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World Mental Health Day - talking through big anxieties

08 October 2019

Mental Health Australia - the peak not-for-profit organisation representing the mental health sector in Australia - leads the World Mental Health Day campaign on 10 October.

Challenging perceptions about mental illness - the misconceptions and misrepresentations about those experiencing mental illness that are damaging to people’s lives – Mental Health Australia wants us all to promise publicly to talk about the issues and help reduce stigma around mental health issues experienced by people.

One in five Australians are affected by metal health issues, they form part of our close circles of family, friends and colleagues. Every day we interact and yet few of us would think to check in on our own well-being let alone the well-being of others. And how many times have we heard references to people who are affected by mental health issues as being ‘scary’, ‘comical’, ‘incompetent’, ‘weak’ or ‘hopeless’? This sort of talk delays or prevents people from wanting or feeling able to seek help and impacts adversely on their lives. They are the sort of references that appear anywhere, from in the media and the arts to conversations we have at work, school or home. It’s time to change that language and build community-wide acceptance for everyone.

The issue for all of us is to be able to empathise, especially when neuroscientific evidence suggests that we direct empathy to people we perceive to be ‘like us’. The difficulty for each of us is to go further than this: to understand how to deal with another’s distress and listen effectively no matter who they are.

There are events happening around the country to mark World Mental Health Day. In Sydney it coincides with The Big Anxiety Festival which runs until November. The Big Anxiety brings together artists, scientists and communities to question and re-imagine the state of mental health in the 21st century.

Tackling the major anxieties of our times with the goal of creating the rich engagements needed for our collective mental health, The Big Anxiety is an initiative of UNSW Sydney in association with the Black Dog Institute and partners in the cultural, education and health sectors.

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