1 in 5 Australians are affected by mental illness, yet many don’t seek help because of stigma. We can all do something to help shed a more positive light on mental health.

World Mental Health Day is on 10 October, it is a day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy. An initiative of the World Federation for Mental Health to raise public awareness of mental health issues worldwide.

Do You See What I See? challenges perceptions about mental illness in Australia and encourages everyone to look at mental health in a more positive light, in an effort to reduce stigma and make way for more people to seek the help and support they deserve.

Stigma around mental illness due to misunderstanding or prejudice remains an issue in Australia, delaying or preventing people from wanting or feeling able to seek help, and impacting adversely on their lives.

Misconceptions and misrepresentations about those experiencing mental illness are damaging to people’s lives. They may include references to people affected as being ‘scary’, ‘comical’, ‘incompetent’, ‘weak’ or ‘hopeless’ and can appear anywhere, from in the media and the arts to conversations we have at work, school or home.

The reality is the vast majority of people affected by mental illness are able to lead independent and contributing lives in the community, with the right treatment and support. With one in five Australians affected, they form part of our close circles of family, friends and colleagues, and interact with us in our communities every day.

It’s time to look at mental illness in a different light – a positive light. I love the way Osher Gunsberg talks about his mental health issues, he talks about what it is like to have a different brain and what he needs to do to manage it. I highly recommend you check out the Osher Gunsberg podcast and his book which is called Back After the Break.

It is really important as human beings that we reach out and create social connections, often people don’t reach out for fear of being judged when in fact many people have experience with mental health issues themselves or within their family and will be quite accepting if not helpful. Brene Brown has written much about vulnerability and how it is strength, not weakness. Reaching out feels vulnerable but ultimately is powerful.

Good social connections not only improve our overall mental health and wellbeing, they also build our resilience. A Harvard study that has been going for over 80 years has found that it is good relationships that keep us happier and healthier. “The surprising finding is that our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health”, said Robert Waldinger, director of the study. “Taking care of your body is important, but tending to your relationships is a form of self-care too. That, I think, is the revelation.”

Reach out to others, share the journey – you can help others and they can help you, you don’t have to do it alone.

Here is a link to the main source of information for this blog post, Word Mental Health Day, here: https://1010.org.au/

Fiona Kane is a Nutritional Medicine Practitioner, Holistic Counsellor, Transformational Life Coach, Professional Speaker, Podcaster and writer on Health and Nutrition and the founder of Informed Health Pty Ltd, holding an Advanced Diploma of Nutritional Medicine, Diploma in Holistic Counselling and Life Care and Certificate in Transformational Life Coaching. Fiona is registered and accredited with Australian Traditional-Medicine Society (ATMS), Australia’s largest professional association of complementary medicine practitioners. Fiona has been in practice for 11 years.