‘Mental health’ is the condition of your psychological and emotional wellbeing. Much like your body, your mind can go through wear and tear. That is why it is important to take good care of your mental health. This can be done by having routines or doing activities to help you feel relaxed, as well as seeing a counsellor, psychologist or psychiatrist. It is encouraged that everyone should go see a mental health professional regardless of whether you think you need to or not. Much like a regular doctor’s check up, it is necessary to check in on your mental health regularly as your mental well- being is just as important as your physical well-being.
Professional therapists can help you with working through any difficult emotions or overcoming any traumas. They provide you with a safe space to talk through your emotions and to listen and offer advice and support.
It is especially important to check in on your mental health if you have experienced or witnessed violence. It is dif cult to take the rst step in reaching out for help, but it is a crucial step to feeling better.
Your path to recovering and feeling better won’t be a quick and easy process, however, even recognising that you want to feel better is a huge step in and of itself.
When looking for a mental health professional, you will usually get the option to choose or at least specify what you would like them to be specialised in, or if you want them to have a particular ethnic background or what gender you would feel more comfortable with. You are also allowed to take a support person in with you if you choose.
If you are unable to see a mental health professional or get help soon, there are hotlines available for you to call, as well as websites and support groups you can check out. If you are thinking about suicide then get help immediately. You can call 111 or these numbers:
- Youthline 0800 376 633
- Lifeline 0800 543 354
- Depression helpline 0800 111 757
- What’s Up (for 5-18 year olds) 0800 942 8787
- SPARX is an online game developed to help youth deal with
depression and stress: www.sparx.org.nz
I was diagnosed with depression 6 years ago. Part of the reason for my illness was because of the psychological trauma caused by the abuse that I had gone through at a very young age.
I was extremely suicidal, I was unable to make social connections, hold employment, perform basic duties like having a shower, getting out of bed nor enjoy the activities that would normally be pleasurable. My progress to feeling better was slow but I had the support of my sisters and a few close friends. I also found help in books. I read 100 books a year. Over the years blogging has also helped in the healing process. There are still times now when I relapse back into depression but I have developed strong coping skills. Blogging is one of them. I write whenever I feel that I am triggered. It definitely helps. For some people, therapy alone works, for others medication works, for some art, yet for others writing helps. There is no single best journey to recovery.
When you have a mental illness, the first and the hardest step is asking for help. I constantly thought that if I had asked for help people would think I am crazy. It is not the case, mental illness is just like any other illness. You are sick and you need support and help. - Mehwish
Ways of coping
Here are also some actions that you can try out at home too. Please be aware that these exercises cannot replace professional help or advice, these tips and exercises are little adjustments you can make until you are able to see a professional.
Try counting to 5 while inhaling, hold your breath for 5 counts then exhale for 5 counts. While you do this, try and clear your mind of any thoughts and concentrate on your breathing. Repeat these steps a few times. It may be difficult to clear your mind of any thoughts for the first few times you try out this exercise, however, it will get easier. This exercise is especially helpful if you feel the onset of a panic attack, or if you feel overwhelmed in a situation.
Talk to someone
Talking to someone about your problems can sometimes help to clarify any solutions to problems you may be having, or it can just feel good to be listened to. Giving form to your thoughts and feelings by verbalising them to someone you can trust can be really validating. There are some helpful hotlines you can call if you just need to talk over a situation or how you’re feeling at the moment. This exercise can be particularly helpful for anyone who self-harms as talking to someone can distract you from the urge to self-harm.
Write in a journal
Writing in a journal can help you to understand your own emotions, thoughts and triggers. Writing down specific situations and emotions can often make any patterns clearer, as well as giving you an opportunity to process your
feelings. Be sure to note down any physical feelings too such as energy levels or how your stomach feels. This is because your body responds and reacts to your mental state. The purpose of writing down these details is so that you can become more aware of your responses and emotions towards certain situations so that you can work on nding ways to improve your mental well-being.
Find activities that you enjoy doing
Through doing activities that you enjoy, it can help distract yourself from any anxiety-inducing situations, urges to self-harm or it can help motivate you. Some fun or relaxing activities you can try are:
- Taking a walk
- Learning to play a musical instrument
- Watching a TV or movie
- Making a cup of tea
- Drawing or writing
- Colouring in
General self care
When was the last time you ate a meal? Having a warm bath or shower, eating and drinking well - these little things can make a difference in how you feel on days you feel so bad that you nd it a struggle getting out of bed. Fuel your body and rest easy. It’s important that you get good sleep and not getting enough sleep can make you feel jittery and nervous and worsen your health. Also always remember that you don’t need to be in crisis to take time out for yourself. You deserve to take care of yourself always.
We all get sad, angry and down from time to time but this can get to a point where seeing a mental health professional becomes a good and important option to follow up with. Here are some signs to look out for that would suggest that you might need to see a mental health professional. Some signs may be:
- You can’t or don’t want to get out of bed
- The negative thoughts and feelings you are having are impairing
- your daily functioning
- You feel unsafe with your own thoughts
- Your feelings and emotions are too intense and you feel like you
- need to take a break
- You can’t stop thinking about traumatic memories and experiences
- Your thoughts and feelings are uncontrollable
- You don’t feel like yourself anymore
- You are using drugs or alcohol to cope
- You don’t enjoy the things you used to enjoy
- You feel constantly nervous or like something bad will happen
If you need to stop working to take some time out to take care of your mental health then there might be some nancial support for you to access through Work and Income. They may also be able to help you with counselling fees and transport to counselling which is paid out as part of a disability allowance.
You can apply for it if you have a health condition likely to last at least 6 months since diagnosis, need counselling and have regular ongoing counselling costs not fully covered by another agency.
As a condition of receiving financial support from Work and Income, you would need to be seeing a counsellor who is registered with of the following organisations.
- Psychotherapists Board of Aotearoa New Zealand
- NZ Association for Counsellors (NZAC)
- NZ Christian Counsellors Association
- The Social Workers Registration Board (SWRB)
- Australian and New Zealand Arts Therapy Association (ANZATA)
- Drug and Alcohol Practitioners Association of Aotearoa New
- Zealand (DAPAANZ)
- A psychologist who holds a current practising certificate or is
- registered with the Psychologists Board
A few years ago I was really struggling with my mental health, in particular with depression and anxiety. I was having a lot of difficulty getting out of bed and felt overwhelmed by everyday tasks. So I finally sought a counsellor and was paired up with a Pākehā woman. The first few sessions with her went well, we made some maps of my thoughts, emotions, physical well-being and the factors that contributed to my well-being in general. A couple of months in, at the end of the session she exclaimed that she’d forgotten about ‘culture’ as a factor and that we should add that in next time. After that session, I stopped going. Not because I felt better, but because I didn’t feel comfortable talking about my cultural identity, something that was important to me, with someone who obviously didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about theirs. Situations like these really highlighted the importance of looking around for different counsellors. They should be someone who you feel is capable of sympathising with what you’re going through. - Eun Bee