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Woman looking sad and holding head in her hands and a green awareness ribbon

October is Mental Health Month in NSW, Victoria and the ACT. Mental Health Month is an opportunity to raise awareness around mental health and well-being. October 10 is World Mental Health Day. The link between mental health and disability is clear and goes both ways. 

Mental Illness is very common, with one in five Australians aged 16 – 85 experiencing a mental illness in any year. Even in the context of a global pandemic, it is still a subject that some people just don’t want to talk about. Overcoming the stigma of mental illness is something that as a society we need to work towards. Stigma is when someone negatively views you because you have a distinguishing characteristic or personal trait that is considered a disadvantage.

Stigma discourages people from seeking help. Like most health problems, mental illness is easier to treat if diagnosed and recognised early. Stigma also makes recovery harder. Mental well-being has a lot to do with staying active and engaged, living a contributing life and feeling accepted by others as part of the community. The more involvement that you have in your community the better you feel generally.

Stigma causes and encourages discrimination. Fear and ignorance about mental illness contribute to discrimination, making it harder for people with a mental illness to find work, a place to live and just to be accepted as members of society. People have been treated as less competent after revealing their mental illnesses.

Read: How to get a Mental Health Care Plan

Psychosocial disability is a term used to describe a disability that may arise from a mental health issue.

Not everyone with a mental health condition will have a psychosocial disability, but for people who do, it can be severe, and longstanding and impact their recovery. People with a disability due to their mental health condition may qualify for the NDIS. The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is designed to support people with disabilities to increase their independence and fully participate in community and working life. You can find information and resources on mental health and the NDIS on the NDIS website. 

The NDIS is designed to work alongside other systems; that is, it is not designed to replace all the other funded services that Governments may provide. So, according to the NDIA, typically, a person with a psychosocial disability, may well have a funded plan with support from the NDIS but they would be involved with other services such as clinical mental health services or community mental health services.

Battling stigma in mainstream society is one of the biggest challenges for both mental health service providers and people with mental illness and psychosocial disabilities. Stigma causes isolation, and the fear of negative attitudes and community misunderstanding can cause people to withdraw from society. Less interaction with others only leads to loneliness and makes it harder for people to cope with the symptoms of mental illness, or to seek help.

Read: The Basics of Mental Health

hands cupping a line drawing of a brain in the sunlight

Social isolation and withdrawal discourage people from sharing their stories which reduces the communities awareness in general.

The effects on family and friends are often unrecognised. It can be very upsetting to see a person that you care for going through something that you feel you cannot help with.

Stigmatising attitudes make society harsher and less considerate or supportive of people affected by mental illness.

Mental Health awareness is represented by a green ribbon, so wear something green this October to support Mental Health Awareness. The colour green was used to label people who were considered insane in the 1800s.

Read: Look after your mental health in the COVID-19 crisis

Things that you can do to help support someone with mental illness:

  1. Make a Promise to be more aware
  2. Help someone seek support
  3. Write down your concerns
  4. Support someone in your life
  5. Listen

Read: In Light of Lockdown: A Mental Health Refresh

The Blue Tree Project

Have you seen a blue tree? Well, The Blue Tree Project is a movement standing up for mental health; many people have now joined the movement and have painted a dead tree blue with "R U OK?" written on it. This is to help raise awareness in the regional communities. What a fantastic idea. If you come across a blue tree, you know why and can stop and take a photo of the tree in support of mental health awareness.

Image of a dead tree painted blue standing in barren dry paddock.

The more awareness we can create around depression and other mental health illnesses, the more people will realise it’s not a bad thing to talk about your problems with someone. How many lives are lost each year because people will not ask for help when they truly need it?

Always take time out to check on your mates and your family members; you might just ask someone they are ok at the right time.

Read: Self-care in the time of COVID-19

If you or someone you know needs help call:

There is a lot of help available; please be aware that not everyone is ok and coping with life and it is okay to ask for help.

IDEAS does information so you can do life.