Mental health has only recently begun to receive the attention it deserves. Not being a visual or obvious injury or illness, makes it challenging to identify who and with those with mental health issues. Sociocultural awareness and attitudes to mental health also affect how it is acknowledged, treated and managed. Mental health may not be as straight-forward to treat as physical health, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be managed.
Mental health is distinct from mental illness; the former refers to ‘a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community’. Mental illness is ‘a behavioural or mental pattern that causes significant distress or impairment of personal functioning’. Being devoid of mental illness does not necessarily equate to good mental health.
Mental health statistics in Australia are confronting – these were obtained from Beyond Blue;
One in seven Australians will experience depression in their lifetime.
One quarter of Australians will experience an anxiety condition in their lifetime.
One in 16 Australians is currently experiencing depression.
One in seven Australians is currently experiencing an anxiety condition.
One in six Australians is currently experiencing depression or anxiety or both.
The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly changed the way we live. All of the things we’re used to doing each week — going to school and work, catching up with friends and family, going out for dinner, playing sport, going on holidays — every last one of them have changed. Many people have lost their jobs and there is uncertainty about how COVID-19 will affect jobs and the economy into the future. And, for people working in health care and essential services, work pressures have never been greater. Being aware of how you’re feeling and knowing what you can do to look after your mental wellbeing is an important part of staying healthy during this challenging time.
Tips for looking after your mental health from Beyond Blue:
- Media coverage: find a healthy balance and limit news and social media if you and your family find it too distressing.
- Sources of information: access credible information from government and health authorities (i.e. Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Australian Government and World Health Organisation (WHO)).
- Maintain perspective: remember that experts around the world are working hard to help. Also, while coronavirus can affect anyone, those with the disease haven’t done anything wrong so don’t make assumptions.
- Stay calm and be practical: follow advice from credible sources (see above), and resist the urge to panic, as this makes it harder for authorities to manage the outbreak effectively.
- Stay connected and/or seek support: keep in touch with your family, friends, colleagues or professional support services by phone, video call, social media or email.
- Stick to a routine: aim to get plenty of sleep, maintain physical activity, eat healthy foods and allocate specific work hours and breaks. If you’re feeling frustrated about your current experience it can help to think about what positive habits you might be able to develop, such as spending more time with the family members within your household, getting to know your neighbourhood and cooking more.
- Financial support: visit the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to find relevant information for Victorians, or call the National Debt Helpline.
The Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Service is available 24/7 at coronavirus.beyondblue.org.au. There is a dedicated phone line, staffed by mental health professionals briefed on the pandemic response, that is also is now open on 1800 512 348.