There has never been a time in my living memory when our mental health has had so much focus and attention and quite rightly so.
We are living not only in an unprecedented health crisis but in a serious economic one too. Millions of Aussies are affected by the financial impact of Covid-19 with unemployment and under-employment creating financial turmoil. When you add the uncertainty of how long this predicament will last; the strain is even starting to show on the toughest, strongest and most positive people around us.
Worrying is like a rocking chair; it gives you something to do but doesn’t get you anywhere – Anon
Health professionals were already concerned about the state of many people’s mental health after last summer’s bushfires and now the on-going impact this pandemic is having on each of us, is taking their concerns to a whole new level.
This challenging period of financial hardship and economic stress can take a serious toll on our mental health and wellbeing and if there are other aspects of our lives adversely impacting on us, it can further influence our ability to cope.
While it is not unusual to feel anxious and worried during uncertain times, it is important to take steps to protect our emotional health and wellbeing.
Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start – US revered motivational speaker Nido Quebin
Lifeline would have preferred not to have made history recently, when their 13 11 14 crisis hotline received the highest amount of calls in its 57 year history.
Lifeline chairman John Brogden revealed that in just one day recently their crisis line received 3,326 calls for help by Aussies in trouble. The phone service generally receives up to 90,000 calls a month – that’s a person reaching out every 30 seconds. Lifeline expects its 4,500 crisis supporters will talk or chat to more than one million people through its phone and webchat services this year.
Mr Brogden went on to explain that Lifeline’s crisis helpline acts like a barometer to the mental wellbeing of the nation.
“We must remind the community that people are really struggling”, says Mr Brogden, “There has never been a more important time to reach out to those who you think may be struggling and let them know you care. Your actions can save a life.”
It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light – billionaire shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis
Globally, last year, there were around 800,000 lives lost to suicide – one every 40 seconds.
In Australia’s last reporting period (2018), there were 3,046 lives lost to suicide.
Mr. Brogden further revealed that with every life lost, there are around 135 people – families, friends, colleagues, fellow students, who are left devastated. There are many more who struggle with their own mental wellbeing.
Whenever we begin to feel as if we can no longer go on, hope whispers in our ear to remind us that we are strong – disability advocate Robert M Hensel
The US based National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), which provides advocacy, education, support and public awareness says trying to tell the difference between what are our expected behaviours and what might be the signs of a mental illness isn’t always easy.
NAMI says there’s no easy test that can let someone know if there is mental illness or if actions and thoughts might be typical behaviours of a person or the result of a physical illness.
While each mental illness has its own symptoms, here are some common signs identified by NAMI.org:
- Excessive worrying or fear
- Feeling overly sad or low
- Confused thinking or having problems concentrating and learning
- Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable ‘highs’ or feelings of euphoria
- Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger
- Avoiding friends and social activities
- Difficulties understanding or relating to other people
- Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy
- Changes in eating habits such as increased hunger or lack of appetite
- Changes in sex drive
- Inability to perceive changes in one’s own feelings, behaviours or personality
- Overuse of substances like alcohol or drugs
- Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes, such as headaches, stomach aches, vague and ongoing ‘aches and pains’
- Thinking about suicide
- Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress
It is only in sorrow, bad weather masters us; in joy we face the storm and defy it – UK novelist and teacher Amelia Barr
How to Get Help
Every day begins with an act of courage and hope; getting out of bed – US aphorist Mason Cooley
Recognising the warning signs will help us identify if we need to speak with a professional. For many people, getting an accurate diagnosis is the first step in a treatment plan.
Unlike diabetes or cancer, there is no medical test that can accurately diagnose mental illness. There are, however, diagnostic and statistical Mental Disorder manuals that are validated by Psychiatric Associations world-wide, which mental health professionals use to assist with their assessment of symptoms and in making a diagnosis.
NAMI highlights the importance of a diagnosis, which then enables mental health professionals to help develop a treatment plan that could include medication, counselling and therapy, social support, education and other lifestyle changes.
There’s no ‘one size fits all’ treatment so learning all that we can about mental health is an important first step and NAMI’s most important message is; Don’t be afraid to reach out if you or someone you know needs help.
The best way out is always through – US Pulitzer prize winning poet Robert Frost
Healthxchange.org shares some simple but effective tips to get us back on track;
- Look after your body.
- Stick to your routine.
- Keep a diary.
- Value yourself.
- Manage your stress levels.
- Learn what to look out for when your mental health and wellbeing takes a dip.
- Talk with someone you trust.
- If you need to cry, then cry.
What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality – Greek Philosopher Plutarch (46 AD – 120 AD)
Healthxchange.org describes our mind as the window to our body and soul and recommends we make sure it receives proper nourishment.
We know our brain is a powerful thing and our mental state not only controls our consciousness, but also determines how our body functions.
Studies have shown that stress, grief and depression can have a negative effect on your mental health and serious mental illnesses can lower life expectancy by 10 to 15 years.
I can’t change the direction of the wind but I can adjust my sail to always reach my destination – US Country Music singer Jimmy Dean
The Department of Psychiatry from Singapore General Hospital shares some ingredients they say can boost your mental wellness for a healthier you.
- Get at least eight hours of sleep a day
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, tuna and mackerel, cut the risk of dementia and mental decline. Good nutrition is a natural defence against stress.
- Keep yourself active. At least 150 minutes of exercise a week (or 30 minutes daily) is ideal
- Exercising not only keeps you physically strong, it also reduces or prevents stress. Go for a walk or unwind with yoga. It is better to do moderate exercise regularly than to have a heavy workout occasionally.
- Interact with others. Talk to another person for at least 10 minutes daily
- Talking to people stimulates the brain. A study in the US found that talking to another person for just 10 minutes a day improves memory scores. Also, the more you interact with others, the faster your brain will work.
- Pick up a new skill or hobby
- Do something for others. This is the best remedy when you’re feeling down
- Helping a friend or family member, or doing community work helps you to take the focus away from yourself. In turn, you will feel more positive and less helpless.
- Learn to manage stress. Shift your mindset and make a list
- Make a list of goals and check them off when they are completed. This will help you tackle things one at a time. Seeing problems as opportunities or focusing on the positive can also help to reduce stress. Stress cannot be avoided, but you can learn to manage stress.
- Avoid alcohol, cigarettes and drugs. They are not the solutions to problems!
- If you have emotional problems, seek support from family and friends, or get professional help. Alcohol, cigarettes and drugs provide only temporary relief from stress and unhappiness.
- Laughter is the best medicine.
- Laugh yourself silly and have fun whenever you can. Laughing can help to keep the doctor away because humour activates the brain’s reward and pleasure centres, generating emotions and relaxing the mind.
You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserves your love and affection – The Buddha
Here are 10 Commandments of Mental Health from PositiveMed.com
- Think positive; it’s easier
- Cherish the ones you love
- Continue learning as long as you can
- Learn from your mistakes
- Exercise daily; it enhances your well-being
- Do not complicate your life unnecessarily
- Try to understand and encourage those around you
- Do not give up; success in life is a marathon
- Discover and nurture your talents
- Set goals for yourself and pursue your dreams
Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars – Lebanese-American author of The Prophet, Khalil Gilbran
The Federal Government’s Department of Health also has an excellent website available that is filled with lots of advice on mental health and great tips on coping with Covid-19 https://headtohealth.gov.au
Just because today is a terrible day doesn’t mean tomorrow won’t be the best day of your life. You just gotta get there – Anon
There is no need for any of us to suffer alone so if you or anyone you know needs help please ring Lifeline 13 11 14 or Beyondblue 1300 22 4636.
Take care and stay strong and safe…cheers susie