The daily mental health facts

The mental health facts are the foundation of The Push-Up Challenge. The target number of push-ups varies from day to day to reflect a different mental health statistic. Here are the facts from 2023.

Kindness

Day 23: 170 push-ups

Doing at least one act of kindness every day for 7 days in a row can considerably boost happiness, according to a recent study.

Acts of kindness toward others can strengthen friendships and protect against feelings of isolation by creating a sense of belonging and connection. Research shows that partaking in, or witnessing, random acts of kindness can significantly reduce our levels of stress hormones.

Being kind increases the empathy we feel toward others, in turn helping us to have a more positive perception of our own lives. Kindness isn’t just something we should dish out to others - being kind to ourselves can strengthen our sense of identity and help to improve our self-esteem.

Some simple ways to bring kindness into our lives include volunteering, offering to share a skill, cooking for others, donating blood, or giving compliments.

Friendship

Day 22: 219 push-ups

It takes around 219 hours spent together to form a close friendship, according to research. These hours are time very well spent, given that healthy friendships are very important for our mental health and wellbeing.

A strong social network helps foster a sense of belonging and community, and feeling accepted by our friends can help with our self-esteem and confidence.

Having friends around to talk to and support us
through challenging periods can also offer much-needed perspective, reassurance and guidance.

Friendships help to combat loneliness, one of the leading sources of poor mental and physical health. Loneliness and social isolation place large amounts of stress on the body, and are associated with hypertension, heart disease, anxiety and depression. Thankfully, when it comes to friendship, quality over quantity is the key - and having just one friend can act as a protective factor against these outcomes.

So, taking the time and effort to nurture your friendships (or cultivate new ones, if you could do with another mate in your corner) will do wonderful things for your mental health.

Is one of your mates experiencing challenges? Movember Conversations is an online interactive tool designed to give prompts and tips on how to start and guide a conversation with someone who might be having a rough time. With a focus on life challenges that are relevant in the current world climate, such as job loss, family pressures and social isolation, Movember Conversations uses the ALEC framework (Ask, Listen, Encourage action, Check in) developed by R U OK?. This teaches us how to ask better questions, how to practice good listening and how to make sure the person you’re talking to feels heard and supported.

Children and nature

Day 21: 120 push-ups

Being outside in nature for at least 120 minutes a week is strongly associated with improved physical and mental health.

This is especially
true for children, with research indicating that regular exposure to nature and the outdoors has many positive effects on early brain development and long-term mental wellbeing. They don’t even need to be running around - studies show that both active (i.e. running, sport, games) and passive (i.e. walking, sitting outside) exposure to nature help to improve physical, social and emotional wellbeing, and benefit cognitive and behavioural development in children.

Natural environments encourage creative play, which has
been shown to improve resilience, self-confidence and initiative in young people.

Spending time in nature has also been shown to reduce the symptoms of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children, and has been associated with enhanced attention, higher academic performance and strong social skills.

So, while it’s not always possible to engage in nature play 24/7, it’s worth encouraging any children in your life to step out for a scooter ride around the block, or even just relocate the train set from the living room floor to a blanket in the backyard. Every little bit of fresh air helps.

Safety plans provided every day by Lifeline

Day 20: 163 push-ups

Lifeline provides 163 safety plans every day, more than ever before. A safety plan is a step-by-step plan to help people stay safe when they are overwhelmed and having thoughts of suicide.

Lifeline’s immediate focus is on helping those in crisis identify and access life-sustaining values, relationships, and coping resources that help them safely manage their emotional distress.

Lifeline’s safety
plans facilitate pathways to further help – ranging from mobilising an emergency intervention when needed, to facilitating links with informal caregivers and formal services.The free Beyond Now app allows people to make a safety plan, which they can save and come back to later.

To understand what to expect when you connect with Lifeline, visit Contacting Lifeline.

