So, are you OK? One day yes, the next day, not so maybe?

Being “depressed” or down can be normal for all of us at some time or another, and it is most often a response to grief and loss and is generally manageable, ie it is part of everyday life. This might be described as ‘mental distress’.

At the other end of the continuum, is mental illness. This is about a chronic condition that is not related to the circumstances around you. For some people, this can be mild or episodic, while for others, it can be all-encompassing and pervading everything they do, all of the time. This could include bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, chronic depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, etc. With this condition, people can live relatively impoverished lives in terms of income, housing, mobility, friendships, supports, relationships, and employment.

A brief snapshot of mental illness in Australia shows in each year, approximately one in every five Australians will experience a mental illness.

UnitingSA’s Mental Health Services support around 800 people at any one time. Through its unfunded Chat ‘n’ Chew program, it provides more than 700 evening meals per year to people who are very isolated in their community. It provides far more than a meal though. Most importantly it provides an opportunity for those socially isolated in our community to connect, to make friends and build networks in their community.

The people who attend the Chat’n’Chew program don’t always have a formal diagnosis of mental illness, and the team at UnitingSA don’t ask because it is about encouraging a sense of wellbeing rather than providing treatment.

The people who attend are generally known as socially isolated, as several live in precarious scenarios i.e. in cars, couch surfing, etc. Some have an intellectual disability and many have a mental illness which is significant, ongoing and having an impact on their ability to remain independent in the community.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics for the National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: Summary of Results (cat. no. 4326.0)., anxiety disorders – such as panic disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder – were the most common mental illnesses recorded, affecting 14% of people. Affective disorders – such as depression – affected 6%.

The most commonly experienced anxiety disorders were post-traumatic stress disorder (6%) and social phobia (5%) with depression being the most common affective disorder (4%)

Ref: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/latestProducts/4326.0Media%20Release12007

Additionally, according to Mindframe, only 35% of people with a mental disorder had used a health service during the survey period, and hospital admissions for mental health problems were rare – less than 1% over the 12 month period.

Statistically, people with chronic mental illness die 15 to 20 years younger than their peers and are often victims of violence and mistreatment.

The Australian Medical Association issued a report in January 2018, stating “Mental health and psychiatric care is grossly underfunded when compared to physical health. The extent of mental health conditions in the community is extensive, with almost a majority of adult Australians experiencing a mental health condition in their lifetime. Some of these have significantly worse levels of morbidity, or premature mortality, than the general population. Yet this sector receives less than half the funding of the comparable burden of disease funding.”

There is also significant evidence that good community services aimed at keeping people well are effective at keeping people out of the medical system. These services, if they exist, are often poorly funded.

In short, mental illness affects everyone in our community at some time or another, where either we or someone close to us, is likely to experience this at some point in our lifetime.

It affects everything from our sense of self to our connections in the community and our ability to self-care, maintain friendships or housing, and employment or education.

Good mental health is a sense of well-being, confidence, and self-esteem.

“It is important to our social group members to always consider and support others if we have the opportunity. While we have a great time and enjoy ourselves, we recognise not everyone does, or can. Raising money through our events is a simple way we can support these people in our community.“ –Charlie-Helen Robinson

The Unearthing Winelovers Vintage Ball on 21st April 2018 will raise money for the UnitingSA’s Mental Health Services Chat ‘n’ Chew program. Last year the group raised over $3000 to support and assist the team continue their work.

This year, our aim is to raise more.

We are using the hashtag #chatsby at the Vintage Ball.

Why not join us for the conversation and chatter.