The State of Our Mental Health – A Different Lens

– Mental illness is one
of the biggest problems of our time. It impacts on productivity,
educational outcomes, physical health, and for many
people, it can lead to death. (up-tempo drum music) – Around one in five Australian adults experience a mental health condition in any given year. (upbeat music) This can really impact
on their self-esteem, their social relationships,
and just general well-being. – Most people have some level of empathy, or (murmurs) with people who
have anxiety and depression because we all get anxious or depressed. (upbeat drumming) But, people who have bipolar
disorder or schizophrenia, it’s harder for the
community to understand that. – It’s really, really hard to actually estimate the total costs mental illness has to the society because they’re huge, they’re immense, no one could possibly ever
really calculate the true costs. (rapid drumming music) So, if we can really
tackle mental illness, then we could have immense cost savings, and I think this will
increase our productivity and growth of our nation. (cymbal crashing) – The number of people
who killed themselves in the last year exceeded all the number of deaths associated with road accidents,
drug overdoses, and HIV. (mid-tempo music) We also know that suicide
is now the biggest killer of young people between
15 to 25, and 25 to 44. – Concerningly, around one
in seven Australian children also experience a mental health condition, and this can range from things from difficulties with attachment, or anxiety and depression. – Everybody has either
experienced a mental illness, or know someone with a mental illness. It’s as common as the flu. (electronic music) That experience means that it’s easier, not easy, but easier, to talk about it. – There has been a greater ability to talk about mental
illness in the community. It’s no longer nearly as stigmatized, and I think that really
normalizes and enables people to realize that this is a problem that a very significant proportion of Australians experience. But, we don’t want to
engage in disease mongering. So, it’s very important to
put it into perspective. Reports that are coming through, and have been coming through
for many, many years, have provided a sufficient trigger for both the commonwealth government, and the state government, and state and government
territories around Australia to pay much closer
attention to the problem. About 4.8 million Australians have some form of mental illness, and the majority of that are
high-prevalence disorders like anxiety and depression. Three percent have what’s described as severe mental illness,
something like 750,000 people. And, they include
schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and severe depression. – When the past 10 years, we’ve
talking about mental health, but in this conversations, we’ve not really
differentiate mental health, mental well-being, and mental illness. (upbeat music) What this means is that where we are talking
about poor mental health, people often associate that with mental disorders and mental illness, which is a category on its own that needs specific sort of treatments, and therefore the discussion
around mental health and mental well-being is also stigmatized, which in itself is a problem. – Teachers have a great opportunity to be able to identify kids
who have mental-health issues. Unfortunately, they don’t have
a lot of time, many of them, or the resources, and so they need a lot more support in also helping those kids. But, the bottom line is that it’s everybody’s
business, including teachers, to be able to support young
people’s mental health. – Early intervention is really crucial, and if we’re not picking up on these mental health conditions, or other prevalent disorders that we see in childhood such as ADHD, then it can have a really
detrimental and cascading impact on the child’s development, and their ability to form and
maintain social relationships. – The Turner Institute for
Brain and Mental Health was officially opened this year in July. (mid-tempo electronic music) And it represents a body of
researchers and clinicians whose mission is to
really build communities that are developing healthy mental health. The overriding goal of The Turner is to work with our communities around us. So, it was to work in
the South East corridor where there was a massive
area of unmet need, and it’s to develop interventions that will be able to have an impact on the communities around us, whether it’s remote communities, or whether it’s gone all the way through to people in Clayton that
really need resources that will promote early
and good mental health. – We’re developing training interventions that are supporting and
strengthening cognitive skills in early childhood. So, we know that cognitive
skills are really important for supporting both emotional
and behavioral regulation, as well as supporting learning
and social relationships. Digital technology has a lot of potential to create engaging tools that
can be tailored to children. So we’ve created an
attention-training program which is called Tali Train, and it involves a series of exercises that are tapping core
aspects of attention. And, children repeat these
over a period of time, so we’re really strengthening and building those
