A daunting topic today, which I have wanted to touch on for some time – mental health. I say it’s a daunting topic for two reasons: often topics like this have a lot of stigma, and often people are judged for attempting to write about their opinions or experiences with mental health; and equally difficult is getting people to openly support, share, or directly engage with written material on mental health.
Many are ready to open their purses or head along to a charity run, but not many are willing to share information on social media or raise the topic with a friend. Unfortunately the Internet and social media can be a huge enemy of mental health, yet also likely one of the greatest tools we have in helping others struggling with their own issues.
I’m writing about mental health for two reasons; not only is there a history of mental health issues in my own family, as well as experience with several close to me, but also to reinforce my main goal for my business – to guide, educate, and spoil.
I’ve mentioned before that working as a beauty therapist I have often had to step into the role of counsellor as many clients feel relaxed and comfortable enough to tell me all kinds of horrors happening in their lives. It’s tragic, often they don’t know where to turn, haven’t come to terms with their situation, or simply finally feel safe enough to unload on someone supportive.
I’ve been distressed the past few weeks hearing of more and more suicides of friends of friends, not to mention ill-effects of relationship breakdowns, manipulative behaviour from partners, drug addiction, anxiety, and problems with parents. It seems an appropriate time to give my two-cents.
The term mental illness holds a lot of connotations – many seem to assume mental illness refers to the big ones; schizophrenia, bipolar, borderline personality disorder – as terms like anxiety and depression are used so much more frequently now and seem to be losing status in how severe these illnesses can be.
Mental illness can start anywhere, it can be a genetic predisposition, childhood trauma, a result of sickness or injury, verbal abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, drug addiction or drug use, suppressed emotions and patterns of behaviour, low self-esteem, bullying, even experience with another persons mental illness. There are hundreds of reasons.
Rule number one: get help. And on the flip side, always be prepared to GIVE help. We are told endlessly to go and get help, to call a support line, tell a friend or family member, but often the fear of telling someone is largely ruled by not knowing what their reaction will be. Unfortunately sometimes friends and family don’t react in an expected manner, which can be a huge deterrent to someone suffering. I prefer to recommend speaking to a professional, there is no judgement, it’s confidential, they have seen it before, and can get you help instantly.
In Australia, we are lucky to have a good mental health support program available which unfortunately many people don’t know about. If you visit your GP, whether bulk-billed or not, and discuss what you have been feeling or experiencing they can either manage you themselves, or refer you to a professional (including one of your choice) and put you on a Medicare mental health care plan which provides you with rebates on 6 sessions with a professional, with the option to add sessions should the issue not be resolved.
Many large companies also offer an Employee Assistance Program where you can access free counselling services in a completely confidential manner.
For those on the other end of the spectrum, as I mentioned, always be prepared to offer help. Having a close friend or family member approach you and say something is wrong can be hard to handle. You might be surprised, shocked, disbelieving, upset, or even offended. There’s a temptation to offer all your own advice and personal experiences and talk over them with your opinion of their issues. All of these things can put your friend off wanting to raise it again and can even deter them from taking another step to get help. So rules: tell them how glad you are that they told you. Tell them you love them and you will do anything you can to make sure they’re 0k. Then discuss their options for the next step, can you help them find a bulk-billing GP to see? Is it something where offering to be there when they speak to their family or parents would help? In severe cases, do they need to go to hospital? Then do that thing with their agreement, and follow up with them until you are sure they are being looked after.
If you are struggling with anything please know you will be ok, and you are so, so loved.
If you are supporting someone with a mental illness, remember to look after yourself. You are doing a wonderful thing and they are grateful for your help.
Look after yourselves,
All my love, X
Lifeline: Call 13 11 14
Beyond Blue: http://www.beyondblue.org.au
Black Dog Institute: http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au