October’s Mental Health Month is all about raising awareness on mental health and wellbeing regardless of whether you have experienced a mental illness or not. It also gives everyone the opportunity to become a part of the conversation surrounding stigma and the importance of seeking help.
The sting of stigma
Around one in five Australian adults are affected by a mental health condition every year, yet research suggests many people with mental health issues feel isolated.
There’s a history of ignorance, prejudice and discrimination – or ‘stigma’ – surrounding mental health. Because of this, people are wary of opening up about personal challenges for fear of being viewed in a negative or inaccurate way. Unfortunately, this stigma can be a significant barrier to people reaching out to get the support and treatment they may need, just as they would for any other illness.
Are we making progress?
Sadly, statistics show that mental health issues are prevalent across many age groups. One in 16 Australians are currently experiencing depression and one in nine are experiencing high or very high psychological distress.
The good news, however, is that according to Beyond Blue, the rate at which we’re getting help is quickly increasing, with around half of all people with a mental health condition now getting treatment.
‘We’ve come a long way here – it’s so much more accepted than it used to be,’ says psychologist Leanne Hall. ‘We still have a way to go though…especially in relation to social discourses around masculinity. For example, the belief that “it’s weak to show emotion if you’re a guy”.’
To help reduce the stigma of mental health, it’s critical to take the time to really listen and understand the needs of the people around you.
Just over half of people in Australian workplaces (56 per cent) surveyed believed their most senior leaders valued mental health. As a manager it can be as simple as taking a more active role to:
Engage: be accountable, and have open and honest conversations around mental wellbeing to help reduce any associated stigma.
Connect: if someone in your team is struggling and you think they need support, approach them and start a conversation. Give them the opportunity to talk about what’s going on but also let them know this is an entirely personal decision.
Encourage: offer support to team members by suggesting the use of existing services such as an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), Beyond Blue or their GP when appropriate.
It is important to never underestimate the role you play in supporting the mental health and wellbeing of people around you.
If you or someone you know need to talk, you can call Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636; call Lifeline on 13 11 14; or in an emergency, call 000.