When we're feeling emotionally unwell, it can be hard enough getting out of bed, let alone picking up the phone, booking a doctors' appointment, and attending it in person. Fortunately, in today's technological age, there are a variety of mental health supports available, many of which don't even require you to leave the house! While it is always advisable to seek medical advice if you are experiencing symptoms of mental illness, the supports listed below can complement traditional mental health supports.
Informational websites and symptom checklists
When you are new to the symptoms of mental illness, the prospect of going to a GP can be daunting. Plus, many of the symptoms of mental illness, such as fatigue and changes in appetite, are physical, so you may not even realise that what you're experiencing could be a sign of mental illness.
A great first step to seeking support is to find out more about mental health conditions, and how they apply to your experience. Websites such as Beyond Blue contain a wealth of information on the mental health conditions commonly experienced by Australians.
Along with providing great information on the symptoms of mental illness and where to find support, many websites provide symptom checklists, which can help you determine whether what you're experiencing may be a mental illness. For example, Beyond Blue offers an anxiety and depression check list, and allows you to print off your results and take them into your GP. Worried about your drinking or drug use? Know Your Options has a self-assessment tool, information on how to keep yourself safe, as well as a directory of alcohol and other drug services available in South Australia.
Telephone, web chat and SMS supports
When I struggled with social anxiety, I found it difficult to answer the phone, let alone picking it up myself and making a call for support. Today, a range of mental health helplines, such as Lifeline, Beyond Blue, and LETSS offer web chat, email or SMS counselling options.
There are also a range of specialised, lesser-known helplines, which cater for a range of demographics, including expectant parents (Birthline), young people (eheadspace), individuals who identify as LGBTIQ+ (QLife), carers (Carer Gateway) and the defence force community (Open Arms). Specialised helplines also exist to support people struggling with particular mental health concerns, related to grief (GriefLine), addiction (ADIS), childhood trauma (Blue Knot), eating disorders (the Butterfly Foundation) and interpersonal violence (1800 RESPECT).
Online forums and communities
Social support has a hugely positive effect on mental health. What's even better, is receiving support from a community of people who have been through similar experiences and 'get' you. Mental health forums can be a safe and non-judgemental environment to share your experiences, while learning about what has helped others. SANE has a range of lived experience and carers forums, which cover topics from coping with a new diagnosis to self-care strategies and making new friends.
The Mighty is like Facebook, but for health conditions. You can subscribe to receive updates on a range of health topics to your own personalised newsfeed. Posts come in many different shapes and sizes, including newspaper articles, personal blogs and even memes!
Self-help books are a great way to learn helpful strategies, at your own time and pace, within the comfort of your own home. Even better, they cost a fraction of the price of a single therapy session with a counsellor or psychologist.
Some personal favourites of the LETSS team are The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris, Lost Connections by Johann Hari, Taming the Black Dog by Bev Aisbett, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers, and The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck by Mark Manson.
Mobile phones mean that taking charge of your mental health is right at your fingertips! There are countless apps that can support you to improve your mental health in a myriad of ways, such as monitoring your thoughts (eg. Thought Diary Pro), practicing mindfulness (eg. Smiling Mind, headspace) and honing your skills learnt in therapy (eg. ACT Companion).
Beyond Blue recently released an app called Beyond Now; an app that can help people who are struggling with suicidal thoughts. The app helps you to develop a safety plan, by identifying triggers and warning signs, as well as coping strategies. The great thing about this app is that whenever - and wherever - crisis hits, your safety plan will be within arm's reach.
Online therapy modules
Many of these modules, like the smart phone apps, are either low- or no-cost, and provide the opportunity for therapist guidance (for an additional cost).
Beacon 2.0 is a great place to start your search for online self-help supports. After signing up, you can search for a specific mental health condition and browse through online self-help tools. Each online resource is given a rating out of 5, with the highest rating of 5 indicating there is well-established evidence that the resource is therapeutically beneficial.
This Way Up provides a comprehensive screening instrument which assesses your level of symptoms for various mental health conditions. Based on your results, you will be provided with recommendations about what online module(s) will be most beneficial for you. This Way Up offers free low-intensity self-paced courses (eg. Managing Insomnia), as well as more intensive courses for specific mental illnesses, which start at $59 for three months access.
Need more help?
For more information on mental health services in your area, visit the Head to Health website, or contact one of our friendly peer workers at LETSS on 1800 013 755
(Image from Unsplash by Scott Webb)