Turning awareness into action…

There is a popular belief that goldfish only have a three-second memory span and every lap of their fishbowl is like seeing the world for the first time.

Have we just completed another lap of the fishbowl?

Another Mental Health Month where we raise awareness, advocate, and advance the cause and achieve great things.

More exposure, more campaigns, more events, more discussions about mental health, more employers looking at their own actions, and more people helping to reduce stigma… Has there ever been more awareness for mental health in our community? Genuine, positive awareness.

As year-on-year awareness grows, our fish bowl seems to get bigger and bigger, with more and more and fish, and many of us report this growth as part of funding agreements to governments, partners and stakeholders. Growth that we hope provides a platform for our advocacy work year-on-year.

Awareness is high, as high as it has ever been. But in spite of this awareness it seems the need for services is even higher, and the quality of services that the lucky few do receive is too often lacking.

So why can’t we convert this awareness into real reform?

Do we forget each year, just what we achieve during Mental Health Month and more?

Speaking at the World Health Organisation Western Pacific 68th Regional Committee Meeting on the eve of World Mental Health Day, Minister for Health, The Hon Greg Hunt MP, embraced the challenge to ‘elevate the importance of mental health’ in our community when he said:

“There are 4 million Australians who face mental health challenges each year, and it’s a condition which has been under-recognized, and it’s our time and our watch and our commitment to elevate the importance of mental health and its treatment and its recognition and the de-stigmatization, not just here in Australia, but cooperatively throughout the region.”

Is this the tipping point we have been looking for?

Recognising that it is time, and that we have to elevate the importance of mental health in our community, if we are to create real change. Recognising that mental health is a key pillar of the health system is an important first step.  Building and coordinating supports across all the social determinants of health, is also a critical step to progress.

If it really is our time, then we must reignite our advocacy efforts. We must capitalise on the awareness raised. We must embrace co-design. We must collaborate. We must see action from state and federal governments. And we must remember what we have achieved over many years, not just this last month. What we have learned. And what we know.

The goldfish myth, is exactly that…a myth.

Of course we all remember what we’ve achieved during this past Mental Health Month and see how far we have come from years past.

We now need to act on those achievements.

Real action will save lives. Real action will provide services. Real action will build community supports and care for consumers and their carers. Real action will close gaps.

It’s our time, and it’s our watch.

Warm regards,

Frank Quinlan

Chief Executive Officer, Mental Health Australia

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