While we pay significant attention to our physical
health, the mental aspect of health is sometimes
overlooked. When we do raise mental health
issues, most people relate the use of word ‘mental’
to denote mental illness, whereas we need to
emphasise more positive and healthy connotations
of the understanding of the term. Mental health
really encompasses an ability to realise one’s full
potential, an ability to cope with the stressors of
life and being able to make a contribution to the
community and society at large.
At its core, mental health involves having an inner,
deeper connection with ‘self’ and being at peace
with oneself. The rich Aboriginal culture of Australia
portrays mental health as ‘social and emotional
wellbeing’, with a deeply ingrained spiritual element.
There is a lot to be learned from such holistic models of wellbeing. Modern
societies, at times, medicalise and pathologise normal human emotions and
behaviours – something that needs to be carefully avoided.
We all go through periods of grief, sadness or nervousness due to
bereavement, loss or stress; the last thing we need is to apply a psychiatric
diagnostic label to those normal human emotions in response to real-life
stressors. However, if those emotional or psychological issues become
severe or persistent, it is important to seek professional help, to ensure
early intervention. Untreated, mental health issues can progress to major
depression, anxiety disorders, drug and alcohol abuse/dependence,
psychosis and even suicidal tendencies.
One in five Australians experience one or more of these types of mental
disorders in any given year and more than 2000 people in Australia die by
suicide every year. Seeking help during moments of vulnerability is not
a sign of weakness, and mental health issues are nothing to feel ashamed
or stigmatised about. While social support of family and friends is always
a good place to start, professional help may be sought if the emotional/
psychological issues start to cause significant distress or dysfunction. Your
General Practitioner (GP) is often well-placed to provide that initial mental
health input. The GP can prepare a mental health care plan to refer an
individual to a psychologist or the GP/treating medical/surgical specialist
may make a referral to a psychiatrist for mental health assessment and
input, if needed.
pindaramagazine.com.au Pindara Magazine | 19