It’s Mental Health Week and Mental Health Month in Australia with many activities happening today, World Mental Health Day, an international day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy against social stigma.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says the pandemic has, and continues to, take its toll on our mental health. The ability to reconnect through World Mental Health Day 2022 will provide everyone with an opportunity to re-kindle their efforts to protect and improve mental health.
Many aspects of mental health have been challenged; and already before the pandemic in 2019 an estimated one in eight people globally were living with a mental disorder. At the same time, the services, skills and funding available for mental health remain in short supply, and fall far below what is needed, especially in low and middle income countries.
A global crisis for mental health
The WHO says the COVID-19 pandemic has created a global crisis for mental health, fueling short- and long-term stresses and undermining the mental health of millions. Estimates put the rise in both anxiety and depressive disorders at more than 25 per cent during the first year of the pandemic. At the same time, mental health services have been severely disrupted and the treatment gap for mental health conditions has widened.
Growing social and economic inequalities, protracted conflicts, violence and public health emergencies affect whole populations, threatening progress towards improved well-being; a staggering 84 million people worldwide were forcibly displaced during 2021.
Then WHO says we must deepen the value and commitment we give to mental health as individuals, communities and governments and match that value with more commitment, engagement and investment by all stakeholders, across all sectors. They say we must strengthen mental health care so that the full spectrum of mental health needs is met through a community-based network of accessible, affordable and quality services and supports.
Stigma and discrimination a barrier to social inclusion
Stigma and discrimination continue to be a barrier to social inclusion and access to the right care; importantly, we can all play our part in increasing awareness about which preventive mental health interventions work and World Mental Health Day is an opportunity to do that collectively.
The WHO envisions a world in which mental health is valued, promoted and protected; where everyone has an equal opportunity to enjoy mental health and to exercise their human rights; and where everyone can access the mental health care they need.
WHO will work with partners to launch a campaign around the theme of Making Mental Health & Well-Being for All a Global Priority.
Cost of living main concern
Beyond Blue says the cost of living pressures have overtaken COVID-19 as the main concern for people, according to a new community sentiment survey released today.
Beyond Blue surveyed 1,500 people nationally to identify stressors impacting people’s mental health and well-being, with the findings revealing increasing interest rates, high inflation, worries about the cost of living, war in Ukraine and what the future may hold as the main causes of concern.
The survey revealed a general sense of unease, with people operating at a lower level than pre-pandemic days and adults weighed down by work challenges and cost-of-living rises.
The findings are consistent with current conversation themes on Beyond Blue’s popular and trusted online peer support forums.
Compared to the same time last year, fewer people are seeking advice about the impact of the pandemic, and more are discussing family and relationship stress and anxiety.
Survey says 48 per cent feel lost
Almost half (48 per cent) of those surveyed say they felt lost when it came to their mental health and well-being. Just as many (46 per cent) felt their problems did not warrant seeking support.
Beyond Blue CEO Georgie Harman reminded people of the benefits of using the Beyond Blue Support Service and digital tools. ‘Although we are moving away from COVID-19 as being a major source of worry, people are telling us they’re still adjusting.
‘Survey respondents say a lack of social connection, isolation, negative self-worth are lingering feelings, and that things aren’t quite back to normal just yet.
Making it easier to bounce back
Ms Harman said no problem is too big or small. ‘Seeking support at the first sign you’re not feeling quite yourself, can make it easier to bounce back and maintain good mental health.’
The survey also revealed people wanted a diverse range of supports for their mental health and wellbeing including online mental health tips, digital tools and someone to talk to too.
Ms Harman said Beyond Blue’s online forums were a simple, moderated safe space where people connect and get support from others for their mental health challenges anonymously.
‘We know that longstanding issues with service access, availability and affordability have been exacerbated by the pandemic, meaning finding support for your mental health is particularly challenging at the moment.
‘There are steps you can take to manage your own mental health and wellbeing while you’re on a waitlist or worrying about what to do, and digital supports are a great place to start.’
More than 50,000 people visit Beyond Blue’s forums each month to chat about a range of topics including relationship problems, depression, anxiety, gender identity, grief and thoughts of suicide.
‘We’ve recently made massive changes to the forums, making them more accessible and easier to use, allowing the community to receive compassionate support from others who get it, no matter where they are, right at their fingertips,’ said Ms Harman.
To find out more about Beyond Blue’s online forums, visit forums.beyondblue.org.au.
Beyond Blue Support Service – 1300 22 4636 or beyondblue.org.au/get-support.
Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service – 1800 512 348 or coronavirus.beyondblue.org.au.
National phone line for faster counselling
Rural Aid says a new, dedicated phone line will allow farmers across the country to quickly and easily connect with the Rural Aid counselling team.
The direct line will ensure farmers are provided a faster and more trauma-informed response to their request for counselling.
Rural Aid’s counsellors are based across the country and offer free, confidential counselling to farmers and their families.
Rural Aid’s Manager of Mental Health and well-being, Lauren Stracey, said the team will be able to prioritise and respond to calls more effectively with the new number (1300 175 594).
‘We know that it’s important to have a trained counsellor help guide farmers through the period of reaching out for help.
Support immediate needs
‘By initiating a dedicated 1300-line, farmers are able to access a trained counsellor who can support them with referrals for immediate needs, while getting a sense of their story and matching them with the most appropriate support.’
Ms Stracey said taking the first step in seeking support takes guts. ‘Once you’ve done it you realise counselling is really just another tool you can use to get through tough times.
‘Rural Aid is experiencing an increase in the number of farmers reaching out for help at the moment. Some farmers are now at the stage where they are ready for mental health support, after experiencing disaster earlier this year. Also, farmers may have felt an increased sense of anxiety since the confirmation of a third La Nina event.’
Ms Stracey said Rural Aid want to make sure that if a farmer is ready to explore the idea of counselling, they are there straight away to assist.
Rural Aid counsellors catch up with their farmers where they’re most comfortable; whether it’s on farm, in town, or over the phone.
To get in touch with a Rural Aid counsellor, phone 1300 175 594. This phone line is staffed by a Rural Aid counsellor between 9am and 5pm AEST, Monday to Friday.
Take a moment
NSW Minister for Mental Health Bronnie Taylor is encouraging people to pause and take a moment today to consider how they are feeling.
‘We may often neglect our mental health to prioritise other areas of our busy lives, so this World Mental Health Day I’m encouraging everyone to take some time to check in with yourself.
‘By taking just a few moments out of the day to focus on yourself, your environment and how you are feeling, you’re already taking small but beneficial steps to support your mental health and wellbeing.’
An opportunity to refocus
NSW Chief Psychiatrist, Dr Murray Wright, said World Mental Health Day is also a good opportunity to refocus on the things we can do that are good for our mental health.
‘Working on your mental health gets easier and better with practice, so it is really important to have an awareness of what you can do to feel better. This could be doing some exercise, taking time for reflection, getting good rest and maintaining social connections with family, friends and colleagues.
Dr Wright said that once you begin to open up to a trusted person, small chats can lead to really important conversations. ‘Most importantly, if you need help, make sure you reach out for it, whether through your family, friends or mental health services.’
For anyone who is struggling, you can call the helplines for support and advice:
• Lifeline 13 11 14 |
• Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800
• Beyond Blue 1300 224636.
To be connected with specialist mental health services, call the NSW Mental Health Line 1800 011 511.