connections within the brain. – Over the next year, we’ll be rolling out a new program with our partners from Harvard to look at how students can monitor their well-being and their mental health using a digital phone, and see if we can use these technologies to improve mental health, well-being across different types of populations. – There’s many potential
negative impacts of technology if it’s used poorly. If it’s used well, it can be a really good
servant in your life, but for many it’s becoming a
bit of a tyrannical master. (up-beat music) The over-reliance on social media is associated with poor mental health, and higher narcissism. Like any addiction, it starts
to replace other things. So, pretty soon people
aren’t actually meeting, and connecting with others. They’re connecting via
a very small screen. So, there’s a kind of disconnect, there’s a kind of social
isolation that comes with that. – We’ve got psychological interventions, we’ve got social interventions, we’ve got treatments
that can treat symptoms, and make people feel a bit better. All of these treatments
are partial treatments. None of them actually fix the problem, and we don’t know what the
underlying pathology is that’s in the brain that
causes these illnesses. The brain is very inaccessible, and so you can’t subject
people with mental illness to the same types of tests and scrutiny that you can to cancer. – A large number of
pharmaceutical companies have essentially stopped their research in the field of psychiatric disorders. (mid-tempo electronic music) They don’t see it as
particularly commercially viable when compared to treatments for cancer or infectious diseases, for example. Part of the problem with the stigma around mental health disorders is it goes to the very fact that we can essentially have
our personalities affected. So, it’s of paramount important to us that we change the paradigm in the way that we think about
developing new therapeutics in the schizophrenia
space, addiction space, other psychiatric disorders. – It’s not just having
that quick medication, that quick pill, that you think will then
just make you really happy. It takes effort, and it takes you going
out of your comfort zone to actually build the blocks
that you need in your life that will help you sustain
good mental health. – So, mindfulness is a pretty simple thing of just being present
in your day-to-day life. It really involves two things,
attention and attitude. Mindfulness, for example,
could be one very simple thing that can have a profound effect, but it requires work and effort. You have to put in the
hard yards, as it were. So, to actually pay attention
when you’re at the meeting, to pay attention when
you’re driving your car, to just taste the food when you’re eating, just to give yourself a mental break. It’s profoundly important for
mental and physical health. – Over the last decade, last 15 years, there’s been a really major change in the way society has
reacted to mental disorders. There’s been much more in
the way of community leaders, famous people, important people, admitting to, acknowledging
that they’ve got mental illness. – It’s been tremendous to
see that many elite athletes who struggled with issues, and to have the courage to
be able to speak about it, and to be a role model and example. I was very happy one day when the Richmond Club psychologist came to some mindfulness training I was running for the Australian Psychological Society. I said if you wanna bring it in, it’s gotta be more than just
a little five minute diversion from time to time through some meditation. It needs to be part of the culture, and they really picked
it up, and ran with it. And, over the last few years, they’ve done an absolutely
wonderful job with it. They’ve really built a
strong connected culture. It’s really a wonderful example. – I think we have to convince employers to invest in the mental
health of their workforce because we know in working while sick, but being unproductive, has immense cost to Australian employers. It’s estimated around 30 Billion per year. – Everybody agrees on the
importance of these things, but in the workplace, there
has been no systematic way to introduce policies, to evaluate them, and to basically have a holistic approach to understanding workplace
health and well-being. – We have one of the best
physical health systems in the world, but then we have tagged on to
this physical health system a mental health system. – The Victoria (murmurs)
Journal handed down its report, and it showed that there
were major problems. There’s been a dramatic increase in emergency department presentations of people with mental illness. More than 50% who are going to be admitted have to wait more than eight hours, and the number of days that people are able to
stay in wards and be treated has gone down. People are being discharged
from hospital much too early, and that’s because there
just aren’t enough beds. We need to be forward-looking. There needs to be economies of scale. There needs to be an
aggregation of expertise. We can do so much better. – I think we are now ready
as a community, as a society, to take the next step, to be able to say, “Okay, well, we’ve educated
people a little bit, “we’ve destigmatized a little bit. “Let’s, as a community, as a
society, dedicate ourselves “to achieving the sorts of advances “that will ultimately lead to
the prevention and the cure “of these disorders.” (up-tempo electronic music)

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