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October is Mental Health and Wellbeing Month

Wellbeing time

From the Director of Wellbeing, Matthew Porter

Welcome to Term 4. I hope you all enjoyed a relaxing time away from school with family and friends.

Tuesday 10 October is World Mental Health Day and this coincides with Mental Health and Wellbeing month in Australia. The aim is to encourage all of us to better understand the importance of looking after our mental health and wellbeing.

The National Mental Health Commission (2016) views the key benefits of this initiative as promoting the importance of “social and emotional wellbeing to the community, encouraging people to maximise their health potential, enhancing the coping capacity of communities, families, individuals and increasing mental health recovery”.

When people have a physical injury or illness, they usually feel comfortable and confident in seeking help from medical professionals. When people suffer from a mental illness they often question whether or not to seek help, either out of shame, embarrassment, or the uncertainty of where and how to seek help. Engaging in conversations about mental illness and how to promote positive mental health and wellbeing helps reduce stigma associated with mental health, encourages positive coping strategies and fosters positive relationships and help seeking behaviours.

To help encourage people to connect with others, the theme for Mental Health Month 2017 is “Share the Journey”. 

This theme focuses on the importance of social connections in our journey to better mental health and our ability to cope with life’s challenges. Good social connections not only improve our overall mental health and wellbeing, they also build our resilience. Connecting with others is important for our health and survival. Research tells us that feeling connected, valued and loved by others gives us a sense of security, support, purpose and happiness. Close connections and good relationships with others allows us to enjoy the good times in our lives and helps us deal with the hard experiences we face. This is important for all of us!

Unfortunately in today’s society, we have many demands on our attention and time, and more people experience loneliness in Australia than ever before. For those experiencing or living with mental illness, loneliness can be far worse as individuals can face social exclusion, stigma and discrimination. As social beings, this can affect all aspects of our wellbeing.

For boys and young men in particular, there is still a stereotype or perception that inhibits speaking up and seeking assistance when they may not be coping so well. At the RUOK assembly at the end of Term 3 our guest speaker, Simon Gillard, stressed the importance of early intervention and seeking help. If we can help people learn more about their own mental health, this can allow them to be more aware of their mental state and the wellbeing of others (WayAhead, Mental Health Association NSW, 2016). Increased awareness can encourage people to speak up or ask for help when things aren’t going well, or alternatively, initiate a positive conversation with a family or friend who may be facing some challenges of their own.

There are six simple steps that we can all take in order to optimize our mental health and wellbeing.

  • Give – doing kind things for others has reciprocal benefits for those involved. Doing nice things for others releases serotonin and oxytocin, which are both feel good hormones in the brain, this can help to lower hear rate blood pressure and help elevate mood.
  • Move – Exercising makes you feel good and helps take your mind off your worries and the stressors of the day.
  • Feel – Tune into your own feelings and you are more likely to notice the emotions of others and respond appropriately during times of need.
  • Connect – Social connectedness and positive relationships with peers and family are one of the biggest protective factors in terms of mental health and wellbeing.
  • Engage – It is easy to become preoccupied with the demands of our hectic day to day lives and to fixate on negative emotions and experiences. Practice mindfulness and immerse yourself in the present moment to help keep things in perspective and avoid feeling snowed under.
  • Keep Learning – Life’s journey always has road bumps, keep setting goals, following your passions and seeking new challenges and opportunities.