October is this year’s Mental Health Awareness Month for Australians. MHAM is a Mental Health Foundation Australia (MHFA) initiative and aims to increase awareness around existing mental health conditions, reducing the stigma within environments and communities which don’t traditionally speak about such topics.
In short, the month is about getting comfortable with mental health as a topic of discussion. Generally, there’s a push to run ads, distribute flyers, hold special events and talk about mental health as much as possible.
But why contain it within a month? Well, just as Christmas provides us with a convenient time to remind loved ones we care about them with gifts, Mental Health Awareness Month gives us an occasion to bring up that awkward question comfortably.*
So here are eight ways you can celebrate or reflect on mental health this October, whether you’re an office manager looking after their staff or a well-meaning friend getting in touch.
1.) Drive your own awareness campaign
Use the month to remind those around you that you care and that you’re doing what you can to prevent the rise of mental health issues. You might even join a programme or run your own campaign for your employees. The theme for this year is ‘Mental Health matters’ — so think about how you can embody this value in your own company or home.
2.) Review your habits
As humans, we tend to use dates as an arbitrary line, telling ourselves (and the world) that ‘from this date on, I will do things differently’. Whether it’s a New Year’s resolution or just the beginning of a new month, this set of dates holds significance for us.
Start October by reviewing your habits in your office or home. Do people come to see you when there’s a problem, or do they make a habit of moving past your door? Use the month to schedule regular checkups with your staff or time with friends and family.
If you’re the opposite, and you find yourself snowed under by people knocking at your door, perhaps you need to put a new procedure in place and remind others that your time is valuable.
3.) October is for practice
Don’t expect changes to be made easily. Often we become addicted to our coping mechanisms, whether turning to someone to ‘regurgitate’ our problems or keeping them in at all costs. Making long-term adjustments isn’t easy and takes incremental steps. Announce October as your practice month, and see how it works out.
4.) Get out somewhere
When we continue to remain in the same place with the same people, our thinking becomes staid. Overcoming this rut feels impossible because we’ve worn such comfortable grooves in our daily pattern that we can’t seem to get out.
A new place and perspective mean we don’t have those ruts handy, so we’re forced to rethink the situation. Trying new activities is also a great way to build trust and relieve tension — so use October to schedule a workplace outing or friend gathering.
5.) Make where you are now more comfortable
Another way to create more positive mindsets is to change behaviours within that shared space. Everyone has different levels of comfort and engagement — so while a quiet cubicle might be ideal for one person, coming into a silent, ‘lifeless’ office could feel restrictive for others. Carving out time every week or fortnight to come together as a team, family, or flat helps create a more comfortable shared space, giving the opportunity for people to socialise in doses without restricting their freedom to talk.
6.) Gratitude journals
Writing down what we’re grateful for each day has been proven to produce mental benefits, helping people disassociate from negative thoughts and engage with more positive ones. Like any muscle, training our ‘positivity centre’ by reflecting on the good strengthens that associative behaviour and makes it easier to be constantly grateful in our daily lives.
7.) Put something up
Whether it’s a noticeboard, a poster or an email sent around the office, having a visual reminder actively forces us to take notice, helping substitute old behaviours for new ones. You could even try making an interactive bulletin board, asking people to attach post-it notes about what has made them smile this month or one thing that makes them feel grateful.
8.) Booking a mental health training course
While it might seem obvious that we’d suggest this, what better time than October? If you’re concerned about taking time away from the office or planning for an expense, then why not designate a little time within the month to take stock of your employee or family’s mental health?
Training with your team, senior management or any group you deal with regularly helps open a dialogue that might be difficult to verbalise, using a safe training space to do so.
*That said, you shouldn’t wait a year to address issues with you, your family or your team.