Friday, November 22, 2013

Open minds make all the difference

Do you know that almost half of the population will experience a mental health disorder at some point in their life?

That’s right, mental health issues are common, but there is still an immense social stigma attached to mental health disorders.  This is most likely why many people prefer not to seek help despite recognising the symptoms.

What’s more mental health will affect most of us on different levels from time to time and I’m sure there isn’t one person who from time to time hasn’t needed time off work for ‘mental health day’. So why is there still such a social stigma? Why is talking about mental health still so taboo in this day and age? Why is it more socially acceptable to get the flue then it is to be suffering from depression?

As life gets busier, mental health issues are going to become more prevalent so it’s everyone’s responsibility start recognising the signs and looking at mental illness without the stigmas. Someone suffering from a mental illness shouldn’t have to hide it, if they choose they should be able to openly discuss it in the same way they would a cold or a sports injury.

Initiatives like Mental Health Week and RU OK? Day have done much in recent years to start addressing taboos around mental health and have quite likely save many lives because people have realised that mental health is something they can talk about and get with.

As depression is predicted to be one of the world largest health problems by 2020, I think we should all continue to check on our loved ones, friends and colleagues (and even complete strangers) from time to time, not just on highlighted days. Importantly we should also take stock of our own mental health and act on it.

CQUniversity is a world leader in mental health nursing research and I am very proud of the innovative work Professor Brenda Happell and her team do in this area.  This important research is not just helping students learn about the complex area of mental health nursing but is helping individuals and communities in achieving better mental health outcomes. Through the work of this team, students at CQUni have the opportunity to collaborate closely with teachers who have a lived experience of mental illness in order to deeply understand consumer perspectives on mental illness and recovery and to de-stigmatise mental health issues. This method helps students to understand that people suffering from mental illness aren’t just patients but people with the same needs, hopes and dreams as everyone else.

This helps our students understand that mental health sufferers are not just patients, but are real people with hopes, dreams and desires that go well beyond their mental illness. This approach is leading the way in Australia and overseas by involving the mental health ‘consumer’ in their own recovery, delivering empowerment to both the caregiver and receiver. 

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