Understanding and reducing the stigma

CELEBRATED in more than 100 countries, Mental Health Month is an annual program to raise community awareness and understanding of mental illness, reduce the stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness, and promote positive mental health and wellbeing.

World Mental Health Day is on October 10 and is widely recognised in Australia with one in five Australians experiencing mental health issues every year.

In Canberra, the Mental Health Community Coalition ACT co-ordinates Mental Health Month and this year its theme is “Identity and Growth”.

“We need to be able to look at each other as whole people and not just identify them with mental illness or any other condition,” says the coalition’s chief executive, Simon Viereck.

“We need to be able to say: ‘I’m okay with me and I wouldn’t change a thing’.

“That means accepting who we are with all the warts and all.”

Simon says it’s really important to remember that people with mental health issues are still treated differently.

“So Mental Health Month is an important opportunity to raise the awareness of mental health and the importance of looking after your own mental health and seeking help early if you need it,” he says.

“Mental Health Month is also a good opportunity to start conversations with other people about mental health and about how they are doing.”

On Thursday, October 11, will be the Mental Health & Wellbeing Expo, in Garema Place, 11am-2pm, which will see 70 local organisations encouraging people to learn more about the mental health services available in the Canberra region and promote positive mental health and wellbeing.

“The expo is our annual opportunity to come and sample some of the mental health and wellbeing services in the ACT,” Simon says.

“There will be everything from health services to yoga, to drumming, to a visit from a pet therapy alpaca and a pet therapy dog.”

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