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Why today is the day to reflect on how you are travelling

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By Sarah Wayland

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October 10 marks a special day on the worldwide calendar - World Mental Health Day.

It seems fitting for the day to follow on from the momentum of RUOK day to create a space where we take the time to reflect on who we are, how we are travelling and how we can connect with those around us.

When I think about the word mental health, images of stigma are often attached because I think in our pursuit to focus on good mental health, we have to acknowledge that some people aren’t coping.

In talking to my own colleagues who work in the mental health sector we pondered the idea whether or not we, as a community, have a better understanding about mental health or are we just better at noticing each other (or are they both the same thing)? Placing a spotlight on mental health forces us to ask some challenging questions.

Mental Health is a hard conceptualize, there are often negative connotations with the phrase – for some it might mean the space between normal and abnormal but for others it might mean survival.

Looking for the signs early on might be the key to thriving, not just surviving. One of the pioneers in talking openly about poor mental health, especially in relation to young people is former Australian of the Year Patrick McGorry. It is hisbelief that ‘early intervention offers the greatest hope for recovery from mental illness’.

In my own studies of hope and resilience I’ve looked at how families live with mental illness in their lives, how they mourn the loss of what was to be and learn to live with the new path they have been provided with following diagnosis. Like so many of life’s stresses we don’t predict that our children, siblings or parents might become unwell at some stage and that that unwellness might be a mental illness.

For some of the families I’ve worked with the loss of the person they imagined their loved one to be was one of the more silent challenges they had to endure – a sense of letting go of the person they thought their loved one was and catching up with the person who had different, more diverse needs (but still them none the less).

Sarah Eagle recently finished an epic walk from Armidale, NSW to Melbourne, Victoria. She walked to raise funds for SANE Australia as well as awareness of the stigma of mental health. She walked with the expert knowledge she is beginning to unravel in her postgraduate studies on mindfulness as well as with the personal scar of losing her brother Ben to a mental illness. She explains that, for her, World Mental Health Day means to

…take small steps to make a better world for all affected by mental illness. For many these steps may be self care, particularly for carers, family and sufferers of mental illness. I want the community to understand how prevalent mental illness is, and because of this high rate, that none of us are alone. Mostly I want people to feel there is hope, that if we band together we can make significant changes for all affected by mental illness…

On days like today we can take the chance to see that every challenge has the possibility of hope – hope to survive, hope to gain a better understanding of yourself and hope that your life might have more meaning as a result of what you have endured. So on this World Mental Health Day take a chance to make sure people know they are not alone.

How do you plan to nurture your own good mental health today?

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Sarah Wayland - to view all of Sarah's blog post click here

Sarah Wayland is a Social Worker who has spent the last 15 years working in the fields of trauma and loss. She is currently conducting postgraduate research into the way hope influences a persons ability to survive loss as well as establishing a private practice in Sydney. She is a mum of 2 and a step-mum of 2 more who is passionate about exploring those areas of life that we don't often discuss openly.

Website: http://sarahwayland.com.au

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