Nations all over the world choose a month each year to focus on mental health. In the US it’s May and in Australia we acknowledge mental health nationally in October each year, but you know what, we can use every month to acknowledge mental health in our community, to reduce its stigma and foster wellbeing around us. Our mental health cannot be taken for granted. It affects how we think, how we feel and our actions. Our mental health influences how we manage our stress, our interpersonal relationships and our overall daily choices we make .

Mental health is not spoken of nearly as much as it should be. Now, more than ever, we need to prioritise conversations about it. Mental health is invisible. Mental health has no visible crutch, no visible sign. Sufferers are often silent. Ashamed. Afraid to get help for fear of the repercussions, judgements or not being taken seriously.

According to The Black Dog Institute, one in five (20%) of Australians aged 16-85 experience mental illness in any one year. Almost half (45%) Australians will experience a mental illness in their lifetime. Depression, Anxiety and Substance Use Disorder are the most common of these. Despite this, many of us are not doing enough to improve our mental health. We are ignoring the emotional message that tell us that something is wrong. We sweep things under the carpet, we distract, we numb out or self-medicate with alcohol, drugs or food. We bottle up our problems in the fantasy that others will not notice. We dream that our situation will eventually improve somehow all by itself. And then there are those, disillusioned, and disheartened, who believe that c’est la vie. This is the way it is, and there is nothing I can do about it.

So, in this month of May – and indeed every month , take time to work on our mental health. Understanding that having good mental health involves more than the absence of depression, anxiety and other psychological issues. When you are mentally healthy, you feel a sense of contentment, life is good. You have the resilience to deal with your stressors, you are flexible and able to handle life’s curve balls. You are adaptable. This does not mean that you are constantly happy, but it does mean that you are able to manage your emotions in a healthy way. You have good, fulfilling relationships, and have a good balance between socialising, resting and working.

Mental health is mental wealth. What you deposit into your mental health account is what you will be rewarded with. If you feel you need the help, reaching out for help is a big step, and one that shows not weakness, but significant courage. There are lots of potential resources to turn to. Have a chat to your GP, a trusted friend, a parent or religious figure, your boss. Don’t be afraid to reach out for support. You only get one life, there is no dress rehearsal.