Updated: Apr 20, 2021
We all know this year has been harder than most, worldwide, and mental health is expected to be one of the ongoing effects of COVID, long after the virus is under control.
This year we’ve had multiple challenges to overcome.
We’ve had a huge amount of uncertainty, we’ve been isolated from our usual support systems, we’ve had to hesitate when we want to hug our friends and family, some of us have lost jobs, and some have lost people close to us, among other things.
I think it’s easy to forget how hard it’s been, mentally because we’ve adapted now to this new sense of normal, but, even if you’re out of lockdown, back at work, and haven’t been sick, it’s still been a rough year for mental health.
It’s important to realise that Christmas is also a time of higher stress and emotion, and for some, it can be a stark reminder of how hard life can be in comparison to what we see in the Christmas catalogues.
So, if you’re not feeling that this (or any other) Christmas is all Jingle Bells and mistletoe, today’s message is simple.
It’s Ok to not be Ok.
If you have found this year really hard, you’re not alone... If you find Christmas time really hard, you’re not alone... If you’re just not feeling yourself right now, you’re not alone.
For a lot of people, mental health, or thinking about people struggling is the last thing we want to deal with when we’re celebrating the end of the year, but, with almost half of all Australian adults experiencing mental illness in their lifetime, and 20% having experienced some in the last 12 months (This number doesn’t include COVID stats so is likely to be much higher), chances are, either you or someone you know is struggling with mental health right now.
So, if you are doing it tough right now, even if it's 'relatively minor', or 'not as bad as some have it', please, reach out. Talk to your friends and family, or someone you trust. Or, better yet, talk to a professional.
Despite the stigma, seeking help doesn't mean you're weak, and it doesn't mean there is something wrong with you. All it means is that you're finding someone to help you feel like you again- just like you'd find a mechanic to help you get your car back on the road and keep it in good condition.
There are plenty of mental health services available (services may differ in your area, these are based on what’s available in WA). A great place to start is with a GP Mental Health Care Plan: You can get up to 10 free or subsidised Psychology sessions per calendar year through Medicare and your local GP. Just book in with your doctor, and discuss your concerns and they can refer you to a local mental health service.
Unfortunately, not all GP’s are fully trained in dealing with mental health effectively. This is not their fault. Their job is to know a little bit about a lot of things so that they can refer you on to an Allied Health Professional. It's important to be clear with your doctor about what you need. I would also suggest that if your doctor is reluctant to refer you to a Mental Health Professional, or suggests another treatment that you aren’t comfortable with, please get a second opinion.
The same goes for your Mental Health Professional. If you don’t click with them or don’t like their approach, you can change to someone else. Look at reviews and check what they have experience with or specialise in to make sure they are the best person to help you.
I heard that, on average, people go through 7 counselors/psychologists before finding the right one (I couldn’t find this statistic myself but the point stays the same). If you don’t like your counselor/psychologist, find another one!
If you want some more information, or if you or someone close to you needs urgent intervention there are some incredible helplines and information services available, which are listed on the Healthy WA website here:
Something I learned from my Psychologist is coming up on Day 8 of my 12 Thoughts of Christmas, so stay tuned!