Sydney Morning Herald Editorial

ABC's Mental As program healing and inspirational

Revelation: Liverpool Hospital's Dr Mark Cross and colleagues altered Australians' perceptions of mental illness on Changing Minds. Photo: Michele Mossop

Australia occasionally experiences an epiphany about what really matters.

This week has been just such a time.

Thanks to the ABC, mental illness has emerged from the dark and entered the hearts of anyone who has seen or heard the inspirational programs in the national broadcaster's Mental As campaign.

Full marks to everyone involved in the initiative corresponding with World Mental Health Week and Mental Health Day on Friday.

Rarely have the ABC's reach, reputation and resources been employed so constructively for the nation's benefit.

Mental illness has been neglected, stigmatised and talked about in hushed tones for too long.

Mental health has been taken for granted, like sunny days and open spaces.

Thanks to Mental As, now we know we have to work at keeping our minds fit for life.

Thanks to the generosity of spirit of patients and family, and the people who help them, now we know that sufferers of mental illness are just like us.

Thanks to the likes of Liverpool Hospital head of psychiatry Mark Cross and his colleagues in Changing Minds – surely one of the most important programs in Australian television history – we now know that within every mentally ill person there is someone who can joke, love and respond to kindness just like us.

Thanks to discussions on radio, we now know that we have to see people, not as they are at their low points, but as their "longitudinal" self: the person they were and the person they can be, with the right treatment now to return them to good health.

And thanks to the changing of so many minds, Australia might be more willing to support research into mental illness.

As ABC managing director Mark Scott says, almost every family and household will encounter mental illness in some way.

Yet we don't have a conversation about it.

We need to talk.

Mental As has been a great conversation starter.