Being physically fit and healthy has long been a priority for people all over the world – but how often do we prioritise what’s going on within? Mental wellbeing is just as important, if not more so, than staying in good physical shape – but it’s so often swept to the side. One local community member, Mayur Meshram, is working hard to change that though, through his work as a multicultural ambassador with the Mental Health Foundation of Australia. GABRIELLA PAYNE took a moment to learn more.
Often referred to as an ‘invisible illness’, mental health disorders are sometimes hard to identify and rarely talked about in everyday life.
This stigma that’s associated with mental health has taken a toll on many over the years, with people often afraid to open up about their internal struggles for fear of judgement – something that Mayur Meshram believes should be a thing of the past.
Mr Meshram, a prominent local community member, family man and co-founder of the IACC (Indian Australian Community Cooperative), is doing his part to break down these barriers and start some important community conversations in his recently renewed role as a multicultural ambassador for the Mental Health Foundation of Australia (MHFA) – something he’s incredibly passionate about.
“I’m trying to create that real awareness within the community,” Mr Meshram said.
“It’s great to be able to be a part of the (MHFA) cohort because we all have our own experiences to share.”
Being a passionate advocate for better mental health services, Mr Meshram said he was delighted to have been named as a multicultural ambassador with the MHFA for his second year in a row, as he believes there is still a lot of room for improvement in the mental health domain.
“Regardless of how much we change the language, when we perceive that term ‘mental’, there’s always a bit of a stigma associated with it,” Mr Meshram said.
“So as an ambassador, we go through certain courses to then understand what our role is in our respective communities, to be able to help not just create that awareness, but encourage people to take this course and also be able to help normalise the access to what is simplistically a state of wellbeing.”
Over the years, Mr Meshram has been involved in countless community projects and fundraising efforts, but from his perspective, advocating for better mental services and starting conversations within Cardinia’s many multicultural communities remained a top priority.
“Making people aware that this does exist, so that leaders can make an impact in their communities is just so important,” he said.
Mr Meshram said that in our multicultural society, sometimes people might find themselves struggling and not know where to turn.
“Sometimes there’s little support available, or people may not be aware of the helpline numbers or who to reach out to.
You know you can go and talk to your GP, but people don’t talk and they don’t go,” he said.
“We go there with a cough, cold symptoms, allergies, high temperatures – but we don’t go and talk to our GP and say, ‘hey, I’m feeling really depressed’ or ‘I had a panic attack yesterday, I don’t know how to deal with it’… so hopefully there will be more traction, more awareness and I hope I can do my part in getting that awareness going.”
After the difficult year that we’ve all been through, it seems that maintaining a healthy mental wellbeing is finally being given the focus it deserves, but Mr Meshram said that many Australians still find it hard to speak up and find help.
According to Australian not-for-profit mental health organisation, the Black Dog Institute, mental illness is “very common” and one in five, or 20% of Australians aged 16-85 will experience a mental illness in any given year.
On top of that, the statistics show that more than half of those people suffering from a mental illness, or 54%, do not access any treatment at all.
“The proportion of people with mental illness accessing treatment is half that of people with physical disorders,” a statement released last year from the Black Dog Institute said.
Perhaps the most harrowing statistics though were in relation to self harm, with “at least six Australians dying from suicide” each day, and a “further thirty people [each day] attempting to take their own life”.
Mr Meshram believes that together, we can change these figures and help support people going through difficult times.
“The numbers are quite alarming,” he said.
“We put so much stress on eating well and perceive our physical fitness as the most important way to feel good about ourselves – but we really discount our mental state and wellbeing.
If we think of the mind like an engine, then everything else will fall in line.”
Mr Meshram encouraged anyone who was struggling to reach out and seek support, as there were many people able to lend a hand in the community.
“We can all empower ourselves to improve our capacity and capability to look more in depth, to see what’s under the bonnet,” he said.
“If we are aware of that and know that mental wellbeing practices are actually adding value to us performing at a greater level than what we normally would do, then in turn, we can help understand if someone else is struggling and what advice and support we could give them.
If we can each play a role in helping one another make a difference, then that’s a good start.”
For more information about the MHFA, visit https://www.mhfa.org.au/