This week we're putting the spotlight on mental health and counselling services, because everyone needs a helping hand at some point in their life.
-About mental health-
Talking about mental health doesn't make someone 'weak' or 'crazy'. As with physical health, your mental health may be stronger in some areas than others. Mental health also changes throughout your lifetime, depending on your experiences and environment.
Ideal mental health looks like: when your thoughts, emotions and behaviour are appropriate, proportional and productive in any given situation.
The reality: we all have situations that we don't deal well with. It's normal and nothing to be ashamed of. Sometimes our responses start affecting our life negatively or hurt the people around us. That's a good reason to try to change the way you react to things in your life.
-Why seek help?-
Mental health issues can have a negative impact on many different parts of our life. Learning how to reduce these negative impacts can be liberating for a person and help to take back control of unhelpful emotions and behaviours.
However, changing behaviours or thoughts is not easy to do by yourself. Many people require a counsellor or psychologist to help identify new ways of responding to situations. Counsellors can also link you in to services, resources, and organisations that you may find helpful or be interested in.
-What does good counselling look like?-
You probably have an image in your head of someone lying on a couch and just talking about their problems in a long stream of consciousness. That's called 'talk therapy', and although some people find it helpful, it's not the gold standard for counselling.
A good counsellor will:
· help you to set concrete goals for yourself. They will be achievable, measurable, and will span short term goals to long term goals.
· never make decisions for you or force you into anything. They will ensure that you're the one in the driver's seat, and only play a supporting role to help you set and achieve your own goals.
· give you techniques that you can use to gradually change your behaviour. If a technique or method isn't working for you after giving it a good shot, they will adapt and suggest something else for you.
-I don't want to be labelled with anything, or people to see me differently-
Not all people who take counselling are diagnosed with a mental illness. An official diagnosis can be liberating for some, but a heavy burden for others. Make sure to let your counsellor know that you would rather not get a diagnosis or be labelled, and a good counsellor will respect your decision. If you are planning on receive counselling under insurance or as part of Medicare, this may have an effect on diagnosis decisions. Sometimes to give a referral or to receive reimbursement a diagnosis is required. You have the right to be an active participant in these conversations if they arise, and never have to go through with something you're uncomfortable with.
-Where to start-
One of the easiest places to start is with a doctor you're comfortable with. They can discuss any issues you're having, write you a mental health plan, and refer you to counselling services.
If you'd rather start off talking to someone specialising in mental health, there are a number of free community services available.
Mensline does excellent work helping Australian men through issues such as mental health, substance abuse, and domestic violence. They have resources on their website and help out with free telephone and online counselling.
1300 78 99 78
Beyond Blue is an organisation that helps with feelings of depression or anxiety. They have telephone and chat options for counselling, as well as plenty of resources on their website.
1300 22 4636
The Alcohol and Drug Foundation provides resources to help deal with substance abuse. You can call them to be provided with information about services in your area.
1300 85 85 84
Lifeline is a 24-hour support line which helps Australians who are experiencing emotional distress with crisis support and suicide prevention.
13 11 14