Written by Rachel Harding
Edited by Krystal Gordon
Mental health services and people affected suggest medication is not the only way to address mental illness.
Aftercare Australia National Operations Manager Ivan Frkovic said other means of treatment are vital for maintaining mental health.
“Medication is important and can make a contribution in management as well as recovery of mental illness, but I don’t think it is the sole answer,” Mr Frkovic said.
Mental health Not for Profit organisation Group61 area coordinator Julie Richardson said in some cases medication is necessary but there are also other ways to treat mental illness.
“Having a good diet and doing plenty of exercise and finding hobbies are particularly good,” Ms Richardson said.
“Most importantly treatment should be about reducing the isolation of mental illness and the friendship aspect, as isolation really causes depression and can lead to hospital visits,” she said.
Aftercare Australia and Group61 offer a range of activities and support for people experiencing a mental illness which helps recovery and the transition back into society for those who have been hospitalised.
“We want people to be able to move on, we don’t want to hold them in this ‘mental illness space’,” Mr Frkovic says.
Group61 offers a friendship service and social outings for people transitioning back into society after hospitalisation.
“Our motto is ‘breaking the isolation of mental illness’, and our program is more than just an outing with a friend,” Ms Richardson said.
“We know our program is effective because we can see how happy and relaxed everyone is during activities,” she said.
Unfortunately there is a high number of young people not accessing the support they need to maintain mental well-being.
Mr Frkovic explains why mental illnesses are prevalent among young people in society.
“The stigma around mental health prevents young people from acting on it,” Mr Frkovic said.
Initiatives such as BeyondBlue and Headspace have made a huge difference by making society more accepting of mental health issues, but there is still work to be done on less prevalent and more severe conditions like bipolar and schizophrenia.
“Mental illness does set up challenges in life, but that does not mean that people with mental illness cannot be successful,” Mr Frkovic says.
Logan Anderson’s success story is just one example.
Anderson was diagnosed with a mental illness and found medication wasn’t helping.
Motivated to find alternative treatments he turned to traveling and at age 24 he is now the CEO of Halcyon Backpacking Company.
“I think the best thing someone can do to help their own mental health is to do things that they are passionate about and that bring them happiness,” Mr Anderson said.
“I found other things were more effective for me, things like travel, nature, writing, and being creative,” he said.
“If more of us returned to doing what we love, even just as a serious hobby, we would be more happy [sic].”
Halcyon Backpacking is a travel service for people aged between 18 and 35 with a mental illness who are passionate about travel.
“The tours will have a large outdoor and adventure component because nature has always been something that has helped my own recovery.”
Being the first of its kind, Halcyon Backpacking is starting up and soon to be offering tours that provide in-tour professional counselling to improve mental well-being, whilst exploring Canada, the USA, Europe and eventually Australia.
Below are a few images from tours available in Canada.
If you need urgent assistance, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.
For more information about Halcyon Backpacking, Group61 and Aftercare Australia visit our organisations page.