YUMM! Co-founder and Resident Medical Officer at Queensland Health

Honor is a junior doctor with a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery from the University of Queensland. Within her four years of medical school, she also acquired skills in branding, marketing, design, fundraising, sponsorship, negotiation, advocacy, and event management. Honor is a doctor who considers the long-term future of Australian Healthcare and pursues innovative pathways between medicine and other industries to work towards a better health system. Nothing makes her happier than clever collaboration and creative solutions, with a medical twist.

What is the biggest reason you believe young Australians are most at risk of developing a mental illness?
Young people have always been a vulnerable group by virtue of the life events that occur. You experience the majority of the “big events” likely to occur in your life within a short time frame, and in addition to that, your brain still may be developing. This part of your life is tumultuous. Thrown into that is the fact that social media and technological access now makes such a big part of our lives. Dealing with issues? Deal with it faster. Be in four places at once. Respond to five people simultaneously. Don’t switch off.  Have a semblance of a normal life while doing so, in fact, have a better than normal life than everyone else – or at least portray the image that you’re doing so. Young Australians are positioned to now believe that their life has to be as radiant as they see on social media, to strive to the other side of the fence where the grass is that little bit greener, where they will finally achieve happiness. I call this the ‘Grass is Greener’ Syndrome.

Could you tell us about the ‘Grass is Greener’ Syndrome?
The old saying goes, “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” Most people probably encountered this saying quite early in their childhood, to describe a situation where we are envious of someone who we believe has a slightly better version of our circumstance. This phrase has been addressed multiple times in psychology. It draws back to the idea that because we are constantly bombarded with what we perceive as better situations than our own, we start thinking that our lives are mediocre in comparison. You keep trying to water your patch of grass, only to see that next door’s grass on Instagram is much
lusher than yours, with flowers! This constant comparison can spiral into feelings of inadequacy, hopelessness, decreased self-confidence and overall decreased day to day happiness. You believe in the idea that if you do what your neighbour does, you will one day attain happiness. However, once you reach one goal, you find another aspect of your life you are dissatisfied with. There is no winning in this circumstance until you start focusing on your patch of grass, and your needs and wants.

How do you think organisations like YUMM! can do to help young Australians and prevent the onset of mental illness?
There are many things that contribute towards the onset of any mental illness, but I see our particular generation struggling particularly with the environment that we’ve been given. YUMM aims to start a conversation, to normalise the idea that your mental health is as important as your physical health, and to give you tips on how you can work on it.

Why are you involved with YUMM?/ What motivated you to want to be a part of YUMM!?
I have always been interested in public health interventions because I love the idea of simple measures making big impacts. This idea was only realised during my medical school years, where I worked with various organisations that encourage doctors to be advocates, policymakers, innovators and problem solvers. I got interested in organisational change and completed my Graduate Certificate in Business Leadership at UQ,  which opened me up to the YUMM opportunity.

I also adore chocolate.

Tell us about your experiences with mental health? (Your own and your general patients).
When I work, I tend to work with people with illness, not the absence of it. More often than not, they will list a mental illness or they will reflect upon a mental stress such as stress, difficulty coping, the list goes on. It’s really interesting seeing these people dealing with their organic issue, and more often than not, their biggest concern revolves around their anxiety with it, or how to cope with uncertain circumstances, or their disappointment that this medication didn’t work out for them. It’s only human. It’s almost an expected outcome of chronic illness. I also see how clinicians and the health system aren’t particularly equipped well to deal with the patient who has mental health complaints. I find myself in an industry where the prevalence of mental illness is considerably higher than the general population. All too often I hear the sad story of another doctor who has committed suicide. I recognise that I have risk factors for developing mental illness, and I want to stay on top of it. Just like if I had cardiovascular risk factors for developing heart disease, I can make lifestyle modifications now. I’m trying to make lifestyle modifications now for my mental health too.

Why is mental health awareness and education so important to you?
For so long, mental health was a taboo subject that no one dared speak about. The stigma has changed considerably, but it’s still present. We learn more and more about its importance for health outcomes; there are new interventions every day that are improving disease outcomes by focusing on mental health. The majority of them are educational interventions! Things like stress are inevitable. Dealing with it can be easier if you are taught some strategies to give you a starting point.

If you had one piece of advice for someone beginning their mental wellness journey, what would it be?
Little steps. This isn’t about doing yoga for three hours a day, this is about doing what feels right for you. Start with a thirty-second breathing exercise while you’re waiting for your coffee, or going to bed five minutes earlier. Small changes make a world of difference.

What are your top three stress busters when life gets busy?
1. I like to try and move more. It really makes me feel better, and it doesn’t have to be much. You also get a feeling of accomplishment after moving around… Elle Woods was right about the endorphins!
2. Use a monitor of your stress. I pick my nails (which is a bad habit, I know), but I can tell when I’m feeling out of control just by looking down at my nails.
3. Muscle relaxation is a great one. Take the time to check over your body – is my jaw clenched? What are my shoulders doing? Then relax them down – almost overexaggerate the relaxation process – take a couple of deep breaths – and then refocus.