Mental Health and Wellbeing Expo reminds us to accept ourselves and reconnect with others
Learning to genuinely appreciate ourselves and those around us is crucial for good mental health, those present at the 2022 Murray Bridge event have heard.
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The 2022 Murray Bridge Mental Health and Wellbeing Expo has encouraged attendees to reconnect with themselves and the community around them.
Attractions at Murray Bridge Town Hall on Friday included stalls from local health care providers and support services, along with a free sessions of sound baths, tapping and massages.
This year’s theme was self-acceptance and community connectedness.
The Murray Bridge High School drum line made an appearance, while the Station provided acoustic music for the afternoon.
Genuine Support Services Australia was the lead agency for this year’s expo, headed by managing director Gabrielle Mackenzie.
Although this year’s theme featured two principles, Ms Mackenzie said they often interacted in everyday life.
“The lack of self-acceptance stems from so many different things: what we see on social media, what we see in the movies, what we’re told we need to be,” she said.
“We’re so hard on ourselves and we need to take time out to learn how to embrace self-love.
“This goes hand in hand with community connectedness because if we have this, we’re able to support each other through that journey of self acceptance … and remind each other of those tools.
“There’s a lot of isolation in Murray Bridge … (but) we have a whole community of people here that want to stand up and reach up and say ‘we’re here, we’ve suffered too, let’s support each other’.”
Hutt Street Centre CEO Chris Burns explained that if we wanted to be serious about mental health, our society’s approach should have a greater emphasis on prevention.
“It’s about having a fence at the top of the cliff … or having the ambulance at the bottom,” Mr Burns said.
“You’re waiting until someone is in distress, the trauma has occurred, and then you’re worried about treating it … what we have to do is flip that.
“We should be thinking about mental health and wellbeing as a positive, we don’t talk about physical health in a negative sense.
“How we improve our mental health is how we grow our mental wealth.”
Mr Burns then said to remember his main tactics for maintaining mental health: “your own self-awareness, don’t be afraid to talk about how you feel, don’t be afraid to seek help, and the best way to treat mental health and wellbeing is the strength of the community and the family”.
Shortly after, Body Image Movement founder Taryn Brumfitt spoke about how embracing our bodies is a key element to good mental health.
After having three children, Ms Brumfitt struggled to accept her new body.
However, she decided against having surgery after having an epiphany: “how am I going to teach (my daughter) to love her body if I can’t love my body, and what message will that send her?”
Ms Brumfitt then turned to body building, which she considered a social experiment, to determine if being skinny would bring her happiness.
“For me to have that body meant that I had to punish my body, I had to weigh it, I had to count calories, I was so removed from my life because I was always obsessing about what meal comes next or how I’m going to train at the gym,” she said.
“That’s what it takes for me to have that body … and unfortunately it’s the road that so many people are walking down, and sadly our kids as well with all the pressures that they’re under, that they think there’s only one right way to have a body.
“What I discovered was that my body is not an ornament, it is the vehicle to my dreams.
“People say we have an obesity epidemic, but forget that for a moment … let’s get people healthy in their minds first, let’s get them to have a positive relationship with their body.
“We know that if you have a higher appreciation for your body, you are more likely to look after it.”
Counsellor and GSSA staff member Leah Colman recommended everyone try tapping, an emotional freedom technique, to reduce stress.
“It changes your neural pathways, so rather than spiralling out of control with stress, it chops it off at the knees,” Ms Colman said.
Ms Mackenzie said any practices that promoted mindfulness were worth considering.
“We live in a fast-paced world, and we don’t talk often about the need to stop and pause, and how that can really have a positive effect on your mental health,” she said.
“Just to live in the moment, and learning how to calm the mind, it’s not a common thing we talk about or practice.”