Mental Health Awareness Has Made Big Strides: Kennett

By Andrew Heaton

(image via The New Daily)

Greater awareness of mental health issues throughout Australia is helping those who experience conditions such as anxiety and depression to feel more comfortable in seeking help, the retiring leader of one of Australia’s most prominent mental health organisations says.

In a recent interview, beyondblue Chairman and former Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett said efforts of beyondblue and others over recent decades had driven a higher level of community understanding about issues associated with mental health conditions.

As a result, he said people were now more comfortable in seeking support and were more likely to receive positive responses to their problems within their families and workplaces.

“I think the community is a lot better educated about mental health issues now,” Kennett said, asked about how attitudes had evolved over beyonedblue’s time. I think there is a lot more understanding. I think that means that a lot more people can talk more freely about their experiences and what they are going through without being discriminated against.

“That’s not to say that we’ve removed all discrimination, we clearly haven’t. But I think the community is a lot more understanding and tolerant of these issues than they were twenty years ago or when we started beyondblue seventeen years ago.”

Kennett’s comments come as he prepares to step down as Chairman of beyondblue on June 30 and hand over the reins to former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

The comments also come amid growing evidence about the prevalence of mental health issues.

A recent survey conducted by Mission Australia and the Black Dog Institute found that almost a quarter of all Australians between the age of 15 and 19 met the criteria to suffer from a probable mental illness.

Going forward, Kennett said further action was necessary.

Along with ongoing education and research which leads to outcomes, this included the provision of tools to empower people to recognise when they have a problem and to take appropriate action including potentially seeking help.

He says it is largely up to individuals to utilise tools available through beyondblue and elsewhere to arm themselves with knowledge and awareness.

Even for those not currently experiencing such conditions, he suggests learning about these issues in case problems occur later in life.

Asked meanwhile about similarities and differences in strategies for successful leadership which apply in the not-for-profit sector as opposed to the political arena, Kennett said common principals applied across all fields.

To be honest, I don’t see any differences,” Kennett said.

“Good leadership is good leadership in any state or form. Good leadership is simple. People try and complicate it too often.”

If you or anyone you know needs help, call Lifeline on13 11 14 or beyondblue 1300 22 4636

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