Don’t wait for tragedy, the kickstart you need is at hand
Tasmanians are stepping up to help everyone’s mental health, writes Connie Digolis
WHEN we talk about facts and figures on the mental health of Tasmanians, it tends to paint a pretty bleak picture. Australian Bureau of Statistics health survey data indicates that just over 20 per cent of Tasmanians experienced a mental health or behavioural issue considered to be a chronic condition. We know Tasmanians have to overcome quite a few barriers when it comes to leading a healthy life.
I am not going to paint that grim reality for you today. At the Mental Health Council of Tasmania, we spend a lot of time advocating for ways we could be improving the mental health system and moving closer to a mentally healthy community. Instead, I want to talk about some numbers that are encouraging and, dare I say it, hopeful for a brighter future in our beautiful state.
This year we have realised that, not only is becoming mentally healthy something Tasmanians are passionate about, it is area where they want to bring about change. During Mental Health Week, on October 6 to 12, there was an unprecedented number of activities across the state, with more than 80 different public events registered. From King Island to Dunalley and everywhere in between, Tasmanians were taking part. The Mental Health Council is proud to provide funding for 50 events through our grant program supported by the State Government. Almost 13,000 Tasmanians attended these and many more engaged in some other way.
Mental Health Week has a lasting impact beyond one week of the year, beyond awareness or a tokenistic gesture. Tasmanians take part because they want to see a lasting impact, they want to learn more about how to prevent ill-health and where to go when they need support.
The theme, “We all have a role to play,” has been taken on because it rings true, whether that role is learning strategies to manage your own anxiety, care for a loved one, educate others, break down the stigma or just reach out to a friend. Everyone can see they have a role to play if we are to really make headway.
You might think attending a morning tea or art exhibition isn’t going to do much for your mental health. But the simple act of engaging in a social or creative activity may be the starting point to prevent you from feeling isolated, lonely or without purpose. It can have long term effects for preventing ill-health.
There is such an array of things to try that you may not realise are great for your mental health, whether it be a ukulele workshop in Wynyard that will hopefully inspire people to be social and take up a new hobby or an audio installation at the Hobart Library that tells the stories of men supporting each other through homelessness.
To create collective responsibility for mental
health promotion is not an easy feat. But in many ways it is already happening. So often prevention or awareness have their origin in the desire to do something after a tragedy. When so many of us have our lives impacted by serious mental illness or suicide it is no wonder we feel compelled to act.
Please don’t wait to be really unwell to seek help. If you notice yourself or someone close isn’t 100 per cent themselves, check in on them. See what you could be doing to prevent your health from getting any worse. An awareness activity can sometimes be that kickstart to find what you need to be feeling happier and healthier. Congratulations to those who hosted events or activities not usually engaged in the mental health space. I am sure you have considered the lasting impact of what you have given to your community. I would like to highlight the language we use when we talk about mental health and suicide prevention. Consider how effective and safe we are being when we discuss in a public forum. Visit www.tascharter. org/safely-talking/ Mental Health Week also highlights the hard work and perseverance of workers in the mental health sector. So often we forget to acknowledge these dedicated and determined people in the organisations that make up our Mental Health Council membership. They are the support services you would have seen at Mental Health Week events and providing guidance and information. You might not have had the time to celebrate your fantastic work. But we see you, and Tasmanians are very grateful for all that you do.
If this story raises concerns for you or someone you care about, please consider contacting:
Lifeline, 24 hours, on 13 11 14 or at lifeline.org.au; suicidecallbackservice.org.au or 1300 659 467; beyondblue.org.au or 1300 22 4636; SANE
Australia 1800 18 SANE (7263) or www.sane.org
Connie Digolis is the chief executive of the Mental Health Council of Tasmania.