As a mother of three young children, I find myself putting as much effort into their mental well-being as I do into their physical and emotional well-beings.

Before going to bed at night, we have a barometer check on our “happiness index”. Without annoying them, it allows me to better understand how they have coped with the ups and downs that the day invariably has presented them with.

This is an opportunity for me to share and connect with my kids and talk about the issues that have demanded their mental resilience.

Sharing and connecting on this level I believe is the first step in building mental resilience in kids. As a mother, I would like to instil in them an awareness of the importance of developing mental resilience as well as an understanding of how mental resilience relates to mental illness. This resilience “armour” will see them flourish and rise to the challenges that each stage of their lives throws at them– and gets stronger with each new challenge tackled. Connecting the dots between mental resilience and mental illness provides them with vital skills, which may ultimately save their lives.

Our society puts so much emphasis on physical well-being which is understandable because as humans we focus on the parts we can see. But what about the parts we can’t see, like our mental well-being, which is as important? How aware are we as individuals of the connection between our emotional capacity to cope and our physical state?  

For parents with special needs children, building both their own and their children’s resilience, is an important factor in determining how the family unit will cope day to day and whether or not they will thrive and flourish.

If you think I might be overstating things, let me share with you some sobering statistics, which I recently came across:1

  • One in five (20%) Australians aged 16-85 experience a mental illness in any year.
  • Almost half (45%) Australians will experience a mental illness in their lifetime.
  • 65% of people with mental illness do not access any treatment
  • The proportion of people with mental illness accessing treatment is half that of people with physical disorders

Of all the statistic quoted, perhaps the most startling for me relates to depression, which is the number one cause of non-fatal disability in Australia. The World Health Organisation estimates that depression will be the number one health concern in both the developed and developing nations by 2030.

And so if nearly half of us will experience some form of mental illness during our lives, should we not be talking about it more, both individually and collectively?

Simple questions like:

  • What do we mean by mental health?
  • How can mental resilience protect us against mental illness?
  • What skills should we be teaching our children, to help manage mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety?

These are topics which adults find hard to talk about it, so how can we better equip our children to share on these topics? In my opinion, the “KIS” (Keep it simple) principle never fails.

I recently came across a UK Government funded program, which promoted five simple ways of achieving well-being. The simplicity and universality of the principles really appealed to me. Are these things you can easily build into your day, without much effort?

Connect with people around you. Making connections and having supports will enrich your everyday life

Be active – discover a physical activity you enjoy and that suites your level of mobility and fitness

Take notice – be curious and appreciate what really matters

Keep learning – learning helps build confidence and can be fun

Give – Thank someone. Smile. This helps understand how your happiness is connected to the wider community

My experience has been that the connection between mental well-being and mental illness is not as well understood, as one would expect. In a 24-7 world, where society places ever-increasing demands on us, do we allocate enough time to our mental fitness, just as we do to our physical fitness?

Most of us understand the link between remaining active and fit and our physical well-being. But do we appreciate the importance of developing coping mechanisms and skills, which could protect us against mental illness?

How many of us delay our own recovery by thinking of mental illness as exactly that – an illness rather than seeing the connection between mental illness and resilience?

Here are some useful links:

http://www.fivewaystowellbeing.org/

http://www.generationnext.com.au/

http://www.theresiliencedoughnut.com.au/

 

Footnotes:

1. Black Dog Institute, Facts and Figures about Mental Illness and Mood Disorders

 

Nicole Gamerov

Nicole is a mother of 3 children and has been working in the world of reinsurance in the area of disability, climate change, disaster risk reduction, food security and resilience. How insurance relates to these topics can sometimes be misunderstood but once we start talking about “resilience” the link is quickly made. Nicole is leaving the reinsurance world and is throwing herself headfirst into the disability sector.

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