The Gaps in Awareness

Last week was a double whammy in Mental Health Awareness with World Suicide Prevention Day on Wednesday (the 10th) and R U OK Day on Thursday (the 11th).  People were posting messages of support to their loved ones and it was great to see so many people shining a light on Mental Health.

I think it’s great that there are days devoted to Mental Health Awareness, days where it’s almost applauded to share stories of our struggles.  However I do wonder just how effective these days really are.  I’ve had a bit of reservation about R U OK Day in its simplicity for a while now and the more I thought about it, picking it apart, the less OK I felt about the whole thing.

suicideWhile on the surface I absolutely agree that the conversation needs to be started, we need to be talking about mental illness, it needs to be made less of a taboo.  I do worry about the long term good that it does.  Many of us are unequipped to deal with someone who may share with us that they are having struggles mentally.  I don’t think that they day should be scrapped all together, but I do think that more information needs to be provided.

This year R U OK Day introduced the Mateship movement and included resources on their page about how to ask the question and more importantly, how to help them once they answer.  I really think this is a great step in the right direction.  However this kind of information needs to be more readily available.  Many people aren’t aware of the help that they can access to help with any mental health issues they may be experiencing.

People are left in the dark when it comes to taking the next step.  There are massive amounts of information on the internet but it can be quite overwhelming trying to navigate this while you or a loved one are in a crisis.  Many of these resources also have limited funding and so people in need are turned away.  Rural, small towns see the worst of it.  Without transport, the mentally ill are isolated, unable to seek treatment, if there is any available.

The government needs to step up and start providing funding to the public system.  A person shouldn’t have to be in crisis in order for them to receive adequate treatment.  We are a developed country and yet the way the mentally ill are treated is still very much miles behind the eight ball.  Unless you can afford private health cover or pay out of your own pocket, then mental health treatment is very limited.  The rate of mental illness, isn’t getting less and yet the funding is being cut more and more each year.

It’s simply not enough to start the conversation.  There needs to be more than a conversation.  It’s disheartening when you finally gather enough courage to reach out for help, that you are told to go away, you aren’t sick enough, there is no place for you here, our units are filled to the brim.  Something needs to give, and I’m afraid it will continue to be the mentally ill.

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17 thoughts on “The Gaps in Awareness

  1. Leanne @ Deep Fried Fruit

    You’re right. There does need to be more than a conversation. So much more.
    I like RUOK day when it comes to children. The simplicity helps to start their education in mental health issues. And how they can be supportive and present with that simple phrase “RU OK?”
    We may not see the results of RUOK immediately, but perhaps the next generation will have a better understanding. Maybe …
    Leanne @ Deep Fried Fruit

  2. Kathy

    You are right that we can get carried away with making a ‘start’ on addressing a complex issue with simplicity, and then the follow up support isn’t there.

  3. Jess - Peachy Keen Mumma

    You are so right. I think it’s real valuable that R U OK helps to start the conversation about mental illness and suicide but there is not enough help in the public system for those people. Even I, who worked in a psychology practice, had to be on the wait list for months in the public system. I say “even I” because I know a lot of the in’s and outs of our mental health system now and it’s not easy getting help if you aren’t classified as a dire.

  4. Emma Fahy Davis

    I agree wholeheartedly (as always). One thing that gets to me about RUOK? Day is the emphasis on reaching out and encouraging people to ask if their loved ones are okay, but nothing about what to do if they actually turn around and say ‘no, I’m not okay’. If someone tells you they are contemplating suicide, that’s a huge burden to carry and how you respond can be critical, yet no-one is telling us what we should be saying or doing.

  5. EssentiallyJess

    I think you’re spot on Tegan. I’ve been in the place where someone is ready to end it all, and had no idea what to say. RUOK wasn’t exactly helpful right then.
    There does need to be more information, and, like you said, resources to get further help.

  6. Hugzilla

    Yes, as much as I love that having days like this can help lift the silence and stigma around mental health, there was always something about it that didn’t sit right with me and you nailed it with this statement : “Many of us are unequipped to deal with someone who may share with us that they are having struggles mentally.”

    Asking the question is great, but I always worry about what might happen if that person receives an answer they aren’t prepared to deal with. What happens next is so important, and getting professional help for those people is vital. Great post.

  7. Fiona Moore

    agree wholeheartedly.

    NSW health cut all the community health psych positions in my are mid year.

    Because supposedly the better acesss 5 medicare sessions should cover it.

  8. Emily @ Have A Laugh On Me

    At the arse-end of NZ, Invercargill there is a HUGE rate of mental illness, depression and suicide right now, it’s baffling everyone but they are at least trying to work on it. I’m with you though make a difference every day not just ONE day x

  9. Carla

    So important to ask isn’t it. But I agree, it’s the conversation after that that holds the most weight and perhaps makes me the most nervous xx

  10. Renee at Mummy, Wife, Me

    I wasn’t aware of that additional information. Steps definitely do need to be taken to communicate to the public that these resources are available. I think the question is a great start and I saw it make a difference to a friend last week, but we do need to do more.

  11. Druimé@SnippetsandSpirits

    When I started reading this post I was thinking no, no matter what the fact that the conversation is becoming less taboo the better. However I get it now. The government need to put their money where their mouth is. The situation in Irish hospitals is very similar. The conversation does not happen much there at all it is still very very taboo to speak of mental health and the country is struggling severely with suicide and depression as a fall out from the financial crash. So perhaps a little comfort can be taken that here in Australia baby steps are being taken. Great thought provoking post Tegan.

  12. Janet @ Middle Aged Mama

    I’m resistant to a lot of these “awareness” activities – do they actually do/achieve anything? And of course you’re right, there are huge gaps in the mental health system – Medicare ATAPS is a case in point.

    Some of the prescription drugs for mental health issues are pretty damn expensive, not to mention the cost of psychologists / psychiatrists. I know because somebody very dear to me has mental health issues and spent over $20k last financial year on their medical expenses, and obviously they haven’t been able to work.

    Visiting today from #teamIBOT xxx

  13. Toushka Lee (@Toushkalee)

    So true! Our mental health system is crap! Full of cracks that even those on the radar fall into every day. Because no one is there to stop them falling.
    The worst thing about mental health is that the mentally unhealthy have to take their own proactive steps. When I’m depressed the last thing on my list is my own wellbeing. If I don’t care enough about me and feel that it is all hopeless then how do I pick up a phone and make the appointment to get the help I so desperately need. And then when I finally do, the appointment is 6 weeks away? Not helpful.
    More funding is needed. And a whole new “system” put in place to pick up the fallen and catch the falling. While I’m wishing for things, I would also like a unicorn that shits cookies. I think I have more chance getting that!


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