Australian actors, athletes and sporting clubs have teamed up with a leading mental health hospital as part of a campaign to address the ‘elephant in the room’, and drive awareness of mental health issues and treatment options.
They were accompanied by Wesley – a giant inflatable elephant – while they gave out little Wesley ‘stress elephants’ to the public.
Attending the events were players from the NSW Waratahs, Australian Womens and Mens Sevens squads and Australian Women’s National Cricket Team, as well as TV stars Hoda Kobeissi (MasterChef) and Sam Webb (Neighbours, Australian Survivor), and The West Tigers Mascot.
They invited Sydneysiders to talk openly and honestly about mental health, and to drive awareness of the treatment options available to those suffering from mental health conditions.
Industry leader Elizabeth Priestley, CEO of WayAhead (Mental Health Association NSW), and Senior Manager, Marge Jackson, also joined the event.
This is the second year Wesley Hospital took to the streets of Sydney during Mental Health Week.
Wesley Hospital spokesperson Adam Goss said: “Forty-five (45) per cent of us will experience a common mental health disorder at some point in our lives.
“We’re encouraging Australians to talk more openly about the ‘elephant in the room’, and continue to remove the stigma that’s still there surrounding mental illness.
“Last year, Wesley – our giant inflatable elephant – was an eye-catching reminder for passers-by to start a conversation about how to seek help for mental health conditions.
“This year, we want to talk to more people in the streets, to remind them that not only is it ok to discuss mental health, but to educate them about the treatment options available.
“Mental illness is a public issue, and the point we’re trying to make is that it shouldn’t be hidden away.”
Support from attendees and the industry:
NSW Mental Health Commissioner Catherine Lourey said: “Having conversations about mental health helps to break down stigma.
“We have come a long way in reducing stigma and discrimination around mental health issues, but there is still a way to go, particularly around more complex and severe mental illnesses like schizophrenia.
“We can see examples of stigma in our community when people choose not to employ someone with mental health issues, consider them dangerous or think they do not have a ‘real’ health issue and should just ‘snap out of it’.
“We need to tackle stigmatising attitudes like these not only because they impact on people’s wellbeing, but because they can stop people reaching out for the help they need.”
WayAhead (Mental Health Association NSW) CEO Elizabeth Priestley said Wesley Hospital’s initiative is important to facilitate discussion and awareness in the community.
“This Mental Health Month encourages people to share their mental health journeys, which is WayAhead’s own October theme.
“Reaching out and educating the public about treatment options should be part of the public discussion.
“Wesley Hospital’s event, which is encouraging people to share personal stories, is doing just that, and we support vital community-led discussions such as these.”
Another strong advocate of mental health treatment is NSW Waratahs player, Paddy Ryan, who will also be at the event to show his support. “Mental illness is something which has directly affected my family.
“Therefore personally, I feel it is important to raise awareness of the treatment options available and reduce the negative stigma attached to the term ‘mental health’.
“Wesley Hospital’s event is yet another brilliant example of people taking the initiative to start public conversations and tackle mental illness head-on.”
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