The importance of good mental health

Guest Author: Steven Gamble, Founder, Man Anchor

COVID-19 has changed the way we are all living and for millions of Australians how we have been working too. As the weeks pass, we are encouraged to take care of our physical health, but it’s imperative that your mental health or mental wellness is prioritised too.

If you imagine your physical health is on a spectrum - one side is poor physical health and the other is good physical health, it takes effort and work to keep yourself on that good side of the spectrum. Well this is no different with your mental health, sometimes we can neglect this which is an integral part of everyday well-being.

I’ve been often quoted that knowing the more common signs of a mental health disorder is equally important as knowing resuscitation, both can have a profound impact on the lives of our loved ones and the wider community.

When we look statistically at mental health in Australia, 1 in 5 Australians will experience a common mental illness within a 12-month period. The 3 most common mental illnesses affecting Australians aged between 16 – 85 include Anxiety disorders 14%, Depressive and Bipolar disorders 6.2% and Substance Use disorders. Of the 1 in 5 Australians experiencing a mental health disorder only 35% of them seek professional support.

Let’s stop for one moment and think about that statistic - 20% of all Australians will be affected by a mental illness in one year and now let’s think about our friends, family and work colleagues, statistically we will all know someone or will experience a disorder ourselves.

So, knowing the above stats, it’s important that we all have a basic understanding of the more common triggers, signs and symptoms of a worsening or developing mental health problem or illness to be able to support our own wellbeing and that of our loved ones.

Like any illness, early intervention is the key to a successful treatment and being able to recognise these more common signs can be the catalyst for positive professional intervention.

The below is a basic list of the more common triggers to a mental health crisis. Knowing that you or a loved one have experienced a potential trigger and then is presenting with two or more of these common signs & symptoms it is important that you or the individual seek clinical support.

Common triggers to developing mental health crisis or illness

• Stress

• Loss of a loved one

• Traumatic events

• Relationship breakdown

• Alcohol & Drug abuse

• Trauma

• Bullying & intimidation

• Social pressures & expectations

• Financial expectations

• Workplace pressures

• Personal unrealistic expectations

• Discrimination based on sexuality or gender identity

• Domestic Violence

• Infertility & perinatal loss

• Pregnancy

• Menopause

Knowing the more common signs and symptoms of a mental health illness

To clarify, a “Sign” is what you can see in someone & a “Symptom” is what someone can feel and experience.

Behaviour

• Withdrawn

• Not able to complete tasks

• Relying on alcohol or drugs

• Lack of concentration

• Abstaining from social events

Feelings

• Overwhelmed

• Guilty

• Irritable

• Frustrated

• Low Confidence

• Unhappy

• Indecisive

• Disappointed

• Miserable

Physical

• Tired all the time

• Sick & run down

• Headaches & muscle pain

• Churning stomach

• Loss or change in appetite

• Significant weight loss or gain

It’s important to note these are basic indicators, the reality is that someone living with a mental health disorder may not show any of the above signs or symptoms that is why it is important that as a community we continue to build a positive culture around mental health, removing the perceived stigma and barriers to create opportunities for those who feel isolated to reach out for support.

Some simple tips for keeping yourself in good mental health

Get regular sleep:

Most healthy adults need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night to function at their best.

Regular exercise: As a general goal, aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day.

Eat a healthy diet: The best way to eat for health is to choose a variety of foods from each of the 5 food groups every day.

• Limit your alcohol intake: A simple way to achieve this is to give yourself nominated alcohol free days a week.

Set yourself achievable goals: Set yourself realistic goals with a stepped plan on how you will achieve each of your goals.

Talk: Having the ability to communicate about your own wellbeing is key to positive mental health and flexing your emotional muscle. It also provides a green light for those around us to start a positive conversation around mental health.

Keep in touch with friends and family: With social media it easy to think we are keeping in touch but I’m here to tell you looking at a news feed on Facebook and seeing that your friend or family members have got a new puppy or been on a family holiday to Fiji is not keeping connected. Make a conscious decision to pick up the phone and connect with someone each day.

Do what makes you happy: Finding something in your life that brings you personal joy and setting a side 1 or 2 hours a week to do it. It can be something a little indulgent or selfish, but it needs to bring you genuine joy. It’s wonderful way to be able to re-set.

Understand your own limitations: With the hundreds of men and women I speak to in my work with Man Anchor, understating your own limitations is a huge driver to pushing people to the negative side of the spectrum and it’s mostly born from financial pressure and the obsession we have with “keeping up with Joneses”. A large percentage of people live an unsustainable lifestyle both financially and physically to emulate someone else’s perception of happiness. Live your own happy and sustainable life.

Control your work environment: For some of us this is the key to happiness - being able to find a balance between your professional life and personal life.

Understand the signs: Having the basic knowledge of the more common signs and symptoms of a mental health disorder is vital to selfcare. It provides us with the tools to seek support or make lifestyle changes, it also provides us with ability to support others during difficult times with empathy and compassion.

These are undoubtedly challenging times, but DO NOT BE AFRAID NOR HESITATE TO SEEK HELP IF YOU NEED IT. Help and support is there in so many forms from family and friends to health professionals like your GP or psychologist. If you or a loved one needs support, Lifeline is there 24/7 365 days a year 13 11 14.

Look after yourself and each other and remember “A simple conversation could potentially save a life.”

About Steven Gamble

Steven Gamble, Founder, Man Anchor

Steven Gamble founded Man Anchor in 2017 with the hope to engage, educate and empower the community to kick start positive conversation around mental health. Steven believes the key to change in the way the community addresses mental health is education “I’m in a privileged position to work with a wide spectrum of the committee from your local sporting clubs, committee groups, small and large business to all levels of government.”

Steven is especially passionate about the printing and communications sector from 25 years working within the industry as a printer and more recently as the National Sales Manager of Bottcher Systems Australia a key technical partner of the Ovato Group. Over the last 10 years Steven has worked with all our production facilities across the country.