Reach out for mental health support

Published on Mon 26 October 2020 11:49am

Too many of us think I’m not doing that badly, or I don’t want to bother someone, or even I’m not the kind of person that experiences mental ill-health. And of course, that’s a big part of the problem. The truth is, we’re all that person.

Mr Wilson (Thank you, Deputy Speaker. I’m glad to contribute to this debate and I thank the member for Fisher for bringing it forward. It’s absolutely right that we recognise world Mental Health Day and there’s no doubt the year 2020 has emphasised the need to put the renewed focus on our mental well-being. I note that as part of Labor’s constructive approach to the COVID-19 response, we supported the extension of tele-health services and an expansion of the number of Medicare-supported mental health sessions And I welcome the fact that the government has implemented those measures.

Deputy Speaker, before I go further, I think it’s worth saying that if anyone is listening to us have this discussion on the radio or on the web, and it raises issues for you, then definitely consider the services that are available through Lifeline or other providers. That’s a reference or a piece of encouragement that we hear a lot these days, and that’s good, it’s at the end of news reports and other things like that. We can’t allow it to be a cursory observance. We can’t allow it to be something that loses its impact through repetition.

Too many of us, maybe all of us, fall into the bad habit of not asking for help.

Too many of us think I’m not doing that badly, or I don’t want to bother someone, or even I’m not the kind of person that experiences mental ill-health. And of course, that’s a big part of the problem. The truth is, we’re all that person. We’re all that person.

Half of all Australians experienced mental ill health at some point in their lives, and one in five Australians will experience mental ill-health in any given year. Truth is, you don’t lose anything by having a conversation with someone and just by taking the step to vocalise what you’re experiencing will lift some of the weight.

If you’ve had some experiences that leave you feeling bleak or down on a regular basis, if perhaps you start feeling that things are a little bit pointless, or hopeless or overwhelming, or you’re on edge, or you find that you’re not taking any real joy in the things you normally relish, then talk to someone, talk to GP. It’s what you would do, it’s what I would do, it’s what we would all do, if we felt persistent pain, or if we experienced persistent nausea, or some other physical symptom. Half the population will experience mental ill health at some point, it’s normal. So don’t hesitate to talk to someone there’s there is literally nothing to lose.

Deputy Speaker there was a really important debate in the house last week about the mental health and well-being of Australian Defence Force personnel and I acknowledge the contribution to that debate by members in the chamber today, member for Fisher, member for Herbet and for Berowra, and many others.

Labour welcomes the government’s creation of a National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention. We continue to believe that a Royal Commission is justified. It’s vital we recognise all those parts of our community where acute mental ill health and suicide are prevalent and concentrated. Clearly and tragically, that’s the case with our service personnel. At the same time, let’s not forget that the sharpest and most heartbreaking incidence of acute mental ill-health is experienced by indigenous Australians. For men aged 25 to 29, the rate of suicide is four times the rate of non-Indigenous men; for Indigenous women aged 20 to 24, the rate of suicide is five times the rate of non-Indigenous women. Suicide is the leading cause of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children between the ages of five and 17. That is completely unacceptable. It should galvanise all of us in this place to do more to advance practical social, cultural and historical reconciliation all the time in every way possible.

Deputy Speaker we’ve made some long overdue progress in the way that mental ill-health is understood and accepted as a common feature of the human experience but we have a lot further to go. The stigma associated with mental ill health still exists, it exists in this place, especially with respect to serious illnesses like Schizo-affective disorders. Across the board, this stigma and the lack of understanding creates an obstacle to people who benefit from help. And we know that the response capacity services and appropriate facilities are still a long way short of what we need.

Deputy Speaker like most people, I have some personal understanding and experience from within my family and close friends around mental illness and the toll it can take. There have been times when I wish my capacity to respond to those circumstances had been better, more receptive, more supportive, more emotionally resilient, I accept that I’ve been conditioned to keep myself to myself and I tend to assume other people would rather be left alone. That’s something I try to challenge and I’m trying to change. I accept the part of my conditioning has been to believe that strong people battle on by themselves, when I know that’s, that’s silly, and it’s wrong. The real strength and the real courage is to be open with other people, to be honest with ourselves, to make connections to give support and to receive support from those around us.

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