I struggled with undiagnosed mental illness until I was eighteen. I wasn’t properly treated until I was twenty-three, and a lot of this was to do with the blind spot in our health care system surrounding mental illness. I didn’t know who to speak to, what to say or where to go. Now that I’m fully entrenched in my treatment process I’ve realised how many people out there may be in the same position of unknowing, and thought I could shed some light on what to do when you’re not okay. This is based off of my own experience so it may differ from person to person. What I’ve written and advised is to be used when initially seeking help. Further group therapy and outpatient programs would be discussed in treatment with your doctor.
See your GP
If you’re feeling off, if you’re not feeling yourself but you’re safe and not in immediate danger then I would suggest booking an appointment with your local (hopefully trusted) GP. Explain to them what’s going on. Whether it’s a nervousness you can’t shake that’s affecting your day to day life, or your mood has changed dramatically and interfering with your actions or activities, these are things to communicate to a medical professional.
They will then assess you. You’ll get a lot of fun questionnaires to fill out, rate your feelings from 1-5 sort of tests that will determine the direction the doctor will go in terms of treatment. Blood tests may be necessary to see if your problems may be hormonal or physiological. They will then hopefully create a Mental Health Care Plan for you.
This will may lead to an initial prescription for an anti-depressant or an anti-anxiety medication. Ask your doctor for a list of referrals to psychologists in your area. Talk therapy with a psychological professional is my recommended next step. Some people seem to think that medication solves all, whereas it’s sometimes the opposite. Medication may or may not help, what is needed is psychotherapeutic treatment to teach you how to cope with what you’re dealing with and most importantly speak about it. Speaking with a trusted professional about the stressors in your life, or traumatic past may be the key to kickstarting your treatment and recovery.
You can be referred to a psychiatrist by your GP for a more in-depth and thorough diagnosis/medication scheme. This may be a recommended course of action after seeing a psychologist where they can not officially diagnose you/prescribe you medication. This is what happened in my case. Some psychiatrists also practice psychotherapy which is sort of a two in one deal, this is what my situation entails. Instead of visiting my psychiatrist for medication refills and 15 minute check ups he also acts as my talk therapist as a psychologist would. Research can be done online to find Doctors in your area that fit your needs if you feel it’s necessary.
If you feel that you don’t feel safe or are at risk of life threatening self harm or suicide then go to an Emergency Department immediately. When you arrive you’ll be first asked the reason you need help and whether you need immediate medical attention if self harm or overdose has been involved. If not, they’ll move you to admin where you’ll do the usual medicare number, emergency contact, personal details check. Then depending on the waiting time for a bed you’ll have anywhere from 10 minutes to 3 hours in the waiting room before they can get you in for a psych assessment. Don’t let this scare you away. The process, as I’ve experienced it, has always been filled with professionalism and empathy from all hospital staff involved. It’s nothing like the movies, trust me. You’ll be looked after. The most important thing is you get there. Friend, taxi, ambulance or family member. Doesn’t matter.
Help lines are always there. If you feel anything of the problems mentioned above give a help line a call. It’s always nerve wracking but once you get the ball rolling they can assist you in talking through your feelings. You can be open and honest with them and even get advice on what to do next e.g. ED, make an appointment with your doctor etc. My personal experience is with Lifeline, but I’ve added more just in case.
13 11 14
Provides all Australians experiencing a personal crisis with access to 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention services.
Mental Health Advice Line
1300 606 024
For immediate, expert health advice from a nurse
1300 224 636
Advice And Support For Anxiety And Depression
1800 187 263
Information about mental illness, treatments, where to go for support and help carers.
Talk, Talk, Talk
The most important thing to take away from this is to reach out. Reach out to a friend, a family member, a professional or a stranger on the other end of the phone. The process can seem daunting but no one deserves to sit in suffering because they don’t know how to get help.