Current Australian statistics tell us that 1 in 5 Australians—or around 5 million people—will experience a mental health issue each year. This is a very large number, but it’s still just a number. 

While a number can convey to us the enormity of the problem, what it doesn’t do is describe the life-changing impact a personal struggle with mental health issues can have, not only on an individual, but also on those family members and friends who are trying to provide support in the best way possible. 

There have been some admirable attempts over the past few years by various organisations throughout Australia to educate us about mental health issues, offer advice on treatment options, and to encourage us to be more open-minded when it comes to talking about this sensitive and often taboo topic. To their credit, many well-known Australians have bravely talked openly about their own personal experiences, and they have done this with the intent of encouraging others who may also be struggling to go and seek help for themselves, and to not suffer in silence.

These days we do know a lot more about diagnoses, such as depression, schizophrenia, personality disorders, mood disorders, medication, treatment, therapy etc., but are we aware of the human cost—the loneliness, the isolation, and the fear that sit alongside these illnesses as well? 

It may sometimes seem straightforward to address the symptoms of particular mental health issue, but it is also vital (as well as often being more difficult and all-too-often missed) to engage with the impact of this human cost in a personal way, with people and their family members and friends.

We’re fortunate that here at Wellways we have an established peer-led Helpline to provide information, support and service referrals. Open 9am-5pm Monday to Friday, Helpline is staffed by volunteers who are able to bring their own experience of mental health issues into the conversations they have over the phone. They understand what it’s like to feel alone, to be isolated and to be scared. It’s this understanding that enables them to assist those that they’re supporting to start to make some sense of their own experience, to look at ways of trying to cope and, most importantly, to give hope. 

Our volunteers engage in these vital conversations with people struggling with their own mental health issues, and their families, friends and carers, every day. They listen, provide encouragement and explain what support is available. And ultimately, they help facilitate meaningful change, growth and recovery. 

Shaun Walsh
Manager Volunteer and Member Engagement