Kym Marsden's monthly mental health column aims to help anyone suffering from any mental health concerns. If this article raises any issues for you please contact the resources at the bottom of this article.
Kofi Annan is a role model of mine who understood education is the key to realising positive change across our future generations, evidenced by his beliefs that now are eternalised as a quote: "Knowledge is power, information is liberating, education is the premise of progress in every society and in every family!"
Leading from this, I wanted to explore why mental health awareness is important in our communities. Awareness creates change, but it is a task that we all have to sign up for.
I'd like you at this point to ask yourself: How do I create awareness in my daily life to normalise how those around me perceive mental health?"
I hope that my articles and daily work within the field is making positive change, but I'm only one person and need you all to come on board to help provoke the shift and raise awareness.
At some point in our lives, each of us will endure mental health challenges and/or support the plight of a loved one as they endure depression, anxiety, or other mental health challenges.
In a way it is a humbling and stark reminder that in order to provide appropriate supports to work through issues faced at that time, we need to be have access to a full tool kit allowing us to apply appropriate supports, advice and strategies.
But I am still finding through my work that more often than not, those within the age bracket of 35 and over often do not possess a tool kit due to the lack of education and access to support services across their generation.
Feedback from this age bracket is eerily similar, the topic of mental health was heavily stigmatised and often a taboo subject, impacting their help-seeking due to fear of rejection. Sadly, this resulted in many internalising their stressors and led to challenges where they felt isolating was their only option, instead of reaching out to their own families, friendship circles and community.
How do we change this? What do we need to do now and continue into the future?
Education is a must as it creates awareness and a healthy curiosity, but I often wonder why we are not educating more through our schools. Although over time we have gotten better, it is evident we need to do more to normalise discussions and help-seeking around mental health.
I believe our schools and other places of participation for our young people like sporting clubs, cadets and other social outlets need to portray mental health as equally important as physical health.
As physical health can be seen, when we fall over and damage a limb it is evident, so we apply the relevant aid to ensure it heals. But with the mind, when we stumble and struggle, the damage isn't visible and makes it difficult to apply the same care at times. As we cannot visibly track how we are healing, it becomes easier to overlook.
Considering the onset of mental health issues mostly occur during our teen years, it makes sense to incorporate mental health into the national curriculum.
The way our young people will come to learn, question and understand mental health is through education.
Although we hope parents are doing so at home, we need to remember that many parents come from a time where mental health wasn't discussed and as such haven't been given the skills to navigate mental health with their children.
To best equip our children, teens and even adults with the tool kit they need, this education needs to be multi-layered.
I am asking your help, to walk alongside me to erase the misconception that those suffering mental illness are lazy, violent or making it up to get out of work or other commitments. Negative labels like these stick and circulate due to a lack of awareness, and education is our most power tool in the eradicating these outdated misconceptions.
Building this awareness will create a safe space for those needing help to come forward, which in turn will increase the chance for early intervention and recovery.
I hope this plants a seed that blossoms into you working out how to generate awareness and change perceptions within your communities. I'll leave you with these thoughts:
Education creates awareness and it's up to us all to increase our own knowledge base on an ongoing basis
Remember with knowledge comes the power, allowing us all to contribute and make positive change to erase age-old fallacies around mental health
Lastly, lack of awareness around mental health and wellbeing is no longer 'their problem', isn't it about time that we recognise it is 'our problem as a community'?
How will you educate and create awareness across community today?
If you or anyone you know is struggling with mental ill-health, call or visit the online resources below:
Spartan First Suicide Prevention Crisis Line â" 1800 370 747
Lifeline â" 13 11 14,Â lifeline.org.au
Beyond Blue â" 1300 224 636,Â beyondblue.org.au/forumsÂ
MensLine â" 1300 789 978
Kids Helpline 1800 551 800
Suicide Call Back Service â" 1300 659 467
Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet â"Â healthinfonet.ecu.edu.au
By Kym Marsden
Kym Marsden is a Kamilaroi woman and Accredited Mental Health Social Worker with over 19 years' experience in Mental Health and Community Services. Her qualifications include BA Health Ageing and Community Services, Masters Social Work, Dip Counselling, Dip Community Services (AOD and Mental Health), and Cert IV Training and Assessment.Â