World Mental Health Day is an annual day held on the 10th October as part of Mental Health Week to raise public awareness of mental health across the globe.
Mental Health Australia is encouraging everyone to look after their mental health and to make a personal promise to do so. With the world currently experiencing a global pandemic, it is now more important than ever, that we look after our mental health and encourage others to do the same.
What is mental health?
The World Health Organization defines mental health, as “a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”
Galderisi and her colleagues (2015) provide a newer and more holistic definition of mental health. They not only highlight the significance of one’s social background, culture and values which help to frame our view of mental health, but also the importance of coping with adversity and regulating our emotions; showing empathy for others which enhances our connection, as well as acknowledging an individual’s cognitive and social skills that impacts our everyday living.
The authors furthermore acknowledge the importance of the mind-body connection and how this too influences our mental health and overall wellbeing. They define mental health as follows:
“Mental health is a dynamic state of internal equilibrium which enables individuals to use their abilities in harmony with universal values of society. Basic cognitive and social skills; ability to recognize, express and modulate one’s own emotions, as well as empathize with others; flexibility and ability to cope with adverse life events and function in social roles; and harmonious relationship between body and mind represent important components of mental health which contribute, to varying degrees, to the state of internal equilibrium.” (Galderisi et al, 2015)
1 in 5 Australians…
Approximately 1 in 5 Australians experience a mental illness and almost half (45%) of Australians report that they would have met the criteria for a diagnosis of a mental disorder at some point in their life (AIHW, 2020).
The most prevalent mental disorders experienced by Australians are anxiety, depression and substance use disorder. In Australia, suicide is the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 15 – 24 years at 37% (AIHW, 2020).
If this is you, please visit or speak to your doctor today. We all have a role to play in our own mental health and wellbeing, and by taking action ourselves, we can inspire the people around us to do the same. Having this conversation also helps to reduce the stigma around mental illness and helps to raise awareness on this important issue, and in particular that it’s okay to reach out for help (and not a sign of weakness!).
Improving our mental health has many benefits – our day-to-day functioning, learning and productivity increases. Our relationships with our loved ones and peers improve, and so too does our overall physical health, with an increase in life expectancy too (BeyondBlue, 2020).
So what can you do?
Start by making a Mental Health Promise to yourself today
I have, and it’s simple. In the spirit of sharing, my mental health promise is to…
“Keep smiling and to find joy in the little things in life (even when I’m having a bad hair day!). And when I’m having a not so good day, I promise to be kind to myself, to count my blessings, and to focus on the present moment by remaining hopeful that this too shall pass…”
I also promise to travel more (when it’s safe to do so) – to visit different destinations and try local cuisine – both locally, and from far and wide…
As captured in this photo, I am not only smiling because my husband and I are cruising through beautiful Halong Bay in Vietnam (last year), but also because it’s very windy and as a result, my hair was getting tangled amongst my sunglasses.
For me, this is a lovely reminder to not ‘sweat the small stuff’, to be present in that moment and to always find joy in the experiences of life.
We were visiting this beautiful destination – one of the world’s great natural wonders and despite what the weather was doing to my hair, I chose to not let this bother me, but to savour the moment and smile instead – to always keep smiling! 😊
To make a mental health promise, you don’t need to have a mental illness – you just need to have an interest in your own good health.
So just like we take good care of our physical health by eating well and exercising on a regular basis, it’s also important that we look after our mental health. This not only benefits us and our loved ones, but also the world at large.
So make your own mental health promise today and be part of a world-wide movement to improve mental wellbeing in our community. If you’re stuck on ideas, check out the promises people are making on the Promise Wall – you may just be inspired.
If you’re struggling with your personal mental health at the moment, please visit or speak to your doctor today, or call Lifeline on 13 11 14. Lifeline’s counsellors are trained professionals who can help and support you.
Beyond Blue also has some excellent resources and in particular, Looking after your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak is a good read. So too is the Australian Psychological Society’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) information for Australians.
Until next time, wishing you all great health and wellbeing, including good mental health.
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Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2020. Mental health services in Australia. Canberra: AIHW. https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/mental-health-services/mental-health-services-in-australia
BeyondBlue (2020). https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/what-is-mental-health
Galderisi et al. (2015). Toward a new definition of mental health. World Psychiatry. 2015 Jun; 14(2): 231–233. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4471980/
Mental Health Australia. https://mhaustralia.org/
World Health Organization (2020). https://www.who.int/teams/mental-health-and-substance-use.
World Mental Health Day (2020). https://lookafteryourmentalhealthaustralia.org.au/.