Lifestyle / ANZ CWL

Mental health month & the Croatian community

Mental health month & the Croatian community

Mental health was the topic of this month’s virtual meeting held by the Australian and New Zealand Croatian Women in Leadership organisation. 

Three prominent experts of Croatian origin spoke extensively about the topic: 

  • Ivan Frković, Commissioner of Mental Health Queensland and Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Queensland 
  • Maria Milić, Child & Family Psychologist from New South Wales, and 
  • Tanya Unkovich, Personal Mentor and panel facilitator from New Zealand. 

For SBS Croatian, they answered questions about the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic on the mental health of Australians, what the first months will be like without restrictions and how to help yourself and loved ones.

Status of Mental Health in Australia

Ivan Frković’s extensive presentation provided insights into the current state of mental health, explaining some basic information to help better understand the scope of the problem. 

An individual’s mental health can move along a spectrum from positive to poor, depending on a number of factors. Obviously, there is a positive state of mental health to varying degrees, but moving further along the spectrum, poorer mental health can be observed in stages. Those deemed ‘Vulnerable’ may be suffering from common and self-limiting distress. Then we have those who are impacted by the state of their mental health, with a more severe change of functional ability, often for the worse. And then we have those who are unwell and have a diagnosable mental illness, again to different degrees. 

Data from the Queensland Health Commissioner pointed out some disturbing facts: 

  • Around 1 in 5 Australians will experience mental illness, including substance use disorders, in any year. 
  • Anxiety and depression form the most common mental disorders. 
  • Females are more likely than males to experience depression and anxiety.
  • Over 75 per cent of mental health problems occur before the age of 25 years.
  • 54 per cent of people with mental illness do not access any treatment.
  • Approximately 1 in 2 Australians will experience mental illness in their lifetime.

Mental illness is treatable, and most people with mental illness recover.

Treatment is different for each type of mental illness and varies according to:

  • the individual
  • the severity of the illness, and 
  • history of illness. 

The main types of treatment include psychological therapy, face to face and digital therapies, pharmacotherapy, lifestyle changes, and complementary therapies. 

Investing in economic recovery is the fastest way for governments to help with fixing existential problems caused by the pandemic.

Ivan Frković

The life called ‘a new normal’

Maria Milić, Child & Family Psychologist from New South Wales, pointed out that we have to be aware that not everything will be the same. And maybe, that’s what we need. 

In a very abrupt way, we managed to get some positives out of the global pandemic: to determine family priorities and spend more time with those who need us most. That’s something that the majority of people will not let go of. 

Maria Milić

The feeling of self-worth

Tanya shared her experiences, saying how many people grieve, sometimes for their financial losses, and what comes with that is that they carry shame. 

What I’m trying to help with is rebuilding people’s identity and self-worth. When individuals have that, they will go through all of life’s hardships more easily.

Tanya Unkovich

You can listen to their conversation with Marijana Buljan, from SBS Croatian, in the Croatian language, via this link: 

Mental health and pandemic what consequences are expected and how to deal with them. 

Helpful resources: 

Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS) 

People who don’t speak English as their first language can get free translation support from the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS): 

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