Small steps toward better mental health

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In Australia, there is arguably more mental health awareness now than ever before. This includes greater knowledge around the wide prevalence of certain conditions such as anxiety and depression, which has led to the commencement of a number of initiatives in recent times.

Ben Steel in promotional image from The Show Must Go On.The launch of a Wellness Roadshow took place during Mental Health Week at Arts Centre Melbourne around the documentary The Show Must Go On, which delves into mental wellbeing in the entertainment industry. The film was conceived by former Home and Away actor Ben Steele (pictured), sparked by his own experiences of anxiety and depression after being written out of the show. This led him to interview 63 people from the industry, including actor Sam Neill and ballerina Benedicte Bemet, about their mental health.

The roadshow is supported by mental wellbeing organisations the Arts Wellbeing Collective and Entertainment Assist. Entertainment Assist have found in phase two of a research study that in the entertainment industry, the levels of moderate to severe anxiety symptoms are ten times higher and those of depression symptoms are five times higher than in the general population. Phase three findings are scheduled to be released this year. 

Excerpts of the documentary were shown at the event. They highlighted that challenges in mental wellbeing were shared by all the interviewees. While the film focuses on this particular industry, it speaks to the shared humanity in mental wellbeing and therefore may contribute to the awareness-raising campaign for the Australian community more broadly. It is currently streaming on ABC iview

The Wellness Roadshow was launched by Martin Foley MP, who referred to Victoria's Royal Commission into Mental Health, the first of its kind in Australia. The commission is due to release an interim report this November and the final report in the new year. The Commission has received over 2500 submissions and is led by Professor Patrick McGorry AO. It will focus on actions to change Victoria's mental health system for the better.

It will be important to see how it is implemented as well as how it deals with the relationship between mental and physical health that was highlighted in a study by the Lancet Psychiatry in July of this year. Notably, the last National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing took place over ten years ago in 2007 with no further funding allocated for a follow-up survey

It is recognised that Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) Communities in Australia have a significantly lower level of access to mental health care and support. The National Multicultural Mental Health Project led by Mental Health Australia, which focuses on mental health and suicide prevention for people from CALD backgrounds, is in progress and due for completion by 31 December 2020.

 

"There are small steps being taken to increase mental health awareness, to provide services that cater for the diverse needs of the Australian population and to promote mental wellbeing more broadly."

 

The project has included the development of Embrace Multicultural Mental Health, an online platform where both communities and services can access resources in 22 languages. 

For women, according to a national survey, almost half had been diagnosed with anxiety or depression. The survey was conducted by Jean Hailes for Women's Health, the full results of which are due to be published this year. Experiences of anxiety are higher in women, with one in three women experiencing it in contrast with one in five men. 

Further, an online, eight-week Wellbeing Course, developed by Macquarie University's Associate Professor Dear and Professor Titov, is supporting men with mental health concerns. It targets men from across Australia and allows for anonymity in order to encourage the participation of those who otherwise may not access services due to various reasons including stigma.

Considering that an average of six men die by suicide in Australia every day, this is a welcome initiative. While it has been widely recognised that the contributing factors to anxiety and depression are multiple, men are generally more reluctant to seek help, further highlighting the importance of these initiatives. The eCentreClinic is accepting applications for a course beginning on 11 November

There is still a long way to go before Australian society is free of mental health stigmas and adequate services are funded and accessible. This is especially important for Australians who are at the intersections of multiple oppressions along race, class, gender and ableism lines, as well as those who are suffering the most severe mental illnesses.

Nevertheless, there are small steps being taken to increase mental health awareness, to provide services that cater for the diverse needs of the Australian population and to promote mental wellbeing more broadly.

 

 

Bree Alexander's words have appeared with Enchanting Verses, Westerly Magazine and Australian Multilingual Writing Project. Under pseudonym Lika Posamari, she was shortlisted for the Overland Fair Australia Prize 2018 (NTEU category) and published a poetry chapbook The Eye as it Inhales Onions.

Main image: Ben Steel in promotional image from The Show Must Go On.

Topic tags: Bree Alexander, mental health

 

 

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Existing comments

...gotta love those statistics. 40% of women and 20% (identified) of males who apparently are not likely to discuss their wellbeing. Obviously anxiety and depression are undesirable conditions but based on this data it appears to be quite common, almost "normal" in its occurrence if not its manifestation. The question of discrimination arises; does society legislate to prevent and protect all affected persons from loss of rights and privileges or allow for certain types of intervention or exclusion. Concealing a stigma under your hat remains the preferred method of choice; you can look ok and keep those lifes little conveniences/necessities like a Blue card, drivers license, visitation rights...and ability to practice in certain professions, and how about that firearms permit? I can't see them right now but a little paranoid voice just pointed out the flaw with anonymity and online survey in the same sentence... Ask youself something honestly; if you must choose one surgeon of two equally qualified to attend a child, would you knowingly select the one with anxiety?
Ray | 23 October 2019


The loud noises about improving "mental health and wellbeing" are little more than window dressing. The services are very hard to find. What is worse is that the efforts to reduce stigma by being "positive" has taken away the emphasis from very severe illnesses wrongly referred to as "mental. Such illnesses have a demonstrable physiological basis which manifests in often unacceptable or bizarre behaviour. Such illnesses need assertive and constant treatment to achieve amelioration. It is generally accepted that a cure is not likely. Effective treatment and care are very hard to obtain, if not impossible especially for adolescents. I am close to some people who suffer in this way. I worry that I can do so little for them. Mental Health Week/Month offers me a solution. Every time I turn on the radio or the TV, I am invited to commit suicide to escape my distress. The spike in suicide rates may well be because suicide has become a well publicised option
Sheela Egan | 24 October 2019


In response to Ray's question, I would choose the surgeon with anxiety as they are more aware of what could go wrong and the principle of "do no harm." Cowboy surgeons--no thanks.
Elly | 26 October 2019


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