Many of us are not aware or may not have thought about the fact that our mental health is just as important as our physical health. Were you aware that people experiencing mental disorders or mental illness, as with any health problem, are impacted daily with a variety of disabilities which are sometimes severe? This is not always understood by people who have never experienced a mental illness. During an episode of mental illness there is a degree of disability that can occur. For example (based on a study in 1997 by the Erasmus Uni in Rotterdam, ‘Disability weights for Diseases in the Netherlands’) Moderate depression has a similar impact as relapsing MS, severe asthma or chronic Hep B. Unfortunately there is a degree of stigma and attitudes of rejection towards people with mental illness – just because you can’t ‘see’ an illness doesn’t give us the right to judge others negatively.
In 2003 the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare concluded that mental illnesses ranked as the third biggest source of disease burden in Australia after cancers and cardiovascular (heart) disease. Mental illness has been on the rise and particularly in our young people. The Black Dog Institute together with Mission Australia reports that in just the 4 years from 2012 to 2016 rates of probable mental illness in 15-19-year-olds increased by over 4% meaning that 1 in 4 of our young people is in this group! Rates for adults are just as alarming. Where is this leading? My question was what could I do to help? I am not a professional and was keen to do something positive now!
After a little research, I was very interested to find out I could complete a Mental First Aid Certification Accreditation – What is this you ask? You will be aware of many people who hold a First Aid Certificate, well now I hold one for Mental Health.
This enables me to provide mental health first aid to people and assist them to seek out various tools for their support. I am able to help them get started with information and direction for their illness. Just like a normal first aid certificate, I am there solely as a support and tool until professional help can be arranged (in partnership with the person involved). I do not diagnose or treat, similarly, a ‘physical’ first aider would not diagnose physical injuries but rather support and assist until professional help is available.
I believe we all need to respect and assist any friends, family or work colleagues (and those in the broader community) that have a mental illness.
If you are in need of assistance or would like to talk to a trained professional you are able to call Lifeline on 13 11 14. If you are looking for information on where to start to understand some of this or have someone in your life you are supporting and are seeking reading materials for yourself, please message me and I will send you links to various sites that have great information.
This blog was written with information gathered during the completion of my certificate through Mental Health First Aid Australia, together with their book Mental Health First Aid Manual Third Edition.