Seeking Support

Oct 28, 2020Uncategorized0 comments

As we continue to navigate the ever-changing world of COVID and while the uncertainty around the economic fallout grows, it’s understandable that many Australians are living with heightened levels of stress, distress and anxiety which ultimately have a negative effect on their mental health.

Throughout history we have seen with economic fallout comes a decline in the mental wellbeing of the community and unfortunately the increase in suicide rates and this can be mapped over economic down turns from the great depression of the late 1920’s to the GFC. A strong indicator of the pressure that the wider community is under is the increase of call rates to crisis support hot lines with Lifeline reporting 15% -20% which had already seen an increase at the beginning of the year with the bush fire crisis on the east coast.

When we consider mental health there is one little known statistic which stands out, only 35% of people living with a mental illness seek clinical support in a 12-month period. This was a disturbing statistic in pre COVID times and even more so now with increased pressure on individual’s wellbeing.

At this point it important to remember that a mental illness is no different to any other physical illness. There are three key stages – prevention, early intervention and treatment and just like a developing physical illness, early intervention is key to preventing someone becoming acutely unwell and supporting a more successful rate of recovery.

There are several factors that present as barriers to individuals seeking support such as cultural, financial, social, geographical, education, fear and previous experiences.

More often than not, it can be a combination of a few factors that prevents an individual seeking support and I see many different combinations. The most common I find are based around education of pathways of referral and the perceived stigma and fear surrounding the experiences of seeking support. I thought we could keep it simple and unpack these.

Pathways and Referral

Pathways and referral process to seeking support for your mental health can start at your local GP. When you meet for your consult with your GP explain how you are feeling the GP will ask you a few simple questions. With these simple questions the GP will make an assessment and set what is called a Mental Health Plan, the GP then will refer you to a health professional either a Social Worker, Mental Health Nurse, Occupational therapist, Counsellor, Psychologist or Psychiatrist.

 With your mental health plan you will have the opportunity to attend 6 to 10 consults with the referred professional and another 10 if the professional believes you require more treatment. One of the silver linings of COVID is that the federal government has made some of these consults available on the Medicare rebate scheme as well as bulked build. This availability via Medicare has removed much of the financial barriers to seeking support.

It’s important to note that the consult with all these professionals are confidential and they are bound by ethical agreements not to share or divulge what is spoken about in sessions unless they believe you are a danger to yourself or another individual or you may be about to commit a crime.

Experiences and Stigma

I am in a privileged position with the work I do that many people freely open up about their mental health and the perceived stigma related to seeing a mental health professional.

I am in a privileged position with the work I do that many people freely open up about their mental health and the perceived stigma related to seeing a mental health professional.
When encouraging an individual to seek support I like to bring it back to basics, back to health not mental health, just health. I predict that at least 80% of all Australians aged between 16 – 86 have seen a health specialist in their lifetime, anything from a dentist to a physiotherapist or a cardiologist for either prevention, early intervention, or treatment. Each of these professionals is there to assess, diagnose and set a wellness plan. This is no different to a mental heath professional, they assess with a series of questions just like a physiotherapist would about a hamstring injury, “How long have you felt like this?” “When did you first notice this?” “When is it most noticeable?” “What makes you feel well?” and just like a physio together you work on plan and series of actions and strategies to support the individual becoming well.

This simple step can remove so much of the fear related to seeking support and in some cases assist in an individual taking the vital step for support.

It’s more important than ever to keep your mental health a priority and stay connected with friend’s family and work colleagues. We need to have open and positive conversations around mental health at home and in the workplace.

If you do notice changes in your thinking, feelings, behaviours and physical wellbeing which last more than a two-week period please reach out for support from a health professional.

If you are experiencing a crisis and need immediate help please contact one of the services listed on our Crisis Support Page CLICK HERE

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