It's Mental Health Week and one of the main aims of this week is to raise much needed awareness of mental health issues within our community. One in five Australians aged 16-85, experience a mental illness in any given year, that's 20% of us!! With statistics suggesting 45% of Australians will experience a mental illness in their lifetime. Every day at least six Australians die from suicide and a further thirty attempt to take their own life, this is happening and we need to be able to talk about it. By talking we create awareness, which creates space for understanding and acceptance to take place. By not talking about it we feed the belief that mental illness is bad, shameful and needs to be kept out of sight. So let's talk!  You can see from those numbers that people suffering from mental illness are not alone, yet it can feel like one of the loneliest experiences of your life. One of the main reasons for this is the stigma attached to mental illness. Our society isn’t always the biggest supporter of differences (massive understatement, but that’s another issue for another blog post) and as a result, mental illness is often viewed in a negative light. These negative attitudes create prejudice, which can lead to negative actions and discrimination, so it's not surprising to discover 65% of sufferers do not access treatment. 

I've struggled with mental health issues on and off throughout my life. Depression, anxiety, panic attacks, agoraphobia which all lead to (at different times) self-harm, self medicating and suicidal thoughts. I didn't want people to know how much I was struggling, so I self medicated, a lot. I relied on different pills to get me through situations allowing me to keep up the lie that I was okay. I'm not putting this out there for judgment or sympathy or for it to be about me, because it's not and I don't want it to be. I'm putting it out there because I don't want to hide and contribute to the problem. What I've learnt from my experience so far is that mental illness isn't bad, it isn't shameful, it is just mental illness. Society likes to tell you what's normal and what's not and it likes to make you think what's not "normal" is bad/weak/damaged/crazy/wrong/less than etc but in reality, it just is what it is and it's okay.

We can make a difference by educating ourselves, by approaching differences with genuine care, openness and curiosity instead of judgement, by not discriminating, by offering the same love and support to someone with a mental illness as you would a physical illness, by challenging negative stereotypes and speaking up. Kindness and acceptance goes a long way!  

If you would like to check out what is happening in your area for mental health week, check out this website. If you would like more information on mental illness (there is so much out there) you can find some here, here or here!

Much love xx

P.S An important reminder from Calming Manatee