“Education is the most powerful tool which we can use to change the world” – Nelson Mandela
Mental illness is the fear of the unknown to most people. Not having any awareness of what mental illness is compounds the issues relating to the stigma attached to depression and other mental illnesses. The big unknown is what is contributing to not just stigma but discrimination, bullying, lack of support and people around us not wanting anything to do with us, our illness and the issues that result. A lack of education is driving people away, therefore we need more education about depression to bring us together in a society that accepts people suffering from a mental illness.
The likes of BeyondBlue, Headspace, R U Ok? Foundation, and Sane Australia are all working towards not only supporting the mentally ill with program’s to help, but have a variety of campaigns and work in educating the Australian population about mental illness, including depression and anxiety, and are all working considerably hard to prevent the deaths of Australians from suicide.
The R U OK? campaign in particular, has been fundamental in asking people around us if they R U OK?, and starting a conversation to assist someone who isn’t with the support to seek help. It is envisaged that this campaign will go along way in preventing suicide, and raising the awareness of mental illness in the community.
These organisations and their program’s, and campaigns have certainly started establishing a foundation from which we all can now do our own individual bit to both increase our education of mental illness. Through our increased understanding we start to reach out to those around us -family, friends, or at work and firstly, we can ask the question R U OK? and start the conversation to assist others to take action with our support if they are not OK.
For some of us, our own very personal experiences with a mental illness, either as a patient or by our immediate love one drives us to become more informed about a mental illness affecting us. Few people seek information on something that doesn’t have a direct impact upon our lives. We all live in a busy world with little time to stop and smell the roses let alone stop and see somebody around us is suffering or want to find the time to assist. It’s a sad reality when few will offer a hand, ask if you R U OK? or provide support to someone with a mental illness. Sadly people are dying, severely sick and all alone, because too many amongst us don’t know, don’t want to know or simply are too scared to help to change a life.
Education is the power that Australians need to raise more awareness about mental illness, and the support mechanisms we should be advocating. Education gives us the ability to create change, to save a life, and to change our community, society, our countries perception of what mental illness is, how it affects the people around us, and the mechanisms available to help those that need it. For those that can honestly say they know little about mental illness, or have openly walked away, or avoided someone around them because of their mental illness, or even for those who don’t want to know about it, there are no excuses, people need to get their heads out of the sand, they need to become aware, learn more so that they can do their bit to change someone’s life.
In today’s day and age where education can be taught through many communication mediums there is NO excuse not to understand, there is NO excuse to discriminate, NO excuse to not show support, and there are NO excuses for bullies ignorant of mental illness and the people around them suffering. Society doesn’t do this for our common diseases, such as cancers, heart disease so why should people with mental illness have to suffer more than they already do because we have a largely uneducated population who chooses not to educate themselves about mental illness? Because it is easier to be uneducated and scared of the unknown!