Digital health

Day 19: 108 push-ups

The average Aussie spends 2.5 hours on their phone per day, according to one study. This equates to a staggering 10.8 years of our waking lives spent on the phone.

Experts suggest our digital obsession is robbing us of our ability to focus. We live in a world of constant distractions, which has all sorts of implications for our brains, our health and our relationships.

How much time do you spend each day on your phone scrolling Instagram, Facebook or watching Netflix? A thoughtful approach to digital behaviours can improve our health and the quality of our relationships. Having tech-free times/zones in your house, taking social media off your phone, writing to-do lists with pen and paper and leaving your phone in your bag when you’re out with friends are simple things you can do to reduce phone usage.

Parents and caregivers also have a role to play in modelling healthy screen behaviours to children. Screen Sanity is working to create a world where kids are captivated by life, not screens. If you’re a parent looking for tips on how to start a digital health conversation in your family, go to Screen Sanity. 

Rest Day

Day 18

Our third and final rest day before one last push for better mental health this week. 

Use today to pat your dog, catch up with a mate, or launch a search party for the sock you lost last week.

The mind and the body are hopefully feeling the goods after coming this far. Let's do this. 

Perinatal mental health

Day 17: 200 push-ups

Approximately 20% of female parents suffer from anxiety, depression, or both during the perinatal period - which refers to pregnancy and the year following the birth of a child.

Both men and women can experience perinatal mental health problems. Whilst female symptoms are more often recorded and reported, it is thought that around 1 in 10 male parents experience perinatal anxiety and depression. While perinatal mental illness is more likely to occur with a traumatic pregnancy or birth, it’s something which can affect any parent.

Some common symptoms of perinatal anxiety include: persistent worry, mood swings, intrusive thoughts and/or a fear of being left alone with your baby.

Some common symptoms of perinatal depression include: withdrawal from family and friends, changes in appetite, disrupted sleep unrelated to baby; difficulty concentrating and/or lowered self-esteem.

While stress and feelings of overwhelm can be very normal reactions to new parenthood, prolonged feelings of depression or anxiety are not, and professional help should be sought if symptoms last for more than two weeks.

Support is always available, and symptoms are likely to only worsen if left unaddressed. PANDA supports the mental health of parents and families during pregnancy and in their first year of parenthood. If you or a loved one would like to chat to someone, the PANDA national helpline can be accessed for free support, on 1300 726 306. Fathers can access Movember’s free online parenting program, Family Man, the world’s first online parenting program designed by experts with dads in mind.

Eating disorders

Day 16: 163 push-ups

Research shows that 16.3% of Australians experience an eating disorder or some level of disordered eating, according to a study published in the Journal of Eating Disorders.

While around 4% of the population experience clinically diagnosed eating disorders (anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge-eating disorder) many more people experience disordered eating (i.e. behaviours consistent with an eating disorder such as restrictive dieting, binge eating, vomiting, laxative use) that do not meet the diagnostic criteria for an eating disorder.

Disordered eating can affect anyone of any gender, race or age; however, it is disproportionately observed in female and non-binary people, adolescents and neurodivergent individuals.

Disordered eating is usually accompanied by intense feelings of lack of control, frustration and guilt. The obsessive nature of an eating disorder can significantly reduce quality of life, as individuals often struggle to keep up with daily tasks and maintain relationships. Research shows people with eating disorders are often also experiencing other mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression and PTSD.

Eating disorders and disordered eating can be incredibly isolating and face many stigmas, which are often internalised, discouraging people from seeking professional help.

Recovery from an eating disorder is possible. If you or someone know experiences an eating disorder or disordered eating, support is always available: 
Butterfly foundation: 1800 33 4673
Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636

Creativity and mental health

Day 15: 84 push-ups

Creative expression has been linked to better mental health outcomes. Creativity can be used as an outlet for emotions, feelings and thoughts, and has been shown to improve confidence and emotional resilience. Studies also show that using our imaginations can enhance problem-solving skills and memory.

