I interrupt our regular programming today to talk hats. Or more specifically what is underneath them. Today is National Hat Day and it is all about shining a light on mental illness in Australia. Something that we don’t talk about often enough.

I studied psychology at uni and while I wasn’t the best psychology student, it did give me a greater insight into mental health and how our brains work. I also had to touch a rat we were training. Not the highlight of my time at university… So what I know from my time studying our brain is that having poor mental health does not come down to choice.  And yet, I couldn’t tell you the number of times I have heard someone say to me, “I don’t know what they have to be depressed about” or some other such line when talking about a friend or family member with depression or another mental illness.

Mental illness is the difference between having a bad day and hating on the world for a while and living in a dark cloud that you just can’t escape from. It is the difference between being able to think clearly about the choices you make every day and making poor choices because your judgement is clouded by an unshakeable haze. It is the difference between a genuine smile and happiness and a smile that is pasted on so the world doesn’t know what is really going on deep inside.

The more we talk mental illness as just that, an illness and less about it being a choice that someone has made, the more as a community we will come together to fight it. Sure there are things we can all do such as exercise, eating well, asking for help etc. that will do good things for our mental health. But at the end of the day, we aren’t controlling what is going on up in our beautiful brains. And when you think about the estimated $20 billion cost of mental illness in Australia (including the cost of lost productivity and labour force participation) then it is something we should all be concerned about.

Mental illness isn’t something I normally blog about but it is something I am passionate about supporting. Mental health topics need to become normal conversation for us so that people feel that they can seek help without fear of judgement. As parents, looking after our own mental health and seeking support when we need it is so important so that we can role model for our kids. Nearly 50% of all Australians will experience at least one episode of mental ill health in their lives so you aren’t alone.

So what can you do to support Hat Day and raise vital funds for mental health research? It’s simple really, wear a hat and donate to research. Visit www.hatday.com.au to register a Hat Day FUNdraiser event and invite your friends, family and colleagues to join in and to donate generously on your fundraising page.

You can also find Hat Day at:
Facebook – www.facebook.com.au/hatdayevent
Twitter – @hatday
Hashtag for instagram, twitter and facebook – #hatday14.

If you or someone you know is in need of counselling, contact Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467 or Lifeline: 13 11 14