When you invite random Sydneysiders on a busy CBD thoroughfare to tell you about the state of their mental wellbeing, what do you find?
The answer is a significant proportion of people who are quietly living with mental distress, and a reminder that we should all be more aware of how both we and the people we care about are tracking in our lives.
The Mental Health Commission of NSW provided a free ‘check-up from the neck-up’ to interested passers-by in Sydney’s Martin Place on 20 October. The wellbeing assessments, conducted by clinicians from Local Health Districts in a marquee, were made using Black Dog Institute’s Snapshot tool, and a total of 68 men and 87 women took part.
Of those, 43% reported feeling troubled by feelings of anxiety, and 32% reported being troubled by feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness. Over a quarter (27%) said they did not feel supported by family or friends.
NSW Mental Health Commissioner John Feneley said while it was important to remember the results did not mean participants were necessarily experiencing diagnosable anxiety or depression, they did paint a picture of the community’s wellbeing.
“This was a reminder that mental wellbeing is an all-of-society issue, not just limited to those with a diagnosed illness. Given that good mental wellbeing is central to a positive experience of life, it is something we could all benefit from focusing more energy and time on. The perception of a lack of support from loved ones underscores how important it is to listen out for other people’s wellbeing as well as our own.
“On the positive side, the same individuals who were feeling anxious or down were willing to engage with us and were therefore connected with people and resources to help improve their wellbeing.
“The event was a great demonstration of the public’s desire for mental health information, and the need to have wellbeing services out there in the community rather than behind closed doors, waiting for people to come to them.”
The ‘Check-up from the neck-up’ event was one of a number of initiatives organised by the Mental Health Commission of NSW for mental health month. Other events included a showcase for staff at NSW Parliament of community-based wellbeing programs, and the launch a mental health strategy for first responders.
Mental Health Month is an annual initiative of WayAhead Mental Health Association NSW.