The MHAHS is working with the Hepatitis B Community Alliance NSW to increase awareness of the benefits of hepatitis B testing, monitoring, treatment and prevention. Featuring people living with hepatitis B, #ValueYourMind is our third media story in the series.
Look after your mind: People living with hepatitis B emphasise mental health in a new campaign
Mental health is an integral part of living with chronic hepatitis B, according to a Multicultural HIV and Hepatitis Service (MHAHS) campaign. Aimed at increasing awareness of mental health during Mental Health month, the #ValueYourMind campaign highlights the diversity and need for psychosocial support in hepatitis B care.
Mental health is an important component of our everyday lives, according to Barbara Luisi, Manager of the MHAHS.
“Looking after our mind is a natural part of our everyday self-care. Being aware of how we feel about life and seeking help when necessary are keys to having a healthy outlook and preventing mental illness. You don’t have to have a mental health condition to care about mental health,” said Ms Luisi.
Whilst it’s desirable to have a positive mental outlook in everyday life, new research suggests it is imperative if you are diagnosed with a long-term health condition such as chronic hepatitis B.
According to the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health & Society’s Hepatitis B Patient and Clinical Practice Survey exploring the psychological and social health of people with hepatitis B in Australia, most participants (76%) reported having at least one hepatitis B-related concern, including feeling worried about getting liver cancer and infecting other people. A small percentage of participants (14%) reported that having hepatitis B made them feel sad or hopeless.
Chronic hepatitis B disproportionately affects people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, particularly those born in regions where hepatitis B is common such as East and South-East Asia, the Pacific, the Middle East, Mediterranean and Africa.
After almost two decades after her diagnosis, Vietnamese-born Hepatitis B Community advocate, Linh Nguyen, still recalls the shock of her hepatitis B diagnosis.
“I found out about my hepatitis B diagnosis in 1995. At the time, I was pregnant with my first child. I went for a check-up at the local hospital and a few days later the doctor bluntly told me I had chronic hepatitis B. Just like that! It was scary and shocking as I knew very little about the disease. It was sudden,” said Ms Nguyen.
Thanks to the advances in hepatitis B care, more people with chronic hepatitis B are living longer productive lives. However, the emotional cost of long-term treatment and care often goes overlooked, according the Somali-born, hepatitis B advocate Nafisa Yussf.
“For many people with chronic hepatitis B, hospitals are like our second homes, with ultrasounds, blood tests and doctor’s appointments every 3 to 6 months. I decided to participate in this campaign because I want to raise awareness about what it is like to live with hepatitis B, so we can all take tangible action because it is a serious condition,” said Ms Yussf.
According to the campaign, it’s important that people living with chronic hepatitis B feel supported and not alone.
“If you have hepatitis B, you are not alone. This might sound a little cliché but you really aren’t. It’s important you find people who can understand your situation and can support you through your journey,” said Ms Yussf.
“In trying to look after our physical health, we often overlook our mental wellbeing. It’s very important that we look after our mental health. Do whatever it takes to look after your mind. Whether that’s doing yoga, pilates or chatting with a friend, or seeing a doctor. Do whatever helps you to cope living with hepatitis B and makes you relax.
Far from being disempowered by her diagnosis, Ms Nguyen similarly echoes the need to look at the brighter side of living a life with hepatitis B.
“Hepatitis B has changed me in many ways. It has made me more resilient. I have learnt to keep looking for that one doctor who not only understands my disease but also me and my circumstances. Hepatitis B does not define me. How I choose to deal with it, that defines me,” said Ms Nguyen.
“It’s important to have a healthy life style if you have been diagnosed with chronic hepatitis B. Enjoying life with friends and relatives, having a regular blood test and liver ultrasound are necessary.”
During the month of October, people across NSW come together to hold events and promote good mental health and wellbeing in in their local communities.
Read and listen to more stories of Ms Yussf and Ms Nguyen here at www.mhahs.org.au.
The MHAHS is working with the Hepatitis B Community Alliance NSW to increase awareness of hepatitis B testing, monitoring, treatment and prevention. Featuring people living with chronic hepatitis B, #ValueYourMind campaign is our third media story in the series.
More information about hepatitis B testing, including a list of doctors specifically trained in the care and management of people living with hepatitis B can be viewed here.
Key hepatitis B messages:
- Mental health is an important part of living with chronic hepatitis B
- Chronic hepatitis B disproportionately affects people from many CALD communities
- Hepatitis B can lead to liver damage or liver cancer
- Hepatitis B in most CALD communities is passed on from mother-to-child at birth or during childhood
- Get tested for hepatitis B. If you have it, there are treatments that can prevent liver cancer.
About MHAHS (Multicultural HIV and Hepatitis Service)
The Multicultural HIV and Hepatitis Service, hosted by the Sydney Local Health District, employs workers from over 20 different language backgrounds, including African languages and provides information on hepatitis B. The MHAHS can be reached on 02 9515 1234.
For more information on how to get involved with Mental Health Month, visit http://www.mentalhealth.asn.au/programs/mental-health-month-nsw