Mental Health Week brings our own wellbeing into focus. So it’s a good time to think about what you can do if you have concerns about your own mental health, or that of a family member or a friend.
It takes courage to take the first step. You may have noticed changes in your own mood, or observed worrying behaviours in someone else. Either way it could be time to acknowledge that there is problem and reach out for help.
Here are some suggestions to help you take your first step, or to offer as advice to someone else and with mental health concerns.
Generally a good starting point is generally to talk to your GP. If you book a long-consultation your doctor can undertake a psychological health assessment, offer suggestions, and provide a referral to a psychologist or psychiatrist.
A psychologist can provide ongoing counselling that aims to address underlying reasons for mental health symptoms. For example, they might talk about some positive ways to manage stress. Psychiatrists generally use their expertise in medicine to manage mental health concerns.
You may receive all the support you need from your GP or go on to access these more specialised care options. It’s good to keep an open mind about what may help.
You don’t necessarily need to start with your GP though.
Depending on where you live you may be able to find other low cost counselling options through a local university, community centre, your local council or community mental health service. You can also book an appointment with a psychologist directly if you do not need to claim a Medicare rebate.
There are other options if you don’t feel ready to take these steps.
One is to talk through your concerns anonymously with someone who has mental health knowledge. Helplines, such as the SANE Help Centre provide a safe, confidential place where your questions and concerns will be met with compassion and without judgement. Many helplines offer phone, email and online chat options so you can choose a medium that feels comfortable.
Another option is to seek peer support. Peer support is available through anonymous online forums, such as the SANE Forums, where you can share your experiences and learn from people who have walked a similar path. Otherwise there are many state-based organisations that offer group, or person-to-person, support programs. Contact the SANE Help Centre to find one near you.
Remember that in accessing treatment and support sometimes you need a certain amount of persistence. It is easy to be discouraged, but keep trying until you find the right combination that works for you. Think of it as a proccess of building the right support team around you, the team that can help you work on your plan for keeping well into the future. Perhaps this Mental Health Week is the time to share your concerns and see what help is available.