Let’s Talk… Mental Health
3 Minute read
What is mental health?
The WHO says that mental health refers to “a state of well being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”
Anxiety, depression, stress, grief, phobias, fears and panic attacks can all occur when our mental health is not at its best.
What is mental illness?
“A mental illness is a health condition that affects people’s thoughts, mood, behaviour or the way they perceive the world around them. A mental illness causes distress and may affect the person’s ability to function at work, in relationships or in everyday tasks.
1 in every 5 Australians — about 4 million people — suffers from a mental illness in a given year, and almost half the population has suffered a mental disorder at some time in their life, as published by Health Direct Australia.’
Who is affected?
Anyone! Deterioration in our mental health can affect anyone; at any time… but times of uncertainty and change can often be a trigger. Losing a loved one, a change in our living environment, hostile family relationships or work stresses – all of these things can result in us feeling unsettled and needing external support.
You are not alone. Speak to your GP for guidance and support.
How do you know if you, or someone you care about, are struggling with their mental health?
There are some early warning signs that you can look out for:
* Eating or sleeping too much or too little
* Avoiding people and usual activities
* Having little or no energy
* Feeling numb or unmotivated
* Having unexplained aches and pains
* Feeling helpless or hopeless
* Smoking & drinking more than usual
* New or increased drug use
* Feeling unusually confused, forgetful, irritable, angry, upset, worried, or scared
* Having arguments with family and friends
* Experiencing severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships
* Having persistent thoughts and memories you can’t get out of your head
* Hearing voices or believing things that are not true
* Thinking of harming yourself or others
* Inability to perform daily tasks like taking care of your kids or getting to work or school
What can you do if you feel this way or suspect someone else does?
Talk about it
Avoiding talking about our mental health due to fear of being judged can be detrimental to moving through these feelings.
If you aren’t sure what to say to someone who you suspect is struggling with their mental health, the ALEC format by Movember is a useful tool:
A – ASK someone how they’re doing – something as simple as ‘You don’t seem yourself lately – are you feeling OK?’
L – LISTEN. Give them your full attention.
E – ENCOURAGE ACTION. Help them to focus on simple things that might improve how they feel.
C – CHECK IN. Follow up after your chat. This reinforces that you care and can help you to gauge if they’re feeling any better.
Read more about conversation starters at Movember Conversations.
Support doesn’t mean attempting to fix the problem. Helping with daily tasks such as shopping, or just stopping by and bringing coffee to show that person in your life that he or she is cared for.
Encouraging the right amount of sleep, healthy food, sunlight and exercise whilst discouraging self-medicating with alcohol or drugs, is a good place to start.
Exercise (no matter what the pace) can promote that feeling of calm and well being whilst releasing endorphins that energize you, relieve tension and create that “feel good” feeling.
Taking that first step to ask for help can be hard so offering to make an appointment with a doctor or mental health professional on their behalf, and offering to take them can be very helpful.
Look after yourself
Caring for someone with a mental illness can require a lot of strength and effort, and calls for support.
You can get support from your doctor or a number of mental health organisations.
Helpful sites and numbers to call for support:
SANE Australia (people living with a mental illness) — call 1800 187 263.
Beyond Blue (anyone feeling depressed or anxious) — call 1300 22 4636 or chat online.
Black Dog Institute (people affected by mood disorders) — online help.
Lifeline (anyone having a personal crisis) — call 13 11 14 or chat online.
Suicide Call Back Service (anyone thinking about suicide) — call 1300 659 467.
How can we help?
Our GP’s can support you or your loved ones with a Mental Health Treatment Plan.
The plan is designed to identify what type of health care you need and is a guide for you and your doctor. It may be used to refer you to local mental health services and can provide up to 20 appointments with a psychologist per calendar year.
We’re here to help. Our GP’s are inclusive, inviting, supportive and proactive…with you, our patients, at the heart of their work.
Don’t struggle alone. There is help out there.
Take the first step and book online at activemedicalcentre.com.au/bookings or call 03 9363 0954.
If you or anyone you know is at risk of suicide or any form of self-harm, immediate help is needed. If there is an immediate risk of harm, call an ambulance (000).