In the last couple of blog posts in this 3-part series we spoke about the Pandemic and the effects it has over peoples mental health, the different kinds of mental illnesses and how we can cope and help others cope who are going through depression. In this blog we're going to be looking at the Differences between Mental Health Professionals & How to approach someone who might be going through mental illness. Many questions arise on the differences between practicing and licensed Mental Health Professionals. Moreover, the practice in which Mental Health Professionals specialise vary depending on qualifications, specific training and education and so forth. Find below a general summarisation:
Counsellors: Talk therapists more inter-personal in approach
Psychologists: Talk therapists that diagnose mental illnesses and can be more methodological in approach
Psychiatrists: Diagnose mental illnesses and prescribe mental illness medications
Common talk therapy theory, practices and approaches include: CBT (Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy), Gestalt Therapy, Reality Therapy, Narrative Therapy, Positive Psychology and so forth.
Steps for Getting Help from A Mental Health Professional (in Australia, subject to change per state/country) 1. Reach out to someone you trust/feel safe with 2. Reach out to your local GP/doctor. Share you mental health concerns 3. Request for a Mental Health Care Plan 4. Receive free psychologist counselling sessions under Medicare through your Mental Health Care Plan 5. Search for your preferred therapist. Read descriptions online of their specialisations/training 6. Continue to receive free talk therapy sessions through your GP/Medicare dependent on your mental health needs 7. Importantly… Know you are not alone. Help is available for you. Your life is valuable and you are worth getting the help you deserve. Moreover, receiving prescribed medication for mental illnesses is significantly dependent on your mental health needs and its severity. Not all individuals require medication, however should be further discussed with a psychiatrist or your local GP.
‘AWKWARD’ CONVERSATION STARTERS AND BREAKING THE STIGMA OF MENTAL ILLNESS It is undeniable that the stigma around Mental Illness remains today. Additionally, the societal norms of today’s evolving technological advancements has impacted the overall way in which day-to-day and human-to-human social interactions occur. Once upon a time… there was no such thing as a ‘smartphone’ or ‘laptop’ or even ‘FaceTime’. However, by just a few clicks and taps by the our fingertips, we are able to communicate instantly by call, text message or video call with other people across the room, across neighbourhoods and even across varying countries.
This has had many positive impacts in allowing a greater sense of community in virtual interactions - however, the detrimental impacts of social media and technology undeniably still remain if not appropriately monitored and addressed. For example, the affects of cyber-bullying, the issue of perceived status and comparison and the negative impacts of pornography/child sex trafficking, and so forth. Furthermore, it is noteworthy to acknowledge the way in which social media and technology have impacted individuals’ abilities to effectively and comfortably interact socially with other individuals. For example, a decline in social/listening skills and the ability to interact intentionally within conversations. Whilst this is not always the case, it has had it’s unquestionable impact of day-to-day interactional norms. By addressing the stigma of mental illness and the ‘awkward’ conversations around it, it is plausible to accentuate the mindfulness of our everyday conversations and the way in which we intentionally connect with other individual people. As social media and technology itself can cause a sense of loneliness and isolation, it is profoundly critical that we, as people, do not lose the relational nature of our beings and the sense of connectedness and belonging we long for as humans. Thus, striving for community beyond what we received behind the screens of our phones or laptops, and within the everyday connections with people, remains more prominent.
So, what are tips to keep in mind when having those ‘awkward’ conversations around Mental Illnesses or how people really are?
1. Intentionally invest in the rapport and substance of your relationships. It is one thing to ask how someone is, however, it is another to intentionally be present in our loved one’s lives and all that is going on for them. 2. Be present. In your day-to-day interactions with family members, friends or loved ones, be present. Choose to say ‘no’ to distractions for e.g. your phone, when present with them. 3. Ask open-ended questions. In some cultures/societal norms, asking ‘Hi, how are you?’ is simply a passing-by comment or greeting that isn’t intentionally looked into. Don’t be afraid to find the power in asking someone how they really are and asking intentional, open-ended questions such as ‘What’s been happening for you?’, ‘what’s new for you?’, ‘what have you been up to lately?’, ‘what have you been up to with your time recently?’ or ‘what have you been struggling most with as of lately?’ 4. Know your love language, and the love language of those closest to you (Reference: The Five Love Languages by Tracy Chapman). As humans, we are relational beings created to connect with one another. Whether it be a close friend, a family member or a romantic partner - we all have different ways of expressing our love and the way in which we enjoy receiving love. Understanding our own love languages and the love languages of those closest to us will help us to connect, appreciate and love others more deeply. With the metaphorical example of coffee, find below the different 5 language examples:
Quality time: "Can we go for a coffee run together?”
