Month makes mental health a ‘Priori-Tea’

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Mental Health Community Coalition ACT executive officer Simon Viereck, with communications officer Alison Hall. “It’s a strength to be able to say, I need support,” says Simon. Photo: Holly Treadaway

People are being encouraged to start a conversation about mental health over a cuppa with workmates this Mental Health Month ACT. This is a sponsored post.

PEOPLE are being encouraged to start a conversation about mental health over a cuppa with workmates this Mental Health Month ACT, says Mental Health Community Coalition (MHCC) ACT executive officer Simon Viereck.

“It’s completely normal at this point in time to be feeling anxious or depressed and we want people to know they can open up and that there are places they can go for support,” he says.

Funded by ACT Health, and run by MHCC ACT in partnership with local community mental health providers, Mental Health Month ACT will run from October 1-31, with World Mental Health Day on October 10.

This year’s theme is “Conversations and Connection” but, because of COVID-19 health restrictions, much of the program of events has been shifted online this year.

“The Mental Health and Wellbeing Expo is usually our major event, with 80 local organisations involved and more than 3500 people attending last year, but we’ve unfortunately had to cancel it for 2020,” says communications and events officer Alison Hall.

“Instead there will be more virtual events, with the aim of reaching people we don’t usually reach, and more focus on encouraging people to organise their own events in smaller community groups.”

Mental Health Month ACT is an opportunity to bring mental health out in the open, to improve understanding of mental health issues and to remove the stigma by showcasing mental illness as a source of strength.

More than 30 community events will be happening in October, including the virtual Mental Health Month launch event on October 10, the ACT Mental Health Month Awards, which will be live-streamed via Facebook on October 29, and the Wellbeing Priori-Tea, which can be hosted at workplaces, within community groups or online throughout the month.

“We want as many people as possible to check out the calendar of events and get involved,” says Alison.

Simon and Alison say hosting a Wellbeing Priori-Tea can provide people with a range of resources, giving a better sense of where they might go for help and support, from crisis hotlines, national programs and community programs.

Importantly, it’s also about creating a safe space to start those conversations in the first place, they say.

“I think we’re often worried about appearing weak in any way in the workplace. It’s a strength to be able to say, I need support,” says Simon.

“We want to legitimise talking about how we’re coping or not coping, when we’re feeling stressed and might need a helping hand from colleagues.

“The main message is that it’s okay not to feel okay. Reach out and talk to someone.”

Feeling connected to each other and communities creates a sense of belonging, which is why MHCC ACT says intentional conversations are crucial to supporting mental health and wellbeing.

The reality is that nearly half of people are going to experience a mental health issue at some point in their lifetimes, says Simon.

“It’s not something unusual. In any 12-month period it’s one in five people – so if it’s not you, it’s your friend, colleague or partner. And it could be worse under the impacts of the pandemic,” he says.

“If you’re struggling, others will be too. One person speaking up can allow others to feel safe to do the same.”

Alison says a Wellbeing Priori-Tea event could be a morning tea, afternoon tea or high tea but it doesn’t have to happen in person.

“If physical distancing is an issue, a Priori-Tea can be done online. It’s just about the ability to connect and have a conversation,” she says.

Anyone interested in hosting a Wellbeing Priori-Tea event is encouraged to register online to receive a resource pack with a series of conversation starters around mental health.

It’s not just starting the conversation that matters – it’s how to respond appropriately, too, says Simon.

“If anyone is showing signs of needing more support, the resource packs offer support on how to follow up with someone and check in,” he says.

“Listening is the main thing. It’s amazing how much that can help. You don’t have to have all the answers. Just care.”

The Mental Health Month ACT program is available via

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