun stuff for kids.

Find out about any men­tal health ex­pos or events in your area – when they’re on and what they’re all about.

A small in­vest­ment of your time could make all the dif­fer­ence.

Rowena Hardy is a fa­cil­i­ta­tor and coach at mind­saligned.com.au

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