'Harden up' is unfortunately a common phrase you hear in Australian culture, even when people are sick.
From common colds to severe injuries, irregular pains and chronic conditions, Aussies often fall into the trap of the 'toughing it out' approach to their health, feigning wellness due to fears of social stigma and judgement from peers.
It may seem absurd to think about someone fearing judgement for something as serious as a broken leg, but it is an unfortunate reality for thousands of Australians struggling with their mental health, with new research from The Banyans Healthcare revealing that just under half (48%) of Australians try to resolve their mental health issues on their own.
Indeed, despite over 8.5 million (44%) Australians experiencing a mental illness in their lifetime, the fear of ongoing stigma continues to silence Australians with mental illness, with less than half (45.1%) of the 4.3 million (21.4%) Australians with a mental health condition in the past year seeking professional help.
While it may be tempting to link this to environmental factors, such as financial or geographic barriers to accessing healthcare, studies have established a clear link between anticipated stigma and individual behaviours, with two in five (42%) actively preventing themselves from accessing healthcare and four in five (78%) people concealing their mental health problems in fear of discriminatio.
We live in a country with a national identity founded upon a warm, easy-going attitude, putting off dealing with many problems with a proverbial "she'll be right" and a pat on the back. While there can be some value in a relaxed attitude in certain circumstance, it becomes a problem that undermines our collective health when putting on a brave face and soldiering on silently become self-prescribed treatments for Australians living with mental health conditions.
While there have been great strides in understanding mental health and increasing public health interventions and conversations about it's importance, Australians still struggle with an internalised reluctance to acknowledge the importance of mental health, to treat it with the equivalence to physical health and acknowledge the critical role it plays in our overall wellbeing.
I often say that mental health is human health. We all have it, and our mental health can ebb and flow in the same way our physical health can. In fact, the interplay between mental health and physical health is so comprehensive and profound it's almost unfortunate we distinguish between them so much.
Studies show that repressing negative emotions can cause greater suffering. It can contribute to development of more serious mental health concerns, as well as causing negative physical outcomes, such as suppressed immunity, increasing vulnerable to a variety of illnesses ranging from common colds to cancer. It can also create lower levels of resilience for the individual, leading to knock-on unhealthy behaviours including overeating and insomnia.
Mental health is linked to overall wellbeing, with Australians living with a mental illness experiencing increased rates of arthritis, asthma, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, lung conditions and strokes4.
It is estimated those with mental illness experience a mortality rate 2.2 times that of people without, with one study even finding a 70% increased risk of death from cancer.
It's clear then, that being disinclined to seek support and trying to 'tough it out' only serves to make us weaker, physically and mentally.
The research by The Banyans Healthcare Group was carried out on a national representative sample of 2,000 Australians aged 18 and over in September 2023. Methodology: The data sample was weighted against ABS data for age, gender and location using an online survey that is independently conducted and verified PureProfile.
Discuss in our Forums
See what other readers are saying about this article!
Click here to read & post comments.
3 posts so far.