Perhaps not as obvious as a broken arm or the flu, mental health problems are nonetheless common in Australia and worldwide. Mental health problems vary in type and severity, and can affect anyone at any time.
Did you know …?
- More than 450 million people experience mental disorders globally.
- About 3 million Australians have depression or anxiety.
- About two in five people with depression or anxiety don’t seek treatment.
Mental disorders include a range of problems that significantly affect a person’s feelings, thoughts, behaviours and interactions with others.
Some of the commonest mental disorders are depression and anxiety. If you’re concerned about your or someone else’s mental health, consult your doctor, counsellor or a psychologist.
Depression – the facts
Many of us feel sad at times. In fact, it can be a normal response to certain events, such as loss. However, depression involves feeling sad or disinterested in usual activities, and experiencing other symptoms, most of the time for at least two weeks. It affects a person’s daily functioning.
Possible symptoms of depression include:
- feeling sad or ‘empty’
- decreased interest or pleasure in daily activities
- weight loss (without dieting) or gain, or decreased or increased appetite
- sleeping too much or too little
- tiredness or lack of energy
- feelings of worthlessness, or inappropriate or excessive guilt
- agitation or slowing down of thought processes or physical movements
- decreased ability or think or concentrate, or indecisiveness
- thoughts of death or suicide.
Anxiety – the facts
Often confused with stress, anxiety is when anxious feelings persist for no apparent reason and can’t be easily controlled. It interferes with a personal daily life.
Anxiety disorders come in many forms, but the commonest include generalised anxiety disorder, social phobia, specific phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and panic disorder.
Generalised anxiety disorder involves excessive worry or anxiety about many events, most days for at least six months. This worry is hard to control and may be associated with:
- feeling restless or ‘on edge’
- getting tired easily
- difficulty concentrating or going ‘blank’
- muscle tension
- sleeping problems.
Supporting someone with a mental disorder
Approaching someone you know about their mental health isn’t easy. So, here are some expert suggestions on what to do and not do.
- Tell the person you have seen a change in his or her behaviour.
- Talk to the person about their experiences, assuring him or her you will less without passing judgment.
- Suggest the person sees a doctor or psychologist, perhaps also helping to make an appointment.
- Help the person to research depression or anxiety from a trusted source.
- Encourage the person to get adequate sleep, exercise and nutritious food.
- Discourage the person for self-medicating with drugs or alcohol.
- Encourage the person’s family and friends to keep in touch, if appropriate, without pressuring the person to do activities.
- Encourage the person to tackle his or her fears, with appropriate support for a doctor or psychologist.
- Tell the person to ‘snap out of it’ or ‘get it together’.
- Avoid the person.
- Tell the person he or she must get out more or keep busy.
- Pressure the person to feel better by partying more or taking drugs or alcohol.
- Vanessa Auditore: Counsellor & Life Coach. phone 0416 11 36 88
- Lifeline: crisis support and suicide prevention service; phone: 131114, available 24/7
- beyondblue: the national depression and anxiety initiative; phone: 1300 22 4636, available 24/7
- MensLine: phone and online support, information and referral service; phone: 1300 789 978, available 24/7
- SANE Australia: national mental health charity; phone: 1800 18 SANE (7263), available Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm (AEST)
- Black Dog Institute: national organisation for the management and treatment of mood disorders
Resource: Healthlogix Australian Corporate Wellness Online. www.australiancorporatewellness.com.au