It’s World Mental Health Day, Are We Still Terrified of Talking About Mental Illness?

In 2012, it was normal for me to have never smoked and always be craving a cigarette. Late at night, an anxiety would fill my body that couldn’t be quelled with video games or YouTube. So I would mime smoking a cigarette on a Wagga Wagga couch, hoping for a day when this feeling would vanish. 

However, as previously stated, this feeling was supposedly normal. I was eighteen at the time, and nobody had told me that this was somewhat unusual. I even checked in with some adults that I trusted. I tried to explain to them how uncomfortable the inside of my body felt and was cut short, they told me I was fine. 

Little did I know, the helplessness that I felt was being echoed by Professor Allan Fels, the chair of 2012’s National Mental Health Commission. In this inaugural paper, he wrote, “We know that people want to help but they don’t always know where to start, either at home, with friends, in the community, or at work. They struggle to know how to talk about it, and they worry that intervening will make things worse.”

“We’re not taught how to help, and information on what to do isn’t nearly as well-known as it should be. It used to be like this for other illnesses, for example, cancer, but times have changed and attitudes and behaviours have moved on. It’s now mental health’s time.”

Fortunately though, for Fel, Australia, and I, 2012 didn’t last forever. More reports came out. Mental health advocates continued to fight the good fight. A lot of folks talked about their own mental health journeys. They were brave, honest, and transparent.

Bit by bit, Australia’s mental health landscape changed. You can’t see it while you’re crawling through the muck. But if you were to turn back, you’d be amazed at how far 2012 is from now. 

Related: How to Help Your Mates When They Don’t Want Mental Health Help

Related: My Dudes, There’s No Shame in Taking Meds or Going to Therapy for Your Mental Health

Positive Changes

In 2016, I went to a GP and got diagnosed with a general anxiety disorder. Since learning how my noggin works, I have a bunch of strategies that make living day-to-day so much easier. I no longer crave the cigarettes that I never smoked each night.

In 2019, the market research company Ipsos conducted a survey about mental health attitudes in Australia. Ipsos noted that 70% of the Aussies that they interviewed expressed that mental illness is an illness, like any other. Which, while far from ideal, puts us in front of many other countries.  

As Ipsos’ Julia Knapp explained, “Previous Ipsos research shows that mental health hasn’t just become a mainstream health concern for Australians, it’s our number one health concern.”

In 2020, the Australian Psychological Society (APS) touted the Federal Government of the time for increasing the number of Medicare-funded psychology sessions from ten to 20.

The APS President, Ros Knight, said at the time, “Doubling of the sessions is a significant win for all Australians, in all parts of the country, and for the psychologists who work tirelessly to support them.”

“This is potentially the best mental health-related news we could have hoped for from a Federal Budget delivered in the midst of a mental health crisis.”

More Needs to Be Done

As previously noted, it’s awful that some Australians believe that mental illness isn’t an illness like any other. We cannot let ignorance, hate, and misinformation have a foothold in this country. More needs to be done to make sure to normalise the range of conditions folks live with. 

Moreover, some people are still falling through the cracks. Just the other day, a mate of mine Instagrammed the fact that their 20 free sessions ran out. They don’t have the cash to keep meeting their psych, so the next couple of months are going to be super tough for them. This fact is soulbreaking. Nobody should ever be put in this position. 

This means we have to keep on advocating for better mental health support. We have to keep on fighting the good fight. We have to make 2032 a better year than 2022. 

Good luck to us all. Let’s keep moving.

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