October is Mental Health Month

Each October, Mental Health Month gives us the opportunity to raise awareness of mental health and wellbeing. It is celebrated across NSW, the ACT and Victoria, and is a chance to promote activities and ideas that can have a positive impact on our daily lives and the lives of others. These events and messages are tied together with a specific theme, and this year’s is “Tune In”.

Tuning in means being present.

It means being aware of what is happening within you, and in the world around you.

Being present by tuning in has been shown to help build self-awareness, help make effective choices, reduce the impact of worry and build positive connections.

Tune in to yourself.

Tuning in to yourself can start with checking in with yourself and asking a simple question: “What can I sense right now?”

Use your five senses to feel, touch, taste, hear and smell the world around you and experience the way the outside world makes you feel internally. Touching a nearby object, or listening to sounds of a bird chirping outside, and naming what you feel or hear can improve awareness of your surroundings.

You can also ask the question “How do I feel right now?” Naming a single emotion or feeling can help focus your mind and understand what is going on inside you.

Tuning in to yourself can also look like identifying things that help or harm your own mental health.

For example, exercise may help improve your mental health and engaging in conflict might negatively impact your mental health. Taking time to tune in to yourself can improve self-awareness and decrease stress.

How can I tune in to myself?

  • Meditating
  • Finding silence
  • Going for a walk
  • Being in nature
  • Journaling
  • Practicing self-care
  • Doing something creative – drawing, painting, knitting
  • Creating a morning ritual

Tuning in to others.

Tuning in to others can build positive connections. Can you imagine what other people might be feeling and why? Does someone you love seem a bit down? Maybe you can head over and help them out with a chore or task, or just sit and have a casual chat.

If you’re having difficulty connecting with others, it can help to let them know that. If you’re able, letting someone know that things are a bit tough right now and you need some company can help them understand where you’re at. It can also help them tune in to you.

How can I tune in to others?

  • Asking others how they are feeling
  • Imagining how others are feeling
  • Going for a walk together
  • Sharing a hobby
  • Teaching them about something you love
  • Helping with chores
  • Playing games
  • Going out together
  • Staying in together
  • Chatting on the phone
  • Sharing a cup of coffee

Tune in to stigma.

You can tune in to stigma by considering the misconceptions, prejudice or barriers that you or others face regarding mental health and wellbeing. You can help increase understanding by making sure mental health and wellbeing are not taboo topics in your community, and letting others know if they are engaging in stigma-promoting behaviour.

Tune in to communities.

You can tune in to communities by thinking about the broader groups and networks you are part of and what’s happening within them. You can also think about how to make communities and activities more welcoming, open or easier to access for people experiencing difficulty with their mental health
and wellbeing.

This might mean something specific, like hiring a bus to pick people up to go to community events, or it could be more general, like thinking about community feelings after a natural disaster.

How can I tune in to communities?

 

  • Challenging negative ideas around mental health
  • Joining a local hobby group
  • Making sure events are inclusive
  • Reviewing accessibility options
  • Reaching out to community members who might be isolated
  • Starting wellbeing activities at work
  • Attending free community events – libraries or Councils often run them
  • Creating a range of different options for people looking to connect
  • Making sure your community/workplace/group takes part in Mental Health Month

Understanding Different Concepts

Some of the concepts around mental health have different meanings to different people. Here are some definitions of the language we use to speak about mental health and wellbeing so we can tune in through shared understanding and meaning. 

Mental Health 

A state of wellbeing in which every individual realises their own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to their community. 

Mental Distress 

A term used to describe the resulting experience a person may be having, rather than a diagnostic term. It can present at any point of the wellness to illness spectrum. 

Mental Ill-health 

When the state of our mental health negatively impacts on our ability to think, feel and respond to others. This may occur in response to life events and stressors. It may resolve over time or when stress is reduced. However, if it is ongoing or worsening, a mental health problem can become a mental illness. 

Mental Illness 

A clinically diagnosable illness that significantly interferes with an individual’s cognitive, emotional or social abilities. The diagnosis of mental illness is generally made according to the classification system of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Mental illnesses are diverse and each of these can occur with a varying degree of severity. When referring to people, the preferred terminology is “person/people with a lived experience of mental illness”, or you might refer to a specific diagnosis, for example “person with a lived experience of Bipolar disorder”, rather than saying “mentally ill person” or “Bipolar person”. 

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