It is not until something is taken away from us that we realise it’s importance or value in our life.

Most mornings we wake up and take for granted the beautiful sunshine and blue skies.

It’s only when it rains day after day that we value the sunshine

And for many of us, the same goes for our mental health. When life is good, and things are running smoothly, no hiccups or bumps along the way, we take it in our stride and don’t consider the “what ifs” or the darker side of life.

According to the Black Dog Institute, one in five Australians – that’s 20% of the population — experience a mental illness in any one year – that’s a depressive, anxiety or substance use disorder. This implies that for many, mental health is not something that can automatically be assumed.

So then, what is mental health? According to the World Health Organization, mental health is “a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.” A general definition that pays attention to what is positive and what is successful or productive in a person’s life rather than what is the problem. It’s the idea that mental health is about our emotional, our psychological and our social wellness and not about what our problems are. Unfortunately, for those 20% of the population, and for some of us who at various times in our lives go through periods where our mental health is not good, we are not able to perform optimally at work, or to be social, and our day-to-day stressors FEEL too overwhelming. Our mental health is compromised.

To be honest, good mental health is not just the mere absence of mental illness or the absence of a diagnosis of anxiety or depression. I believe that good mental health is also about feeling equipped to manage with life’s challenges, sustain healthy relationships, contribute to the community and importantly, take pleasure and satisfaction from life. When we have a sense of belonging and connection and wake up in the morning with a sense of purpose in our life this helps our mental wellbeing.

Just like taking the sunshine for granted, it can be so easy to take our mental health for granted too and to prioritise other things. Be aware, don’t wait until you feel bad to act. Simple things like spending time with family or friends, taking time out in nature, participating in fun activities, learning a new hobby or language, doing some volunteering all contribute towards ensuring good mental health. And remember, reach out… talk to someone if you are not feeling ok.