Coinciding with World Mental Health Week (7-13 October) and World Mental Health Day (10 October), the state of New South Wales (NSW) will be paying homage to the hard work within the mental health sector, as well as trailing a new virtual mentoring program for young people.
World Mental Health Day on 10 October is expected to be the biggest yet with more than 700 organisations, community groups, charities and companies to join forces, alongside an official Guinness World Record Attempt in Wagga Wagga, for the most number of people wearing high visibility vests in a single location.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Mental Health Australia, Frank Quinlan says this year’s response has been the biggest ever.
“Year-on-year the interest in World Mental Health Day continues to grow and to me that’s a clear sign that we are reducing stigma, and more and more people are prepared to talk and hopefully seek help.”
A virtual mentoring program - ‘Being Herd Digital Peer Support Pilot’ - will be trialled at Hornsby Hospital’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Unit during the awareness month, with the aim to help young people with mental illness.
It will be delivered with the hospital and youth mental health organisation, Batyr and a $50,000 investment from the State Government.
“The trial will see young mental health patients access carefully curated stories of personal experience, on an iPad or computer, shared firsthand by people who know what it’s like to be cared for in hospital for mental health reasons,” Minister for Mental Health, Tanya Davies says.
“We want young people to see and hear courageous stories of recovery while they are in our care, because we know this has a profoundly positive impact on their recovery.”
Ms Davies explains nearly half of all Australians will experience some form of mental illness during their lifetime and those who don’t will likely know someone who will.
CEO of WayAhead (Mental Health Association NSW) Elizabeth Priestley says in the last decade, the profile of Mental Health Month has increased considerably, but there is “still a long way to go”.
“People are becoming much more engaged about talking about mental health as an issue and improving health seeking behaviour,” she says.
Since beginning work in the mental health sector in the 1990s, Ms Priestley says she has noticed a massive improvement in attitude and willingness to talk about mental health, despite stigma being an issue in all communities.
She explains that improving the mental health of all Australians is a collaborative effort between multiple organisations and individuals.
“It’s people engaging with neighbours and friends and GPs engaging with their patients in not only physical but mental health needs as well,”
Ms Priestly explains that people with mental health issues miss “a normal life”, often facing barriers in social networking and secure housing, income and employment.
“It’s about making sure people have a standard of living which we all desire,” she says.
“[It’s] certainly what we are pushing for and it’s the key to improving mental health and getting people to seek help when they need it.”
A number of community events will also be held throughout the month to help raise awareness and open the conversation for people who may need help with their mental health.
“Local community events are always great, particularly in regional and rural areas as there is less going on and the level of stigma [towards mental health] is a little bit higher than city areas.
Ms Priestly describes the events as “wonderful” and a great opportunity for people to proudly share their own struggles with mental health.
“It's getting out there and waving the flag for better mental health and helping local people find information on where they can go when they are looking for extra advice.”
Eight community groups, individuals and programs were also acknowledged as part of the Mental Health Matters Awards on 27 September, ahead of the awareness month.
“All the people nominated don't realise they're doing something quite remarkable and it’s showing the rest of community the wonderful work being done in the sector,” Ms Priestley says.
To find events near you or for more information go to 1010.org.au
To find Mental Health Month events near you click here.