Mitch HOMS

Why “I’m not OK” are the three strongest words you can say.

Heart On My Sleeve is a bold mental health movement that aims to break down the stigma surrounding mental health and open a dialogue that will help those suffering in silence. 

Australia is in the grips of a mental health crisis, with the number of people experiencing issues such as anxiety and depression increasing at an unprecedented rate. Driven by the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and the current rising cost-of-living pressures, more and more Australians are finding themselves in a state of financial and emotional despair.

For many of these individuals, accessing mental health support has become increasingly difficult. Not only have one in three psychologists closed their books due to a 70 per cent increase in demand, the cost of counselling itself has become a barrier as many are struggling to make ends meet.

Unable to access adequate support, many people in need are falling through the cracks – but that’s something not-for-profit charity Heart On My Sleeve wants to change. Founded in 2017 by Mitch Wallis, a Bondi-based mental health expert, Heart On My Sleeve aims to lead a cultural movement of “emotional authenticity”, moving people from a state of awareness to a state of action. 

Recent data from the National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing conducted by the ABS indicated that Over two in five Australians aged 16-85 years (43.7% or 8.6 million people) had experienced a mental disorder at some time in their life. However, they also remind us that a person does not need to meet the criteria for a mental disorder to be negatively affected by their mental health.

And despite the increase in awareness campaigns over recent years, many people still find it difficult to open up about their experience and seek help.

This is where Heart On My Sleeve is making a difference. Their stigma busting campaign is sweeping Australian media and social media globally currently with the message that “I’m not ok” are the three strongest words you can say. Wallis, who has Master of Clinical Psychology from Columbia University in New York and over 20 years of lived experience with mental health, says “We want people to know that whatever they’re going through, they are not alone.  And that it’s not just on others to ask you how you are, it’s about speaking up and being real.”

By letting your network know you’re experiencing mental health struggles, you’ll not only increase your chances of getting the help you need, but you’ll also signal to others that they can reach out to you in their own time of need. This helps to break down the wall of shame and stigma that can keep us silent and create a consistent two-way dialogue for discussing mental health concerns.

As well as shining a spotlight on mental health issues through social media, Heart On My Sleeve also offers practical support, including resources to help you own and share your experiences, “speak-up” training, real-life stories from the community and free support groups.

“We’re not about awareness,” Wallis says. “In order to get out of this epidemic we’re in, we need action”.

With a personal goal of transforming the lives of 1 billion people to be more mentally healthy, Wallis is urging Australians to join the Heart On My Sleeve movement. By posting your heart on your sleeve, pledging to speak up when you’re not ok, or sharing authentically about your own mental health experiences, you can help achieve this incredible target and spread the word that asking for help is one of the strongest things you can ever do.

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