Our mental health is what makes us human
SAMHC Featured Blogger:
Professor Sharon Lawn
SA Mental Health Commissioner
Everywhere I look, I see people going about their day; whether it’s on the train or in the throng of traffic, at the local shops or heading to school.
And I often wonder about the many thoughts that each person I pass carries along with them, the memories, the worries, the aspirations that they hold.
After all, our experiences and thoughts about where and how we fit in the bigger scheme of things, our place in our families and communities are important; they are what make us human, and they are powerful influencers of our mental health and wellbeing.
As part of beginning my role as a Mental Health Commissioner, I’m keen to be part of the collective effort to make South Australia an even better place to live for each and all of its citizens. In particular, I’m committed to helping to build a more inclusive community; one in which we know we are getting things right because the lives of even our most marginalised community members are better, and where we respect and value the diversity.
Just last week, for example, I was walking to my new office at the Commission; it was a typical busy morning in the city, full of colour and movement. As the crowd of pedestrians moved along, a man who appeared to be homeless sat singing loudly at a bus-stop. As I watched, I saw some people look away, others pick up speed as they walked past, some laugh or talk under their breath; I said ‘Good morning’ and thanked him for his song. We are, after all, in this life together, and everyone’s wellbeing is important. We hold many reciprocal relationships and responsibilities to each other.
Growing up in a rural Riverland community, I’ve seen what people can do to build wellbeing by coming together to serve and support each other. I credit much of how I now think and act from that experience, particularly my sense of duty, responsibility to others, care, and the protection of human rights.
On the family fruit block, we all pitched in; everyone’s contribution was important and valued, literally! There was work to be done. My father put me on a tractor at the age of five and told me to drive; it gave me a sense of knowing that most things are possible, that you just give things a go and mistakes are OK (just do what you can to learn from them).
Much of the qualities evident in the community arose from the efforts of service clubs like the Lions and CWA (Country Women’s Association), the local sports clubs: ordinary people coming together to build better communities.
More recently, through the experience of my parents aging and mother passing away, I’ve witnessed how much can be achieved with sheer people power, as the community looks out for my father and supports him, and how he continues to serve with other locals on community projects.
So I would ask you to take a moment in each day to stop and take stock of your place in your community.
Look to those around you and think about what helps you find your place and how you can help others to do so too.
By Professor Sharon Lawn
SA Mental Health Commissioner
Professor Sharon Lawn comes to the Commissioner role with many experiences and expertise in mental health and wellbeing. Her own lived experience guides her involvement in local and national mental health consumer and carer advocacy. For many years, Sharon was a social worker involved in the delivery of healthcare services in the mental health system. This experience underpinned her role as a researcher over many years, as she focused on healthcare systems, how people experience them, and how they treat each other in those systems. Sharon’s priorities for 2020 and beyond are to help create a more inclusive South Australian community.
SAMHC Featured Bloggers
The SAMHC presents our series of guest featured bloggers who generously share their personal thoughts and experiences of mental health and wellbeing.