A workshop titled “Mind Your Mental Health” was held on 1 September 2018 at the Senior Citizens’ Centre in Turner, Canberra.

This workshop is the third medical workshop by Canberra doctors in partnership with the Sai Medical Unit and ACT Region’s Sathya Sai International Organisation of PN&G. The workshop was organised close to R U OK? Day which falls on 13 September 2018, a national day of action dedicated to reminding everyone that any day is the day to ask, “Are you okay?” to inspire and empower everyone to meaningfully connect with people around them and support anyone struggling with life.

Sathya Sai Baba said in 1959 that man suffers from two types of ills – physical and mental. They are caused by disequilibrium of the three tempers and three gunas (attribute or personality). Physical health is a prerequisite for mental health, and mental health ensures physical health.

Sathya Sai has further stated that “we suffer from ill health due to psychological reasons also. If you examine your pulse, blood pressure, temperature, etc., with feeling or fear that you are unwell, you will get abnormal readings. If you have the apprehension that you will not get good sleep, it will happen accordingly. So, always try to have a positive outlook and self-confidence that your health is all right. Today, one is called an old man if he attains the age of sixty or seventy. But in olden days, people were considered young even at the age of 80, 90, or 100. You might have read in the [Hindu epic] Mahabharata that at the time of the Kurukshetra War (5,500 years ago), Krishna and Arjuna were 86 and 84 years old respectively. But they were in youthful condition and participated in the war with vigour, vitality, and valour. Who was the Commander-in-Chief of the Kaurava army? It was the 116 year old Bhishma. If it were to be today, a 116 year old man would be confined to his cot, with his body shaking all over and needing others’ help even for getting up from bed. But, Bhishma fought fiercely for nine days. How do you account for this? It was because of their mental strength, nourishing food, and above all Self-confidence (i.e. confidence in the real self, or Atma).” – Summer Showers, 1990, p17.

The Mental Health Awareness Workshop was carefully designed to cover a range of age and gender groups and create an awareness of mind-related issues including when to seek a medical professional’s assistance and how this professional can meet the needs of those affected with love and compassion. In addition, the workshop also aimed to dispel some of the myths relating to mental health such as ‘mental illness is a death sentence’, ‘mental illnesses are all the same’, ‘some cultural groups are more likely than others to experience mental illness’ etc.

The workshop had about 100 participants including the volunteers and health professionals. Each participant was warmly welcomed by volunteers and provided a hand out on depression, the most common mental health issue found across all age and gender groups. The attendees at this workshop came from diverse communities and age groups with approximately fifty per cent of the attendees coming from non-Sai backgrounds. The workshop covered the following topics: mental health in children, womanhood and mind, mental health in men, laughter yoga and its benefits to mental health and mental health and spirituality.

Key points from the workshop were:

  • an introduction to anxiety, depression and behavioural issues in children, and factors such as child characteristics, family and parent characteristics and roles played by the immediate and external environment in increasing the susceptibility of children to mental health issues.
  • information on other mental health issues in children and adolescent such as Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), autism, and learning disorders such as dyslexia and how early intervention by a medical professional can result in positive outcomes for both the child and the parents.
  • a discussion on post-natal depression and some of its challenges, domestic violence and its impacts on mental health and empty nest syndrome and how exercise, healthy eating, deep breathing and mindfulness can assist with one’s well-being.
  • a presentation on the signs, symptoms and difficulties experienced by men living with a Black Dog (depression) and tips for men who may be impacted by depression to communicate honestly with a loved one or GP; the presentation also included useful sites that provide support services relating to depression.
  • the definition of mental health from the World Health Organisation indicates that it is a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, where he or she can cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively and fruitfully, and able to make a contribution to his or her community. Hence, mental health is about wellness instead of illness
  • a discussion on how spirituality is something that provides a sense of purpose or connectedness; a quest for wholeness or belief in a higher being or beings and a search for hope and harmony. Spiritual practices can be multi-dimensional to include the body, mind and spirit
  • a reference to the Book “Little Kiddy Went to Market” which covers the way that corporations are targeting young children with a barrage of advertising and marketing, the way that children’s play has been turned into a commercial opportunity, and how corporations have taken advantage of childish anxieties and insecurities to reshape children’s very identities. Hence, we can’t control what other people think of us but we can control our responses.
  • understanding that simple actions such as a smile keeps anxiety away and life is a roller coaster state of well-being; we must embrace life in its entirety and it is only when one is able to accept life that one is able to ride the roller coaster.
  • The very informative workshop concluded with a question and answer session at 6 pm.