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Every year 1 in 5 adults will have a mental health difficulty.

mental health

By JACKIE CROWE

Every year, one in five adults, or 3.2 million Australians, will have a mental health difficulty while 45 per cent of the Australian adult population will experience mental illness at some point in their lifetime. In short, mental illness is an issue that touches everyone in some way.

In the National Mental Health Commission’s first National Report Card on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention released last year, we made a commitment to ensuring that people always have a voice and remain at the centre of decision-making about the services that impact on them. We believe that building a comprehensive picture of people’s lives and experiences is essential in driving real improvement in people’s lives.

That’s why the Commission’s Contributing Life Conversations project is so important. Until Sunday 11 August, we’re asking all Australians to take an hour out from your busy lives and sit down with your family, friends or colleagues and talk about what ‘A Contributing Life’ means to you.

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We can all play a part in helping those living with and recovering from mental illness.

My colleague, National Mental Health Commissioner Janet Meagher sums it up well when she says that people with a mental illness want and need the same things as everyone else. Simply put, this means having a place to call home, something meaningful to do, and strong connections to your family, your community and your culture. It also means having good physical health and general wellbeing, and access to effective care, treatment and services.

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At the Commission we believe that everyone has a right to lead a ‘Contributing Life’, whatever that means for them, and that all of us can play a part in helping those living with and recovering from mental illness, their families and carers to achieve the life they want.

We have come a long way, we now have a community that can have conversations about mental health issues, but we still have a lot further to go. We have to move past blank looks and a dismissive “never mind, I’m sure you’ll feel better tomorrow”. The significance having conversations and sharing experiences cannot be underestimated. It’s essential that we don’t keep it to ourselves – mental illness must not be something we are afraid to discuss.

Jackie Crowe
Jackie Crowe

I believe strongly in the effectiveness of including families in the recovery of people with mental health issues, and am constantly encouraging people to talk to each other. I know from experience that the mental health “industry” can be confusing; and that the stigma and discrimination can be widespread, systemic and rife. I had the help of my extended family and friends there to help, but I struggled to find the right help, the right care and treatment at the right time to assist my family to recovery. It is the very reason I am motivated to do the kind of work I do.

We all have the power to bring about change for the better, but if we want change, we need to go after it.

The Contributing Life Conversations project gives all Australians the chance to get involved in the important national conversation currently underway on how we can best improve our collective mental wellbeing.  It is also a great reason to get together with family, friends, colleagues or neighbours and have a discussion about what gives our lives meaning and purpose.

If you would like to get involved, and host your own Contributing Life Conversation visit www.contributinglife.com.au/conversations – we’d love for you to join the conversation.

Jackie Crowe works with the Ballarat Health Services Area Mental Health Service as a Carer Consultant and is a carer member of the National Register of Mental Health Consumer and Carer Representatives. Jackie has worked in the area of mental health at a local, state, national and international level. She is a passionate campaigner for social justice, empowerment, mental wellbeing and improved services for those affected by mental health issues and their families.

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