Already noticed that getting creative boosts your mood? You’re not alone - 84% of us recognise the positive impact that the arts and creativity have on our lives, wellbeing, and communities, according to a survey commissioned by the Australian Council of the Arts.

Creative expression and the arts are also a great instrument for human connection. Shared artistic experiences such as community creative groups, choirs and bands, pottery classes, going to art exhibitions or the theatre with friends and family are excellent for mental health and general wellbeing.

The act of creative expression in any form has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. Why? Research indicates that creativity promotes feelings of calmness, as the same part of our brain involved in emotional regulation is also activated during creative pursuits. Creative activities can range from painting, photography or colouring to writing, performing and making music.

So, why not skip your date with Netflix tonight in favour of a spot of painting, or head along to some live music with mates? Your mental health will thank you for it.

First Nations Psychologists

Day 14: 218 push-ups

There are just 218 practicing Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander psychologists in Australia. This makes up less than 1% of all psychologists practising nationally.

First Australians experience significantly higher levels of mental illness than other Australians. First Nations Australians’ history of trauma, loss and disconnection from culture have contributed to complexities surrounding mental health issues and diagnoses.

When seeking mental 
health care, lack of cultural awareness can be a common barrier faced by Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples. It’s vital that First Australians be represented in the Australian mental health care industry.

Increasing the number of First Nations 
psychologists can encourage help-seeking behaviours and promote mental health literacy among First Nations peoples. It is also an important factor in helping to deliver culturally sensitive mental health care.

First Nations peoples typically view mental health through a 
holistic lens, preferring to define it as ‘social and emotional wellbeing’, which encompasses connection to land, culture, spirituality, ancestry, family and community.

One service that focuses on culturally sensitive 
care is 13YARN (13 92 76), which offers callers the opportunity to talk with a trained Lifeline Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Crisis Supporter.

Green exercise

Day 13: 150 push-ups

Engaging in 150 minutes per week of ‘green exercise’ has been shown to improve self-esteem, lift mood and reduce stress and depressive symptoms.

So, what exactly is green exercise? It is undertaking physical activity in a natural environment setting – and research suggests that it improves the psychological outcomes of exercise, relative to indoor activity.

Compared to exercising indoors, green exercise is associated with increased energy, enjoyment and satisfaction. Research indicates that this may be due to a higher stimulation of the senses and the lowered activation of the brain’s stress response when in nature.

Some simple ways to engage in physical activity in nature include walking or running, riding a bike along a local trail, hiking or outdoor group exercise classes. (Oh, and did we mention outdoor push-ups?). 

International Men's Health Week

Day 12: 131 push-ups

This week is International Men’s Health Week, an important time to raise awareness for men’s physical and mental health and wellbeing.

Research indicates that globally, on average, one man dies by suicide every single minute. According to a 2021 analysis of the top 10 highest grossing movies in the United States and Canada, the average length of a film is 131 minutes, meaning that in the time it takes to watch a typical movie, 131 male lives will have been lost to suicide around the world.

In Australia specifically, around 9 people die every day by suicide, and three-quarters of those are male. Sadly, help-seeking rates are much lower for males. According to the National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing 2020-21, only about a third (37%) of males with a 12-month mental disorder saw a health professional for their mental health, compared with more than half (55%) of females.

The harmful misconceptions surrounding mental health disproportionately affect males in our society. This is largely due to the common stigma that having a mental illness or reaching out for help displays weakness, hence not aligning with traditional expectations of masculinity.

The promotion of open discourse between men of all ages regarding mental wellbeing is important in reducing stigma and changing the harmful stereotypes surrounding masculinity.

Day 11: Rest day

Great work so far everyone. We certainly do love our push-ups here at Push-Up HQ, but it's true, you can get too much of a good thing. So take time to chill, chat with friends and family, or do something sweet today.

Push-ups are back tomorrow. 

