As a mental health advocate, I can assure you psychologists are some of the greatest people alive. I’ve seen councilors in the past (there is a difference) and now that I’m seeing a psychologist, I can honestly say they are God’s gift to the planet.
What’s a mental health plan?
This covers Australia so things may be different wherever you are.
If you believe there is something not quite right about yourself, or someone has mentioned to you that there isn’t something quite right, your first bet is to head to a GP. After you mention your symptoms or things people have said, your GP will assess if you need treatment of not. You will be asked a lot of questions about your past and present, your symptoms and family history of mental illness.
They usually ask about your childhood, traumatic events in your life, current stresses, previous stresses, previous depression and anxiety, self harm and suicidal ideology and so on. It can be pretty full on and usually takes about 30 minutes. You’ll get 10 sessions to see a psychologist or councilor covered by Medicare, or there are organisations such as Headspace (ages 12-24) or a local psychology service, if you don’t know of any professionals in this area.
Seeing a psychologist
It’s not scary, I promise. If it helps, they see through you so you know that they will understand you and know if you’re lying about anything. It’s important to know that if you don’t click with a psychologist, you can get transferred to see a different one. I’ve been lucky in that I clicked with my psychologist right off the bat.
Your first session with them will simply be a get-to-know-you session, they’ll ask you questions about why you’re there, what you want to know and so on. They will also introduce themselves and give a quick run down on what they do and what they’re like. If you’re anything like me, when they first ask you “What’s been happening for you?” you’ll burst into tears and won’t stop crying for the duration of the session. There’s nothing wrong with that.
The sessions usually last around 45 minutes to an hour and are as frequent as you need or your psychologist deems them to be. As I’m revisiting a few old scars and current ones, I’m seeing mine every 2 weeks. That way I don’t have to go through uncomfortable feelings by myself.
You’ll be seated on a couch (not like the ones in the movies, though the room looks similar) and they’ll sit across you and that is how your interaction occurs. Nothing too scary about it.
Seriously, be honest. This is your space to say what you need to and deal with anything you need to. Take the time to be honest with yourself, your feelings and your problems. You can’t get help if you don’t admit them. They can’t help you if you don’t admit them.
We react to things differently and even saying you don’t feel something about an event can be helpful in assisting your care. They are there to help you, take full advantage of your time together.
Every other session
From your first session, you begin to talk and look into different things very deeply. This is the hard bit. Admitting you’re not really over something is very hard, even if you’ve put in all the work to try to. After the first 5 or so sessions, you begin looking at coping strategies to learn how to take the edge off of these things and learn to live your life around them. This leads me to my next point.
You need to help yourself
While seeing a psychologist is good and all, you need to put the effort in too. You getting better doesn’t just rest of their shoulders but it involves you changing and adapting to these things. Put into practice the strategies they give you, listen to what they say.
This is my favouite coping strategy: manual thinking. (the name varies from person to person)
What you do is, write down a thought you’re having or an event you’re going through, write down how it makes you feel. Then right down evidence that supports your thoughts on the topic, then evidence that doesn’t support it. Change that negative thought into a positive one, then write how you feel afterwards.
An example topic is, I don’t think people like me
Thought: I don’t think people like me
Feelings: I feel horrible,upset and angry
Evidence that supports it: I don’t have many friends, my only friends have more friends than me, they don’t want to hang out etc etc
Evidence that doesn’t support it: I have as many friends as I need/want, my friends have about the same amount of friends I do, I know they have busy lives etc etc
A positive thought: I have a small but supportive group of friends.
Feelings: I feel better and more understanding towards my friends.
As the saying goes: you can’t help someone who won’t help themselves.
There’s no shame in getting help
Mental illness can be a variety of different things: mood swings, personality changes, depression, anxiety and so on. People often display these things without realising that they need help, and a lot of people know when they need help. There is honestly nothing wrong in getting help, it’s so important that you do. Not getting help creates a lot of problems on top of existing ones, and not just for the person suffering but for those around them.
How can I tell if I need help or someone else does?
Here’s a little checklist that can help you out:
- They can’t maintain healthy long-term friendships/relationships
- They have low self esteem
- They have a history of mental illness
- They often bully others (not always)
- They lie or ignore topics
- They’ve had a head injury
- If they’ve suffered trauma of any degree
- If they discuss death, murder or dying in general a lot
- They show no regard for themselves or others
- They stop doing the things they enjoy
- They stop participating and things they normally would
- They’re either very noisy and loud or very quiet
- They are constantly in a negative frame of mind
and so on.
What mental illnesses are out there
There is a lot, I mean a lot. Here are some of the more common ones:
- Borderline personality disorder
- Bipolar disorder
- Suicidal ideologies
- Mood disorders (Disthymia etc)
- Eating disorders (Bulimia etc)
- Psychotic disorders (schizophrenia etc)
- Post traumatic stress disorder
And those are just the most common ones. If you think there’s something wrong, speak up.
What you can do so your loved one gets the help they need
If a number of people suspect a mental illness, there are a few things you can do. If you don’t feel comfortable confronting them, you can let social workers or their employer of family members know that you think there is something wrong. From here, they can get the person in question to do a psychological evaluation and go from there. Sometimes, this gesture can be taken the wrong way, so I would do this one with caution.
Another thing you can do is approach the person how you would want to be approached. Make sure you’re close with this person first. Explain to them your concerns and some solutions and as well as asking for their thoughts.
Psychologists are a God send. I highly recommend them. Don’t be afraid to talk to them and get the help you need and deserve!
**Unpopular opinion warning**
After researching antidepressants out of curiosity and as part of a course, I hold a rather unpopular opinion of them. I believe they are blankets and not a solution for mental health. I think it’s the method that a few people use as a way of ignoring their problems than to get help. (For some people, they aide in the recovery). I believe that if you stop taking them, you’ll still have the same problems as before as they didn’t do anything special. In the long term I believe that you must seek out therapy. Throughout my entire journey of mental illness I’ve constantly refused to take them as I believe to get through it I must do it by sheer will power.
I know a lot of people won’t always have the same will power for help and that’s okay, my opinion isn’t designed to hurt anyone’s feelings. This is just a conclusion I’ve come to through research. I see both sides of this, that it helps some people as well and that’s good! I don’t discredit that, but I believe they provide no long term solution at all.
I’d love to know what you think in the comments!