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Small steps toward better mental health

  • 23 October 2019


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.

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