It’s a question that has probably crossed everyone’s mind at some point, not least of all during the global pandemic we have all just endured in both very different and similar ways: when should I seek help around my mental health difficulties?
It seems, in 2023, that we are more open to investing in our mental health than ever before. The stigma around reaching out to receive mental health care which has long stood as an obstacle for anyone who was interested in getting help, is finally lifting.
In its simplest form, the answer to that question is: anytime you are able.
Contrary to the stigma that used to surround attempts to seek mental health care, the education we are now privy to on the subject has liberated us to open up a continual dialogue that is based on learning and understanding; both ourselves and each other. These days, we can barely open up our Instagram accounts without being fed tidbits on emotional intelligence, mental health care and self-development. The hunger for growth in these areas seems to be insatiable.
Generations that preceded us were not afforded the resources and access to mental health care that we are today. As such, it may be many of your experiences that older family members are not able to understand your commitment to your mental health. Whether it is a refusal to understand or an inability to, the real disservice lies in the lack of education and resources that existed at that time.
The stigma against seeking help in this way was so potent that, unfortunately, it has taken time to break down its constructs and understand its toxicity. Males, too, have been victims of this unfortunate mentality. Along the lines of men don’t cry is the not-so-loosely related sentiment that therapy, and asking for help generally, is a compromise to the masculinity of the sufferer.
It is wonderfully liberating to live in a time where we can say unapologetically, unequivocally, that this is rubbish. (It always has been.)
If there are any qualms, it is reassuring to remember that there is not a person on the planet who cannot benefit from mental health care. For some, it is just more urgent than for others. The financial reprieve offered to Australians through Medicare for times like these can be of immeasurable value. Sometimes it is the difference between getting help, and not.
Organisations and initiatives that are geared toward the accessibility of mental health care and education around our mental health are numerous. Beyond Blue, Lifeline, RUOK Day and Black Dog Institute are just some of them. All of them promote the same messages:
It is ok not to be ok.
It is ok to ask for help.
Support is available.
There is hope.
Thankfully, the Australian government has made significant strides in making mental health care resources as accessible to people as possible. With the opportunity to build a mental health treatment plan that will provide up to 10 subsidised sessions with mental health care professionals per year, many Australians can now afford to treat their mental health as a priority.
It can often be very difficult to self-diagnose ailments that are related to our mental health. Their symptoms can often differ from other diseases and conditions in that they can be unpredictable, unclear and very circumstantial. If you are in doubt, or feel as if something is ‘off’ within you, it is especially important to seek help from a mental health professional. They have been trained to be able to detect behaviours and patterns that might indicate a more serious issue, and can address it accordingly or refer you to someone who is qualified to diagnose you as they see necessary.
Although not the only way to tackle mental health issues and diseases such as depression and anxiety, anti-depressants can certainly serve a crucial role in regulating levels of neurotransmitters and helping people feel more ‘themselves’. Anti-depressants cannot be purchased over the counter of a pharmacy, and with good reason. Although they range in strength, a dependency on the medication can be developed, diluting its effects on the brain and causing a higher strength or dosage to be required to achieve the same thing. It is also unwise to take any other dosage than what your mental health care professional has prescribed.
All anti-depressants serve the same function: to correct a neurological imbalance that often results in behaviour that is reflective of a decrease in serotonin and noradrenaline. The drug is thought to levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, including both serotonin and noradrenaline. Along with counselling and sessions with a psychologist, the medication can play a really fundamental role in rectifying a neurological imbalance. It will very rarely be the first treatment that is considered for the overall care of your mental health and wellness.
There are many diseases and disorders related to mental ill-health, some more prevalent than others. The Black Dog Institute indicates that one in five Australians aged 16-85 has suffered a mental illness in any year, the most common of which are depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. Perhaps more alarmingly, is the data that reveals 54% of Australians do not access treatment for their mental illness.
Whether it is organising regular appointments with a counsellor or psychologist to explore talk therapy, or filling a prescription at a pharmacy for doctor-prescribed anti-depressants, it is always worth prioritising your mental health. As though it is a broken bone or another physical ailment, the negligence to heal it in the way that it requires is not going to make it go away. The problem will be exacerbated by refusal to address it, and can often become a crisis by the time it is considered necessary to do anything about it.
Your mental health is your health. As though your brain is a bone, let’s get it healed properly.
Call Lifeline on 13 11 14 to receive 24/7 support.