One person can only do so much. Cross out the only in that sentence and read it again. This captures why I feel proud to be sharing this story, along with beyondblue CEO Georgie Harman, as it’s a story that starts with one person – and an idea.
To mark World Mental Health Week we’re announcing an extension to the Telstra National Crisis Line Initiative. This will provide free calls from mobiles to two new mental health support services, including beyondblue and Suicide Call Back Service.
The expansion of this program is thanks to a staff member in one of our Telstra shops, who wanted to eliminate the barrier of cost to accessing critical mental health services for our customers.
Our team member had experienced the impact of mental health issues first hand and shared her story of how calls to services like beyondblue and Suicide Call Back Service had saved her life.
The story inspired Telstra team members throughout our organisation, who picked up the idea and brought it to fruition.
As a result, Telstra customers will no longer be charged for calls from their mobile phones and most payphones to the beyondblue and Suicide Call Back Service 1300 number counselling services.
To help announce this new initiative, I asked beyondblue CEO Georgie Harman why access to these support services are vital.
Georgie, how would you describe Australia’s mental health?
I think it still surprises people when I say that there are currently around three million Australians living with depression or anxiety – and the fact that eight people will take their own life every day. Mental health and suicide prevention is an issue that vitally needs our attention.
But it’s also important to be clear on what we’re talking about. At beyondblue, we talk about the difference between a ‘mental health condition’ (such as depression or anxiety) and ‘mental health’ – something we all aspire to – which refers to a person’s state of well-being and ability to cope with the normal challenges of life. So you may not be experiencing a mental health condition, but that doesn’t necessarily mean your mental health is flourishing.
When we talk about mental health the conversations we are having shouldn’t just be about mental health conditions – they should also be about being cognitively, emotionally and socially healthy.
Why is ‘good’ mental health so important?
Mental health is about wellness rather than illness.
What we know is that high levels of mental health are linked with increased learning, creativity and productivity, as well as improved physical health and life expectancy. On the other side of the coin, mental health conditions can cause distress, impact on day-to-day functioning and relationships, and are associated with poor physical health and premature death.
At beyondblue we focus a lot on the needs of people affected by depression, anxiety and suicide – but more and more we are wanting to widen the Australian conversation around mental health more generally. A good state of mental health will enable all Australians to reach their full potential, but importantly also help to prevent mental health conditions from developing.
What help is there for people out there – and why are services like beyondblue’s phone counselling important?
We have a number of ways for people to reach out for help when they need it, including our 24-hour, seven-day a week counselling line (1300 22 4636) and team members also available to chat live online on our website 3pm to midnight (EST) each day (www.beyondblue.org.au). Beyond that, our website is a good source of information for people who might be experiencing mental health issues or a mental health condition – as well as those with family members or friends who they would like help supporting.
Mental health conditions, such as depression, impact all facets of a person’s life. But the good news is that there is a range of support, treatments, health professionals and services available to help. Our most important job is to make people aware that support is there and to connect them with the services they need.
If you or someone you know needs support please call beyondblue on 1300 22 4636 or Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 for support.
The Telstra National Crisis Line Initiative provides free access to a number of 13/1300 national, 24 x 7, first response, support services for Telstra customers from mobiles and most payphones. Services include Lifeline, Family Drug Support, MensLine Australia and the SES. From July 2016, calls to counselling support provided by beyondblue (1300 22 4636) and Suicide Call Back Service (1300 659 467) are now included.