Male suicides

Day 10: 196 push-ups

Of the 3,144 push-ups in our total target this year, 2,358 of them represent men who lost their lives to suicide in Australia in 2021. That’s 75% of the total and equates to about 196 men every month.

Our mates at Movember exist to reduce this number. In fact, their hairy movement has helped fund and support the delivery of countless life-saving men’s mental health and suicide prevention tools and programs across Australia, helping to reduce the risk of suicide and stop men from dying too young.

Anxiety

Day 9: 168 push-ups

Anxiety is the most common mental health disorder, affecting 16.8% of Australians aged 16-85 each year. That equates to 3.3 million Australians living with anxiety.

Anxiety is more than just feeling stressed or worried. It’s normal to feel stressed or anxious when we’re under pressure, but these feelings usually subside once the stressful situation has passed. Anxiety disorders typically involve feelings of tension, distress or nervousness, which don’t go away or may not have a clear cause. A person may avoid situations they believe cause these feelings, potentially limiting their interactions with the wider world and impacting the way they live.

Females are almost twice as likely to experience anxiety, as are younger age groups, and people who identify as LGBTQIA+ - however it can affect anyone.

For those experiencing anxiety, there are many strategies that you can use to help manage it. Mindfulness, slow breathing, keeping physically active, spending time in nature and enjoying a healthy diet are some activities that research shows can help. There are also many treatments for anxiety, including therapy and medication.

If anxiety is an issue for you, talk to your GP to explore treatment options best for you or visit the Lifeline Support Toolkit for Anxiety.

Journaling

Day 8: 153 push-ups

Journaling for just 15 minutes, three days a week could significantly improve your mental health.

A study conducted on people with heightened anxiety symptoms showed that journaling for this short time weekly does big things. Why? Spending this time logging thoughts was associated with reduced anxiety and mental distress. It also can lead to improved levels of resilience. Journaling has been shown to be especially effective in reducing symptoms of PTSD.

Journaling is successful in improving our general mental health as it can assist in bringing awareness to our feelings and experiences, which can help us to rationalise and regulate our emotions. It has also been shown to reduce stress and anxiety by providing an outlet for intrusive thoughts.

Over time, consistent journaling allows us to identify stressors or triggers in our lives and can assist us to know ourselves on a deeper level. Journaling is also a great opportunity for positive self-talk and affirmations. Give it a shot. Journal in a way that suits you.

Research indicates that putting pen to paper, old-school style, can aid in processing our feelings better than via a screen, but there are many journaling apps available for a more convenient option. Journaling is most effective when it feels natural to you. There are no rules when it comes to journaling. You can write about your goals, what you’re grateful for, what’s causing you stress, to-do lists, thoughts and feelings or just a general reflection of each day.

Mental health in the workplace

Day 7: 210 push-ups

In the past 12 months, 21% of Australians have had to take time off work due to poor mental health. Our working lives play a huge role in our overall mental wellbeing.

Australians spend, on average, about one third of their time working, therefore it is very important that our workplace be somewhere we feel safe and supported. Factors commonly affecting workplace mental health include high levels of stress, job insecurity, workplace harassment or discrimination, and a lack of support or access to resources.

On the other hand, high job satisfaction, strong workplace relationships and a good work-life balance can significantly improve our mental wellbeing. Workplaces that aim to promote mental health awareness and whose employees feel supported have been shown to have better staff retention, less absenteeism and increased productivity. 

Divorce and separation

Day 6: 130 push-ups

Approximately 1 in 3 marriages end in divorce in Australia. Divorces and separations take place for a wide variety of reasons and each couple’s experience is unique.

Divorce and separation can incite a multitude of feelings in those involved, including betrayal, loneliness, hurt and anger. These feelings can be very intense, with anxiety and depression levels often increasing immediately following a divorce. However, research indicates that these emotions almost always subside with time, and most people’s quality of life improves in the years following a divorce or separation.

