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Caring for yourself and others during COVID

Image of fence with signs saying 'don't give up', 'you are not alone' and 'you matter'

In SANE's COVID mental health series, SANE counsellor Tanya talks about the pandemic's impact on people living with complex mental health issues. She shares her tips on how to care for ourselves and others.

The COVID crisis is an unprecedented challenge for all of us. And if you're finding it confusing and worrying, you're not alone – it has caused increased stress, anxiety and fear for many.

For people already living with complex mental health issues, the impact of a pandemic like this can be significant.   

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Anxiety: New book from SANE Board Director Dr Mark Cross

Dr Mark Cross - Anxiety book

"When the idea for this book was mooted, I was excited. During the first conversation with my publisher, I was already working out the layout in my head and making a list of people I'd interview. That was before my anxiety kicked in ..."

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Mark Cross knows a lot about anxiety. Many of his patients experience it, which is hardly surprising given anxiety is the most common mental health issue in Australia.

But Mark also knows about anxiety from another perspective, because he too has lived with it all his life.

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13

How to set boundaries with someone you love

Three friends

Boundaries are an essential part of engaging in healthy connections with others.

They allow us to be clear about our own needs, about what feels comfortable for us, so we can connect with others in ways that feel safe and respectful.

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7

Angie Kent chooses SANE as 'Dancing With the Stars' charity partner!

Jack Heath & Angie Kent Angie with SANE CEO Jack Heath

We're excited to announce that former Bachelorette star Angie Kent has chosen SANE as her nominated charity, as she gets ready to compete on Dancing with the Stars (DWTS).

A long time mental health and anti-bullying advocate, Angie was concerned about the mental health fallout of the bushfire crisis. In choosing which charity to support through her appearance on DWTS, she wanted to find an organisation that was committed to providing mental health support for those affected by the fires.

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How to talk to your GP about your mental health

GP waiting room

Often when we’re struggling to cope with our mental health, people tell us: “Go and have a chat with your GP”. But what if you don’t trust your GP, haven’t seen a GP in a long time, or aren’t sure what you would say?

When people give us this advice, they’re often on the right track. GPs are a good first step – they can help us explore any underlying physical issues, and suggest different options for supporting our mental health.

But it can be really nerve wracking to make that appointment.

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The bushfire crisis - our Peer Ambassadors have their say

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Over the past few months, many of us have been affected by the bushfires that are still burning across our country. Be it emergency workers and first responders who've battled the flames, those living in fire affected areas that may have experienced direct loss, or the people that are watching on and inhaling the smoke haze – we've all felt the distress of the bushfire crisis in some way.

Often if you're dealing with upsetting news, it can be helpful to speak to others who are going through the same thing. We reached out to our Peer Ambassadors to ask how the bushfire crisis has affected their mental health, and how they're coping. 

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The effects of bushfires on those living with complex mental health issues

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The constant smoke haze and news reports serve as a reminder of the bushfires that still burn across Australia. Exposure to details and graphic images relating to the fires can be extremely distressing and can have a negative affect on our mental health.

The effects of such devastating events can be even more profound for vulnerable people within our communities, such as those living with complex mental health issues. People living with a mental health issue may find their symptoms return or become more intense during this time. For example, someone living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) might find that graphic images trigger flashbacks to their own trauma.

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5

The mental health impacts of Australia's bushfire crisis

Firefighters

For people with a history of trauma, the world can feel like an unsafe place. As bushfires burn across Australia, these feelings can intensify.

The mental health impacts of traumatic events like the bushfire crisis can be huge, and long lasting. For people on the front lines, fighting fires or fleeing their homes, the danger is real and visceral. But for those further removed geographically from the fires, breathing smokey air and reading harrowing media reports can also be extremely distressing and triggering.

Everyone in Australia needs mental health support during this difficult time, and we've already seen many heartwarming examples of people looking out for each other, in the spirit of mateship.

But we must also remember that the impacts of this crisis will ripple out far beyond this moment. We need robust mental health support to be available not just during an emergency, but also well into the future.

For people with a history of trauma or post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), this is particularly important. These people can be incredibly resilient in times of crisis, and often step in to help others in need. But after the worst is over, the delayed impact on them can be significant.

SANE is committed to supporting people navigate the lasting impacts of the bushfire crisis and other traumatic events. 

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Complex mental health issues and sleep hygiene

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We spend a third of our lives asleep, and there is a reason for that. Sleep plays an important role in both our physical and mental wellbeing.

Good quality sleep allows time for our body to repair and recover from the day, strengthens our immune system, and lets our brain process memories. Getting enough sleep helps us concentrate and stay alert during the day, and perform well in our studies and at work.

Good quality sleep puts us in a better position to manage our emotions and mood, cope better with stress, and reduces irritability. Achieving enough sleep also decreases our risk of developing mental health problems in the future.

Sleep and mental health

Sleep problems are significantly more common among people with mental health issues than the general population. Poor sleep is linked with the onset of mental health difficulties as well as the worsening of current symptoms. Additionally, symptoms of mental illness such as feelings of anxiety and depression make it harder for people to fall and remain asleep.

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8

Royal Commission's Interim Report is deeply moving

Interim-Report-feature-image-850x575 Victorian Royal Commission into Mental Health releases Interim Report

The Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System handed down its Interim Report on 28 November 2019, highlighting the need for fundamental reforms to better support people affected by mental health issues.

SANE shares the Commissioners’ view that the current crisis-driven mental health system is a result of continual poor investment decisions driven, ultimately, by stigma and discrimination.  This has led to enormous inequality and in turn, has led to barriers to access with treatment often dependent upon socioeconomic status and geography.

It is deeply moving to see these systemic failures acknowledged in this way.

SANE welcomes the Interim Report as the culmination of more than 8,200 contributions outlining the changes that need to happen in Victoria’s mental health system, to better meet community needs and expectations. We are heartened to see that the Commissioners have listened to and really heard the stories from people with lived experience of mental health issues, their families and friends.

In July 2019, we lodged a submission to the Royal Commission detailing 72 recommendations, and provided evidence on the impact of stigma and discrimination for people affected by complex mental health issues. We are pleased to see many of the issues raised in our submission are included in the Commission’s Interim Report.

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