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Take the time to enjoy the simple things in life

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Our guest blog writer today is Maria Katsonis who works for the state government of Victoria, Australia and is a mental health advocate outside of work.

October 10 is World Mental Health Day, a day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy. It is a timely reminder to attend to your mental health, irrespective of whether you have a mental illness or not.

It is also a day that holds a special significance for me. Five years ago, I was in a psychiatric hospital on World Mental Health Day, recovering from a crippling episode of severe depression.

Until that episode, I took my mental health for granted. When I was mentally well, I didn’t think twice about being able to appreciate the simple things in life – reading a book, a leisurely walk by the sea, or enjoying the company of good friends. It took the debilitating experience of depression and the loss of these simple things for me to realise the importance of mental wellness. Interestingly, there isn’t a clear-cut definition of mental wellness. It is often defined by its absence and the presence of depression, anxiety or any of the other mental illnesses that will affect one in five people during their lifetime.

Although mental wellbeing and physical wellbeing are closely intertwined, more attention is paid to maintaining physical wellbeing. Most of us are well versed in what we need to do to stay physically well, either through health promotion campaigns, advice from our doctor or the media. We are continually reminded to exercise 30 minutes a day; eat less fat, sugar and salt and more whole grains and green, leafy vegetables; drink moderately; take the stairs; and so the list goes on.

There isn’t nearly as much focus on what we need to do to be mentally well. It is only because of my illness that my mental wellness has become a priority and I now have a mental wellness plan. It includes the obvious, such as taking my medication and regular appointments with my GP, psychiatrist and psychologist. But it also includes fresh air and sunshine, taking a lunch break at work, staying connected with friends and family, eating well, and spending time with my nephews. During my recovery, I discovered the healing power of children who brought much joy and light to my life.

Hope is also integral to my mental wellness. As someone who lives with a mental illness, it is hope that sustains me – hope that I will stay well; hope that we can shed the stigma associated with mental illness; hope that workplaces can become more accepting of employees with a mental illness.

They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away. While it’s not as simple to keep mental illness at bay, we all need to pay attention to our mental wellness, irrespective of whether we have a mental illness or not. On World Mental Health Day, I will be celebrating by making sure I take the time to enjoy the simple things in life.

So as you read this, think about how you too can celebrate World Mental Health Day – perhaps take a walk during a work break, connect with family of friends, or develop your own mental wellness plan. Happy World Mental Health Day.

Maria Katsonis

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