Why is it important to seek professional mental health assistance?

Living with mental illness can be extremely difficult, but with the right treatment, symptoms can be effectively managed and people can live full and meaningful lives. 

Mental health impacts how we think, feel and act. Your mental health will impact every facet of life, including how you feel day to day, your personal choices, response to stress, the quality of your relationships, and your performance at work or school. Most people experience a mental health problem at some point in their life, ranging from mild stress to conditions that cause severe impairment. It is estimated that over 40% of Australians will experience a mental illness in their lifetime. 

​Effective treatments are available to treat mental illness, however, many people face barriers to accessing help. With the right treatment and supports, people with mental illness can get better and many recover fully. With online telehealth options now available, mental health support is more accessible and more convenient than ever before. 

If you are seeking support for a mental health concern, the last thing you need is the added stress of looking for and travelling to a suitable clinician. Furthermore, there are often long wait times for face to face sessions, which can cause delays in accessing treatment. Seeing a psychiatrist or psychologist should be a seamless process from start to finish, with the aim of addressing your concerns in a timely manner. Research shows that early intervention often carries better outcomes for recovery.

Online mental health services can provide quality care to patients, often with shorter wait times and the added convenience of being available to you from the comfort of your own home. The decision to connect with a psychiatrist or psychologist online could be the first step to significantly improving your life.

Early signs of mental illness

We can’t ‘see’ mental illness the same way we can see many physical ailments. Mental illness can therefore be hard to detect and understand, which can leave people with a mental illness feeling stigmatised, misunderstood and alone. A dangerous side effect of this is delayed access to treatment, as warning signs may be missed and people may feel unable to ask for help. Fortunately, there are some common signs and symptoms of mental illness to look out for. Some examples include:

  • Overwhelming or persistent emotions that cause impairment or distress. For example, a chronic feeling of sadness, guilt or hopelessness may indicate the presence of a depressive disorder
  • The absence of emotion or feeling ‘numb’. Sometimes feeling empty or void of emotions is a sign of mental illness. Schizophrenia, PTSD and Depression can be associated with reduced feelings
  • Abnormal or unexplainable changes in behaviour, such as a very social person becoming more withdrawn, a usually calm person becoming violent or aggressive, or an introvert drawing attention to themselves in public
  • Difficulty or disinterest in completing usual tasks at work, home and in the community. Many mental illnesses (e.g. Depression) are associated with a lack of motivation or disinterest in activities that were previously enjoyable. Simple tasks like preparing food, showering, and getting out of bed can start to feel overwhelming or pointless
  • The presence of persistent and distressing thoughts, which feel overwhelming. For example, persistent thoughts that “something bad is about to happen” or “I’ll fail and make a fool of myself” are common in some anxiety disorders
  • Significant changes in appetite or sleep patterns. These are broad indicators that can be associated with most mental disorders, for example, Bipolar Affective Disorder and Depression.
  • Physical symptoms that have no medical explanation. Sometimes psychological distress can present in the form of unexplained headaches, pain, stomach upset, nausea and fatigue. This is common in many anxiety disorders, where a lot of tension is held in the body
  • Thoughts about hurting yourself or others. Suicidal thoughts are quite common across many mental disorders. It is important you let someone know if you are experiencing such thoughts.

If you are concerned about one or more of the above signs in either yourself or a loved one, we suggest speaking with your GP as soon as possible. Depending on your circumstances, your GP may suggest a referral to a mental health professional, such as a psychologist or a psychiatrist. 

Why see a registered psychologist?

In Australia, psychologists are registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). They have a minimum of 6 years of university training and supervised experience. In order to maintain their registration, psychologists must undergo continued professional development each year. 

Therapeutic interventions offered by psychologists often involve a collaborative effort between the therapist and the client. Choosing professional psychological support will help you gain insight into your condition, identify potential solutions to problems that cause emotional distress, and improve your communication and coping skills. Therapy is likely to strengthen your self-esteem, ability to cope with stress and could also promote positive behaviour change.

Why see a psychiatrist?

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who have undergone an additional 5 years of specialised training in psychiatric medicine/mental health. Psychiatrists are also registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and are required to undertake continued professional development annually. One key difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist is that a psychiatrist can prescribe medication. 

Psychiatrists and psychologists can often work well together as a team to support you in optimising your mental health. Your GP can refer you to see a psychiatrist.

Why is good mental health important?

  • Life can be stressful, with each of us having to face different stressors and challenges on a daily basis. If our mental health isn’t good, we are less prepared to manage stress and may become more easily overwhelmed
  • If we suffer from a mental illness, our productivity at work and our ability to study and learn is impacted. This can impact the opportunities we are able to pursue, our educational or occupational performance and our financial position 
  • Poor mental health can act as a barrier to achieving our full potential and goals in life. If left unmanaged, mental illness can unfavourably shape the trajectory of one’s life course 
  • Mental illness can be a barrier to feeling positive emotions like happiness, passion and joy. It can also be a barrier to making meaningful social connections and participating fully in valued activities

Barriers to receiving professional mental health care

​Currently, only about one-third of people with mental health problems receive the help they need. There are various reasons for this, including:

  • Practical factors, such as limited availability of health professionals, long waitlists and significant travel time, may act as barriers to access. Getting time off work to see a therapist is a challenge and can prevent people from seeking support 
  • Financial restrictions and perceived lack of affordability may limit access to mental health care. Medicare rebates can be confusing and out of pocket charges can be a barrier to people seeking professional support
  • Lack of education and poor understanding of mental health can be a barrier. Some people are unaware of the signs and symptoms of poor mental health and therefore do not seek help until their situation deteriorates significantly or things become unmanageable. Similarly, people may not be aware that effective treatments are available and that they are likely to benefit from specialised mental health care
  • Stigma is often a barrier to people seeking and continuing treatment. People might fear judgement and discrimination from a mental health diagnosis 
  • Lack of knowledge regarding available supports and ways to access them. Navigating the many treatment options and service providers can be tricky and may feel overwhelming.

 

At Epsychiatry, our objective is to make high-quality mental health services readily available and easily accessible to those in need. We provide evidence-based, personalised, and affordable telehealth mental health care to all Australians via our online platform. In doing so, we hope to address some of the key barriers that prevent people from seeking the help they require.

We believe a lack of mental health awareness is widespread and another key barrier to people accessing treatment. We aim to address misunderstanding within the community and prevent stigma by adding educational content weekly to our blog and Youtube channel. It is our hope that this will begin to counter some of the myths surrounding mental illness.

Our team comprises psychologists and psychiatrists with a wealth of experience in mental health care. Each of our clinicians has over 10 years of experience working with people with diverse mental health problems. Contact our friendly support team to enquire and book an appointment.