5 ways to learn more about mental health

29 September 2017
October is Mental Health Month

By understanding more about mental health, we are better prepared to stay mentally fit, Dr Haley LaMonica explains.

The term ‘mental health’ is often used to describe conditions like depression and anxiety, but this narrow definition overlooks its positive aspects. "Mental health exists along a continuum, spanning from mental illness through to good mental health and wellbeing," says Dr LaMonica, Clinical Neuropsychologist at the Brain and Mind Centre.

"There can be many influences on our mental health, including self-esteem, interpersonal relationships, physical health, problem-solving skills and access to support," she explains. "Plus, we all have experiences in life that can impact on it too, such as stress related to performance at school or work, a family member with a serious illness, a break-up, or financial struggles."

"Learning strategies to help foster resilience in the face of life’s challenges is an essential step in maintaining good mental health," she says.

This Mental Health Month, why not learn more about what keeps you mentally healthy. Here are five great ways to get you started.

1. Study our massive online open course (MOOC)

This course explores different aspects of good mental health, mental disorders and their causes, treatments and how to seek help and support. It may be particularly helpful if you have struggled with illness, cared for a family member or friend, or work in a related field and would like to know more about how to assist people.

2. Learn from the experts

Want to learn more about mental health on the go? Sydney Ideas have put together this playlist of all the great talks on mental health from the last few years. Or you can attend their talk on 26 October on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health.

3. Read up on the latest research

The health and medicine news section on our website summarises university research really simply - you don't have to be a neuroscientist to understand it! You can also stay up to date with the latest in mental health research from the Brain and Mind Centre or read about five suprising things that affect our mental health.

4. Track your own mental health

"A great way to learn about mental health and wellbeing is by tracking your own using devices and apps. You might notice patterns in your own data that help you identify risks to your mental wellbeing," says Dr LaMonica. "For example, it may be that when you drink more alcohol, you sleep less and your grades decline. On the other hand, perhaps when you exercise more routinely, your sleep improves and your anxiety decreases. Data tracking devices are valuable tools through which to better understand your own mental health; both those factors that result in reduced wellbeing, but also those factors that help you better cope with and manage life’s challenges."

5. Make a mental health plan

If you are feeling anxious, overwhelmed or stressed, you may find it helpful to create a mental health plan. Read four tips from our mental health expert Professor Niels Buus. 

Information on the University of Sydney's counselling and mental health support services can be found here.

If you have immediate safety concerns for yourself or others, call triple zero (000) for emergency services (fire/ambulance/police).

If you need help outside of Counselling and Psychological Services hours, the following community resources are available:

Mental Health Access Line: 1800 011 511

Lifeline (24 hours): 13 11 14