The (often) Misunderstood World of Mental Health

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Never before has mental health been such an important and relevant subject and condition that requires support and attention. Once the hidden away, socially ignored, “crazy, so stay away mindset” and now the subject of mental health is well and truly open for discussion on social media platforms, homes, therapist practices, offices and video conferencing channels. All too often, mental health and the associated tags that go with mental health have long been misunderstood, judged and in some cases not taken seriously. Even prior to the global health pandemic that has added to the rates of mental health related issues, there was a momentum building to open a conversation about this very subject with phrases being marketed and used create awareness; “RUok” is now common vernacular used to enquire about the status of a person’s mental health.

Australia’s History of Mental Health

Australia has a recorded history of managing mental health since the first fleet arrived in 1788. When the convicts arrived, placing all those deemed ‘insane’ into a locked area nearby. Australia had its first psychiatric facility in 1811; previously individuals with mental illnesses were placed together with convicts and criminals. With the introduction of a psychiatric facility, it was the first time the mentally disturbed were identified as separate.

One of the key moments in Australia’s history with mental health, was its de-institutionalisation in 1992. This came about after the Richmond report was released, which investigated the rumours of abuse and injustices towards the patients of these institutions. However, it still took over a decade before the change was made, and there were and are still controversies over whether or not the change did any good..

The first mental health care plan that was implemented nation-wide was introduced in 1992; currently there have been five national mental health care plans. Each mental health care strategy is amended every few years, for example, the most recent plans occurred in 2012 and 2017, highlighting governments’ awareness and the increasing needs to manage the mental health of Australians.

Understanding Mental Health 

To understand what mental health is and what is meant by the broad term “mental health” it is best to start with the dictionary meaning;

 “A person’s condition; with regard to their psychological and emotional well-being”.

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1.    Depression

Meaning: Feelings of severe despondency and dejection.

Depression is characterised by persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life.

Possible causes include a combination of biological, psychological and social sources of distress. Increasingly, research suggests that these factors may cause changes in brain function, including altered activity of certain neural circuits in the brain.

The persistent feeling of sadness or loss of interest that characterises major depression can lead to a range of behavioural and physical symptoms. These may include changes in sleep, appetite, energy level, concentration, daily behaviour or self-esteem. Depression can also be associated with thoughts of suicide.

The mainstay of treatment is usually medication, talk therapy or a combination of the two. Increasingly, research suggests that these treatments may normalise brain changes associated with depression.

2.    Anxiety

Meaning: A feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome.

A mental health disorder characterised by feelings of worry, anxiety or fear that are strong enough to interfere with one’s daily activities.

Causes of Anxiety are stress that’s out of proportion to the impact of the event, inability to set aside a worry and restlessness. Ongoing stressful situations — such as job issues or changes, unstable accommodation, family or relationship breakdown and grief can put you at risk of anxiety. Any kind of abuse (such as physical, sexual, verbal or domestic abuse), as well as life-threatening events or pregnancy and childbirth, can also be a contributing factor and increase the risk of experiencing anxiety. These stress related situations can manifest panic attacks, obsessive compulsive disorder and post traumatic stress disorder.

Treatment includes counseling or medication, including antidepressants.

3.    Bi-Polar

Meaning: A disorder associated with episodes of mood swings ranging from depressive lows to manic highs. Bi-Polar is also known as manic depression.

The exact cause of bipolar disorder isn’t known, but a combination of genetics, environment and altered brain structure and chemistry may play a role.

Characteristics maybe manic episodes that include symptoms such as high energy, reduced need for sleep and loss of touch with reality. Depressive episodes may include symptoms such as low energy, low motivation and loss of interest in daily activities. Mood episodes last days to months at a time and may also be associated with suicidal thoughts.

Treatment is usually life-long and often involves a combination of medications and psychotherapy.

4.    Suicide

Meaning: Suicide, from Latin suicidium, is “the act of taking one’s own life”. Attempted suicide or non-fatal suicidal behavior is self-injury with at least some desire to end one’s life that does not result in death.

Suicide, taking your own life, is a tragic reaction to stressful life situations — and all the more tragic because suicide can be prevented. Whether you’re considering suicide or know someone who feels suicidal, learn suicide warning signs and how to reach out for immediate help and professional treatment. You may save a life — your own or someone else’s.

It may seem like there’s no way to solve your problems and that suicide is the only way to end the pain. But you can take steps to stay safe — and start enjoying your life again.

Schizophrenia and psychotic disorder as well as dementia, are also conditions which make up the mental health diagnosis. For more detailed information it is advised to consult your medical professional for management and or treatment.

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Balanced Mental Health 

It’s normal at various times to feel sad, stressed, angry or anxious. But when these feelings last for longer than usual and start to affect your everyday life, it’s important to find out what’s going on and what you can do about it.

If you are suffering with your mental health and unsure where or who to turn to rest assured; you’re not alone. In Australia, it is estimated 45 per cent* of people will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime, with three million Australians* currently living with depression or anxiety. *Beyond Blue

Your mental health,

Your emotional health

Your spiritual health

Are ALL As Important As

Your physical health

Take a Moment and Follow the Steps

Here is a meditation to build into your daily routine.

The breathing helps to create awareness and still your mind to manage run-a-way thoughts and also those thoughts that repeat on loop, constant mind chatter, and / or control excessive worry.

Take a moment and notice the world around you;

Listen to your breathing;

Take three deep breaths;

One – take a deep breath in

Two – take a deep breath in

Three – take a deep breath in

What do you see – feel – hear –

Right Now?

For now in this moment, just be –

Be in this moment

Close your eyes

Repeat the three deep breaths

Calm your mind

Rest your body

Repeat three times

Repeat daily

Repeat as you feel the need as the awareness arises

If you or someone you know needs help (in Australia) please call:

  • Lifeline 13 11 14
  • Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636
  • Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800

Mental Health is a subject that is of critical importance and one that I have managed in my own life, through loss, support and personal experience. With treatment, management, love and support combined with medical strategies, pain, suffering and tragedy can be avoided.

Sally x

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