ACT Mental Health Week 2017 shows community support for people with mental health issues is stronger than ever

Emily Roser Mental Health Week, News

Strong community support helped make this year’s Mental Health Week in the ACT (8-14 October) an event to remember!

This year the program of events was extended from a week – as in previous years – to an entire month, with community events including creative writing workshops; art exhibitions; public seminars; a gender-diverse Prom night; and a bush therapy camping trip for young people; taking place throughout October 2017.

The Reimbursement Grants Program successfully funded 32 events under the theme ‘Stronger Together’, a campaign aimed at encouraging community members to come together, despite differences, in support of people with mental illness. Because mental health issues are often experienced alongside – or even because of – social isolation, stigmatisation and marginalisation, the ‘Stronger Together’ campaign also encouraged Canberrans to reach out and offer support to those who find themselves on the fringes of society, helping to alleviate mental distress in communities with the highest rates of mental illness.

Given this message, it was encouraging to see the vast number of events in this year’s program catering to minority and marginalised groups, particularly CALD and LGBTIQ+. This was aptly timed, as the marriage equality survey’s ‘No’ campaign – which ran concurrently with Mental Health Week 2017 – stirred up discriminatory attitudes towards Canberra’s LGBTIQ+ community, with mental health implications.

A number of schools in the ACT also received grant funding to host mental-health focused training, seminars and other activities for students throughout Mental Health Week.

Mental Health Week Launch Event

An inaugural outdoor concert was held in Glebe Park to launch Mental Health Week in the ACT on the afternoon of Sunday 8 October. The idea behind the concert was to unite the community and to celebrate the idea that mental illness can be a source of strength, creativity and inspiration. This live music event featured local artists whose experiences of mental illness have made them stronger.

Unfortunately, the afternoon proved to be a damp one with showers descending on Civic most of the afternoon. The decision was made to go ahead with the event, but the rain affected audience numbers. None the less, local rapper ‘Cappo’, musician and comedian Chris Endrey, Eleanor Ailie and her band, and singer-songwriter Duncan Sargeant impressed the small crowd of approximately 45 patrons with energetic and moving performances.

Aunty Jannette Phillips performed the Welcome to Country and spoke about the lingering impact of the forcible removal Aboriginal children on the mental health of Aboriginal people today. ACT Minister for Mental Health, Shane Rattenbury, also attended the event to officially welcome the audience.

Mental Health Week Awards

The efforts and achievements of outstanding individuals and programs that have improved the mental health of Canberrans were recognised at the annual Mental Health Week Awards On World Mental Health Day, Tuesday 10 October. This year’s awards attracted a record number of nominations resulting in an impressive line-up of potential candidates from public, private, community and not-for-profit organisations.

Genevieve Jacobs, host of ABC’s Mornings Program and official Patron of Mental Health Week in the ACT, delivered the opening address stressing the need for people to talk openly about mental health issues to break down stigma. For a full list of Award winners, view the official Mental Health Week Awards webpage.

Mental Health & Wellbeing Expo 2017

  

This year’s Mental Health Week Expo was held outdoors in City Walk, Garema Place for the second consecutive year and was the biggest yet, attracting approximately 1,650 patrons. This is an increase of approximately 450 people on the patronage of the 2016 event.

This year’s Expo featured a popular sausage sizzle hosted by Tuggeranong Men’s Shed. Live music performed by local artists with lived experience of mental illness was broadcast throughout the venue via a PA system donated by the Ted Noffs Street University. Patrons also enjoyed free water, fruit, lollies, an art exhibition, a visit from Hercules the Pet Therapy Alpaca and lots of interactive activities.

The success of the day was assisted by the glorious weather and feedback from patrons was overwhelmingly positive with 97% of respondents indicating that they would attend the event again in the future. Feedback also suggested that more promotion of the event is needed to increase public awareness of future Expos; the vast majority of patrons stumbled across the event by accident.

As public awareness around Mental Health Week in the ACT continues to grow year after year, there has been a corresponding upsurge in interest and eagerness from stakeholders wishing to help or be involved in the event. While this is encouraging, there is a need for additional staff resources to maximize opportunities and continue to ensure that Mental Health Week runs as smoothly and successfully as in previous years.