10 October, 2016

Nearly half of all Australians (45 per cent) will experience some form of mental illness during their lifetime, and those that don’t will most likely know someone that does.

An individual’s mental health is shaped by social and economic factors, and poor mental health is impacted by, and contributes to, poverty, disadvantage and social exclusion.

Mental health is influenced by access to education, employment opportunities, safe and secure housing, access to social and health services, as well as experiences of stigma and discrimination. Laying the foundations for good mental health, and supporting people experiencing mental illness, therefore requires many different service systems and supports working together so that everyone can maximise their opportunities in life.

The Society works directly with people experiencing mental health difficulties through initiatives like our Compeer program, which provides friendship for people who have become socially isolated due to mental illness.

The theme for World Mental Health Day 2016 is psychological first aid and the support people can provide to those in distress.

In many parts of the world, if someone collapses from a physical illness like heat exhaustion in public, chances are, someone who knows about first aid will give them help. On the other hand, if someone experiences a state of severe acute anxiety, people are more likely to walk away.

Psychological and mental health first aid is a skill which can stop a crisis from getting worse, and may even preserve life.  We are all capable of providing mental health first aid in an emergency.

In Western Australia, the Society runs Vincentcare, which offers accommodation and support to people with a lived experience of severe and enduring mental illness or homelessness.

In Tasmania, Bethlehem House provides crisis accommodation for men who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. In 2014, a survey found 85 per cent of respondents disclosed having a mental health condition. As a result, Bethlehem support staff were trained in mental health first aid and suicide prevention.

Staff were trained based on our organisational values, which are respect, empowerment, dignity and hope.

In the ACT, a Street to Home program supports people who are ‘sleeping rough’ in Canberra. The service has a strong focus on both physical and mental health.