Being well, staying well

Concerns about mental health are aired regularly in the press and it’s an issue affecting significant numbers of people, directly and indirectly.

A very well-attended event in Cessnock last week, presented by the Tenison Woods Education Centre’s DUSC (Discipleship Under the Southern Cross) team, provided an opportunity to learn a great deal in a short time. Participants came away with greater insight as well as practical tips to maintain their own mental health and that of their family, friends and colleagues.

Newcastle’s Jaelea Skehan is an internationally respected leader in the prevention of mental illness and suicide and currently, Director of the Hunter Institute of Mental Health. Jaelea shared her wisdom and humour and reminded her audience that “mental health is something we all want more of.” She compared maintaining mental health with maintaining a car. When the skills the individual has aren’t sufficient, it’s time to call in the specialist.

Her practical tips included the following:

  • Sleep and rest
  • Take time out
  • Be active and eat well
  • Connect with others
  • Learn to manage stress
  • Get involved
  • Build confidence
  • Accept yourself and other; forgive yourself
  • Set realistic goals
  • Reach out for help when you need it.

Broadcaster and sports commentator, Craig Hamilton, shared his story of mental illness with remarkable candour. “Depression was something that happened to other people”, he said, but at age 37, he was diagnosed with “full blown depression with no capacity to deal with it.”

Since then, he has learned an enormous amount about mental health and mental illness, and long since stopped worrying about “what other people think of me. The most important relationship is the one you have with yourself. If I'm not getting on with me, I'm not getting on with anyone.”

Craig has shared his story in two books, Broken Open and A Better Life.  He now devotes much of his time and energy to speaking about mental health and dispelling myths, having learned that ‘depression wasn’t something that happened to other people’.

He particularly advocates sharing your experience – positive or negative, and really listening to others, because "A conversation can change a life. A conversation can save a life."

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Tracey Edstein Image
Tracey Edstein

Tracey Edstein is the former editor of Aurora Magazine, the official magazine of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

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