If you are struggling to navigate a divorce or separation, it may be beneficial to seek professional guidance. Health Direct’s webpage has tips on how to cope with a divorce or break up, including a list of places to go for resources and support. And if a friend or loved one is experiencing a relationship breakdown, offering some support, whether it’s a meal dropped on the doorstep or a text to check in, may benefit their mental health.

World Environment Day 

Day 5: 160 push-ups

Today is World Environment Day. As a global population, our overexploitation of ecosystems means that we are currently using the equivalent of 1.6 Earths in maintaining our way of living.

Increased public awareness surrounding climate change and its implications has seen an increase in ‘eco-anxiety’, particularly in younger generations. This deep concern surrounding the state of our climate and future of life on earth can manifest in feelings of helplessness, frustration, anger and fear. Severe climate-related natural disasters such as floods and bushfires have heavily affected the mental health of many Australians. For those directly impacted, displaced living conditions and loss of community have contributed to an increase in anxiety, depression and PTSD.

Conversely, research suggests that participation in climate action can have a positive impact on our mental wellbeing. Engaging in activities which promote sustainability and help to reduce our carbon footprint can promote positive feelings of control and purpose. Lifestyle changes such as riding a bike to work instead of driving, composting your food waste, or participating in climate action efforts in your local community will benefit the planet AND help to foster a sense of connection to community and environment and improve your mental wellbeing. 

Day 4: Rest day

Time to give the yourself a rest from push-ups. One of three rest days during the event. Use it wisely, we're back on tomorrow.

Seeking help from a mental health professional

Day 3: 175 push-ups

Today’s push-up target is 175, spotlighting the 17.5% of Australians aged 16-85 who sought help from a mental health professional over a recent 12-month period. Whilst this number continues to grow annually, it falls well below the 4.2 million Aussies who experience mental health difficulties each year.

Unfortunately, there are still many barriers faced when seeking mental health treatment, including financial costs, shortage of health professionals, lack of awareness of support options, low mental health literacy, and stigma. Research indicates that people with strong mental health literacy are significantly more likely to engage in help-seeking behaviours.

Stigma surrounding poor mental health means many people don’t think it applies to them, so are less likely to educate themselves, perpetuating low mental health literacy and leading to a lack of awareness of treatment and support options. This highlights the continued need for mental health education. With high levels of mental health literacy, individuals are more likely to be able to recognise signs of psychological distress in themselves and those around them. They are also better equipped to identify support options and seek the appropriate treatment.

Sharing these daily Mental Health Facts with your mates and general community during The Push-Up Challenge, via socials, email or just while having a chat, is a great way to contribute to boosting mental health literacy in Australia.

Lifeline calls

Day 2: 130 push-ups

On average, Lifeline receives 130 calls per hour, or one call every 28 seconds. The Push-Up Challenge 2023 is supporting Lifeline Australia, which has a network of 4,500 Crisis Support Volunteers who are there to offer crisis support via phone, text or webchat 24/7.

Lifeline could use your support to make sure that no person in Australia has to face their darkest moments alone. Find out more about Lifeline

Food and mental health 

Day 1: 96 push-ups

How we eat impacts our mental health – and approximately 96% of Australians are not meeting the recommended dietary guidelines. This is largely due to many people consuming less than the recommended servings of vegetables, fruits, legumes, lean meats, nuts and seeds.

Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet is important in keeping our brains functioning properly. In fact, about 20% of the total energy we obtain from food every day is used by our brain. Nutrition from food helps increase blood flow to the brain and improve connections between brain cells. Brain health, cognitive functioning and mental health are all very closely related. When our brains are healthy, our brain chemicals are more likely to be balanced, reducing the risk of mental health problems.

A healthy diet can also improve our sleep quality and help us manage stress more effectively. Foods which are high in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants are especially important in supporting brain health. These include nuts, seeds, fish, avocados, berries and wholegrains. Green, leafy vegetables also provide our brains with important vitamins and minerals.