LAUREN FITZPATRICK // 12048880
Mental health is a very personal issue to me. Both my dad and my older brother suffer from mental illnesses so I’ve grown up alway being very aware of it. This has made me intrigued to learn more about the multiple facets of mental health in Australia both positive and negative. Through my broad research of secondary sources, I’ve identified two main areas of interest that various authors have written about which are the stigma of seeking help and new methods of treatment for mental illnesses.
One aspect of this issue that interests me is the rise in unorthodox ways of dealing with mental illnesses, in particular video games and apps. The article ‘Turns out Pokemon GO is unexpectedly great for mental health’, written by the Hack program on ABC’s Triple J identities the mental health benefits of gaming (Hack 2016). Hack is a regular program that is aired on Triple J radio and published on the ABC website. They focus on current events and trends and present them in engaging ways, particularly for younger audience members. They often write about mental health issues and provide different and interesting angles on the issues. In this article, they provide the opinion of Dr Greg Wadley who is a lecturer of computer science at University of Melbourne. He agrees that there are benefits of playing games for mental health. It is letting people with mental health issues think about other things and is creating better habits that benefit the player. One thing lacking in this article is discussion. They provide a good insight into this idea of video games helping mental health however they don’t show the other negative side of the discussion. This article has made me more curious about various ways of dealing with mental health.
There has always been a stigma around mental health issues and seeking help. Many people suffering find it difficult to ask for help and feel ashamed or embarrassed about it. In connection with using video games as a type of therapy for mental illness, there has been a significant rise in the use and availability of online therapy. Doctor Jo Abbot’s article ‘Is online therapy as good as talking face-to-face with a clinician?’ from The Conversation presents the advantages and disadvantages of online therapy (Abbot 2016). Dr Abbot is a qualified and experienced health psychologist, research fellow and is the Deputy Director (Acting) of the National eTherapy Centre at Swinburne University of Technology. Her research interests include the development and evaluation of technology-delivered health interventions, sleep psychology, mental health, psycho-oncology and health psychology. This article is very factual and straight forward and Dr Abbot has a trustworthy and professional position. Currently, only about one-third of people seek help for mental health. For the other two-thirds of people, they may be reluctant due to the stigma of mental illness, lack of time and financial restrictions. Online therapy doesn’t replace face-to-face help but allows flexibility and choice. However, professional help is more advised for more severe forms of mental illness such as psychosis and online therapy isn’t suitable for everybody. This detailed and thorough article has added to my knowledge of other methods of treatment for mental illnesses.
A particular app that assists mental health issues is by youth mental health organisation, ReachOut. The article ‘Youth Mental Health Organisation ReachOut Launches Online Service For Parents’ by Associate Lifestyle Editor, Julia Naughton on The Huffington Post describes this online service that is catered towards parents understanding their children better in relation to mental illness (Naughton 2016). Naughton is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post and has written about similar issues including sexual assault, suicide crisis, stress and emotions. This article is very factual and true but the author doesn’t share their own opinion or the opinion of others. It would be interesting to see the perspectives of parents who have already used the app to see if it is successful and helpful. The app itself is a new online service to improve communication between parents and teenagers. The key to good relationships and overcoming mental health issues is communication especially with the impact of social media and cyber bullying which is manifest amongst Australian teenagers today. The free service offers practical, evidence-based support based on research and parents can anonymously share their experiences. This is another example of a different method of dealing with mental health issues.
Breaking down the stigma of mental health is an important issue that needs to be addressed. It has stopped young people from talking about mental health and suicide as they are too scared to ask for help in fear they will be seen as attention seekers or people won’t believe them. This is a problem that ABC Open producer and freelance journalist, Liz Keen discusses in her article ‘Best way to tackle suicide rates is to be honest about our own mental health: Suicide Prevention Australia’ from ABC News (Keen 2016). Keen has produced programs for Radio National and written about mental health before regarding teens, indigenous people and domestic violence. This article is very factual and outlines the importance of the National Suicide Prevention Conference in connecting culture, context and capabilities. Keen has presented the opinion of a teenager with mental illness well but she could have also have presented the perspective of older people at the conference. From this article, I learnt that suicide is the leading cause of death for 15-44 year-old Australians and that it isn’t spoken about enough. There needs to be more awareness and this stigma of mental health needs to be broken. One of the delegates from this SPA conference, 18 year-old Chelsea Adam, states that things are being done, but there needs to be more. In her case, she used art as her therapy which is an unorthodox way of dealing with her mental illness. Instead of art, people could find therapy in music or video games as discussed before.
Another particular stigma of seeking help for mental health is manifest among men, particular those who live in rural areas. Australian National University (ANU) medical student Eileen Baker won a Bega Cheese Scholarship with her emotive essay ‘Rural suicide continues despite seeking of help’ which was published in the Bega District News (Baker 2016). The essay is about the reasons why farmers may commit suicide as she wanted to know more about the problem. As a student, she has an open mind and is keen to learn. She has the knowledge for the medical side of mental health issues but her word may not be taken as seriously compared to an experienced medical professional. This article is very emotive and exposes the various factors that contribute to the increase in rural suicide. Male farmers have this stigma of not talking about their feelings as it as seen as ‘unmanly’. Farming is their livelihood and can be financially unstable due to the unpredictable forces of nature. A 2015 study found that 43% of Queensland farmers who died from suicide between 1990 and 2008 did seek help. So, this poses the issue of availability and quality of mental health services for rural people. Similar to the online resource by ReachOut, there is one catered for rural people called The Shed Online which is a good alternative to not seeking help. The problem isn’t solely men not wanting help; we need to address the factors that makes farming a stressful and demanding profession and mould services to suit their lifestyle.
Having a personal connection to mental health issues has driven me to explore various areas of this problem. Through this initial research, I have identified some common problems with mental health in Australia and various discussions have arisen. Continuing with my research, I would like to explore mental health stigma more closely and how it affects mentally ill people.
Triple J Hack. 2016, ‘Turns out Pokemon GO is unexpectedly great for mental health’, ABC Online, 13 July, viewed 30 July 2016, <http://www.abc.net.au/triplej/programs/hack/turns-out-pokemon-go-is-unexpectedly-great-for-mental-health/7622740>
Abbot, J. 2016, ‘Is online therapy as good as talking face-to-face with a clinician?’, The Conversation, 22 July, viewed 1 August 2016, <http://theconversation.com/is-online-therapy-as-good-as-talking-face-to-face-with-a-clinician-51492>
Naughton, J. 2016, ‘Youth Mental Health Organisation ReachOut Launches Online Service For Parents’, The Huffington Post, 18 May, viewed 30 July 2016, <http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2016/05/17/youth-mental-health-organisation-reachout-launches-online-servic/>
Keen, L. 2016, ‘Best way to tackle suicide rates is to be honest about our own mental health: Suicide Prevention Australia’, ABC News, 28 July, viewed 30 July 2016, <http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-07-28/being-honest-about-mental-health-to-tackle-suicide-rates/7668796>
Baker, E. 2016, ‘Rural suicide continues despite seeking of help’, Bega District News, 8 July, viewed 1 August 2016, <http://www.begadistrictnews.com.au/story/4015646/rural-suicide-continues-despite-seeking-of-help/?cs=504>
Marshall, J. 2013, Mental Health Drawings, viewed 9 August 2016 <http://jesscatdraws.blogspot.com.au/2013/02/another-ocd.html>