Words of affirmation: “Just like I enjoy my morning coffee, I enjoy your company in my life”
Acts of service: “I’m about to go out for a grocery run. I can get you your favourite coffee on my way back?”
Gifts: “Here you go! Surprise! I got you your favourite coffee.”
Physical touch: “Can I hold you like a cup of coffee?”
5. Take the first step, out of your own comfort zone, and have ‘that’ conversation. Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions. Hard questions itself, that might be the difference between how a person may be struggling and to how you could help them out of their struggle-some time. For e.g., ‘I’ve noticed you haven’t entirely been yourself recently… have you been okay?’, ‘I just wanted to check-in with you because I care for you’ or ‘You may be struggling right now, but know that I am here to help you out. How can I help you in this time?’
WHAT TO DO, AND WHAT NOT TO DO WHEN APPROACHING SOMEONE WITH A MENTAL ILLNESS
First things first… this is something we learn as children in school: “Treat others the way you would like to be treated.” The overarching answer to approaching someone with a mental illness, or someone who is going through a tough time is unconditional, unwavering and unshakable empathy. Empathy, simply put, is allowing yourself to experience the ‘journey’ of another person - and what it would be like to ‘walk in their shoes’. Empathy is no small thing and it is by no means ‘pretty’ or ‘sugar-coated’.
Empathy takes the daring courage to involve yourself with another individual and the trenches of their struggles. It takes looking beyond yourself, and acknowledging that the world is in (ocean) deep need of a greater sense of understanding, acceptance and compassion. This is where approaching someone with a mental illness all begins. Without empathy, congruency and unconditional positive regard (Carl Rogers’ basis for Person-Centered Approach to therapy), it would be nearly impossible to take that first step in the trenches. What to do? 1. Embody empathy in word and action. 2. Listen intentionally and actively assist them to find solutions for their current struggles. 3. Imagine you were in their situation. How would you feel? How would you act? What would be your outlook be on life? 4. Check-in constantly. 5. Sharing is caring. Remember this phrase as a child? Sharing care and concern for an individual in a time of struggle could mean the absolute world of a difference for them. What not to do? 1. Question or diminish their struggles. 2. Invalidate their feelings or ask them to ‘get over it or forget about it’. 3. Cast blame on them for their issues. 4. Not create a safe space for them to comfortably share their emotions. 5. Ignore, ’pass by’ or deliberately choose to be blind to the person struggling at hand. A world free of Mental Illness and Mental Health issues will always be a work in progress. It is, however, not merely impossible and is an everyday, attainable goal. It begins with you and I, and our intentional choice to embrace that all people are alive to thrive, and not just survive. References: Rodgers M, Dalton J, Harden M, Street A, Parker G, Eastwood A. Integrated care to address the physical health needs of people with severe mental illness: a mapping review of the recent evidence on barriers, facilitators and evaluations. Int J Inter Care 2018; 18:9. Taylor S. The Psychology of Pandemics: Preparing for the Next Global Outbreak of Infectious Disease. Newcastle upon Tyne, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2019. Wang C, Pan R, Wan X, Tan Y, Xu L, Ho CS, et al. Immediate psychological responses and associated factors during the initial stage of the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) epidemic among the general population in China. Int J Environ Res Public Health 2020; 17:1729.
My name is Micah. I’m aged 23 and a lover of the beach, reading books and the company of all my family and friends.
I founded Thrive Life (Mental Health Service business) in 2020, post-graduating my degree in Social Sciences/Counselling whilst also previously working in the community welfare/social sciences field (particularly children/families). With a passion for working with people, I strive to purpose the foundations of Thrive Life and its team on the pillars of spreading light, life and hope for individuals and their overall wellbeing. Thrive Life exists to raise Mental Health & Illness awareness and to spread the value of holistic wellbeing/approach to health.
I’ve also founded Unsilent Survivor, a non-profit organisation aimed as a movement to stop sexual assault, violence and abuse by raising awareness for survivors.
Ethiqué & Co. is an e-commerce business my sister and I have also founded to raise awareness for ethical and sustainable living — that of which we both value in our own lives! We create functional, go-to, trendy every day products bettering your world, and the world around us. Above else, I’m a huge believer in people and the power of community. You can also find me on my YouTube channel, Micah Grace, where I share all things lifestyle, fashion and beauty — all with a hope to create community in it’s sphere!
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