By Cassandra Barrett, Mental Health Promotion and Resource Officer.
Mental Health Week is something that should matter to all of us.
45% – nearly 1 in 2 Australians – will experience mental illness at some point in their lifetime. It’s a virtual certainty that every one of us will have a loved one – a partner, child, friend, colleague – who is affected by mental illness, whether we’re aware of it or not. And every one of us can play a role, no matter how small, in helping to create a society that’s more open and inclusive.
Stigma can have a devastating impact on a person’s self-esteem, wellbeing, and connection to community. In fact, research tells us that many people who live with mental illness say that it’s not the symptoms of their illness that they find most distressing; but rather, how other people respond to them as a result of it.
We need to remember the importance of getting to know the person behind the label.
We have the opportunity every day with the people we encounter – whether that’s at home, at work, or in our community – to make a choice: to dismiss someone because of what we see on the surface; or to extend a little kindness, and take the time to get to know the person underneath. We may not realise it, but even the smallest of gestures can change someone’s life for the better.
This Mental Health Week, I vow that I will always make the effort to look beyond the surface. I encourage everyone to reflect on what your Mental Health Week pledge will be. Do you need to take better care of yourself and your wellbeing? Is there something you can do to support someone you’re worried about? Or can you help to change the culture around mental illness and stigma? We all have a part to play.
In closing, I borrow these wise words from former President Bill Clinton:
Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shame us all.
An excerpt from a presentation by Cassie Barrett at Jewish Care on World Mental Health Day.