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Committee for Geelong's Weekly Addy Opinion Piece - Healthy Minds Geelong

A healthy society not only means that its members are physically fit and of good health, it also means that they enjoy good mental health. Equally, it means that those struggling with their mental health can easily find the support they need to get better.

One of the groups participating in the Committee for Geelong's leadership program, Leaders for Geelong, has made it its mission to create a platform that provides our region with relevant and effective resources and information promoting mental health.

The project - Healthy Minds Geelong - is built on the premise that mental health is not just the absence of mental illness, but in fact a state of wellbeing that allows individuals to realise their potential, deal with life's normal stresses, work and contribute to the wider community.

The group has focussed on developing a resource - - that not only offers information and guidance on how to navigate the mental health system, but also provides details on relevant health services available and tools and advice to help those affected self-manage.

The website was launched at Deakin University's Waterfront Kitchen in March 2016, with 120 invited guests taking in the guest speakers' expertise - Jem Switajewski, owner and founder of 'Leader in Life' and James Ferne, Facilitator for 'Collective Potential'. Linda Batson, Comedian for 'WISE Stand Up for Mental Health', offered a more light-hearted approach to the topic, based on her own struggle with depression and how stand-up comedy helped her along that journey.

An important part of Healthy Minds Geelong is to bring people together to share their own experiences with mental health - or, in fact, with mental illness - to help normalise the conversation around mental health, to make it ok, and to show people that they are not alone.

Mental health plays a vital part in healthy communities, not just because positive mental health fosters more pro-social behaviour and positive social relationships, but also makes a society more creative, productive and innovative.

While the benefits of mental health are well documented and widely known, there is still a damaging culture of silence around mental health conditions, with people not talking about their problems for fear of being stigmatised, discriminated against or perceived as weak.

Healthy Minds Geelong seeks to address this issue, and the project leaders are hopeful that the website will help to connect people with mental health questions with service providers and others in the community who have experienced mental illness in the past - to help create a more informed, supportive and connected community.

Feedback from the launch event and responses to a survey regarding the project showed overwhelming support, encouraging the project group to investigate options for the portal's future growth and expansion.

Healthy Minds Geelong has the potential to make a real difference to our wider community. The more that individuals feel comfortable talking to someone about their problems, have access to services and a local support community of people with similar experiences, the stronger - and healthier - we as a society can be.

Rebecca Casson is the Committee for Geelong Chief Executive Officer. Follow the Committee for Geelong on Twitter @Comm4Geelong.



Leaders for Geelong's Healthy Minds Geelong team: Adam Watson, Peter Derbyshire, Zoe Waters, Sarah Bullock, Steve Evans & Kylie McClure



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