The ABCs for good mental health

Article by Amberlee Laws, Mentally Healthy WA, Curtin University

We hear a lot about what we can do to prevent physical illnesses, but most of us rarely think about the sorts of things we can do to protect and promote mental wellbeing. 

The A-B-C guidelines for positive mental health provide a simple approach that we can adopt to become more mentally healthy:

keep mentally, physically, socially and spiritually active: take a walk, say g’day, read a book, do a crossword, dance, play cards, stop for a chat…
join a book club, take a cooking class, be more involved in groups you are already a member of, go along to community events…
take up a cause, help a neighbour, learn something new, take on a challenge, volunteer…

 There is substantial evidence that these three domains represent increasing levels of contribution to positive mental health (and in fact, to physical health).

The Act-Belong-Commit campaign is a world first mental health promotion program developed by Curtin University in Western Australia. The campaign is unique in that it targets the whole population and is focussed on mental health, rather than mental illness. 

Evaluation shows the campaign has the capacity to sensitise people to the belief that there are things we can and should do to look after our mental wellbeing; change attitudes towards mental health and mental illness; reduce stigma associated with mental illness; and encourage people to engage in behaviours to boost their mental health.

The success of the campaign has been recognised nationally and internationally, with the spontaneous uptake of the campaign across Australia and overseas. In 2011, a team at Waseda University in Japan adapted the campaign to help children affected by the Tsunami, and more recently the Danish National Institute for Public Health announced that the campaign will be rolled out nationwide in Denmark in 2015.

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