It is an overused and boring cliché to make a comment such as “despite the great strides made in recent years, there is still a great stigma around mental health treatment, such as seeing a psychologist.”

However, despite the great strides made in recent years, there is still a great stigma around mental health treatment, such as seeing a psychologist.

It has been widely argued by a variety of health journals, that ‘mental health is the next pandemic.’ Some of these journals have argued that this oncoming ‘pandemic’ is a direct result of COVID, citing some damning statics.

A study of over 1830 frontline workers who were in direct contact through the disease in China found that 50.4% suffered from depression, 44.6% suffered from anxiety, and 34% from insomnia. Source: Curieux

An American study found that 45% of American adults stated that their mental health has been negatively affected by aspects of the pandemic (such as lockdown, or stress about the virus).

While it is undoubtable that the pandemic has had an impact on the mental (and physical) health of both healthcare workers and non-healthcare workers alike, assumptions that some new ‘pandemic’ is dawning upon us because of COVID are false. These assumptions ignore the fact that trends in the overall impact on mental health for a variety of others have been very confronting and worsening for a long time.

Mental health data has, quite frankly, been terrifying for a very long time. The Black Dog Institute analysed data from 2013/14, and it paints a picture that shows that we have been living through this epidemic. While there is more recent data, using these older numbers demonstrates that this has been present for a very long time.

It is estimated that 54% of people will not access professional treatment, and 72% of men do not seek help at all, for a mental disorder. 

In any given year, 20% of Australians will be affected by a mental health condition. 45% of Australians will experience a mental illness during their lifetime.

Young people (18-24 year olds, and the most common readers of Curieux) are at the highest risk of suffering a mental illness. First Nations People’s and members of the LGBTI community are more likely to suffer a mental illness.

6 Australians die of suicide every day. 30 more people attempt suicide (based on a 2010 dataset). It is estimated that 65,300 people attempt suicide in a year (based on a 2014 dataset that accounts for underreporting).

This is old data. As can be seen in the data presented by The Black Dog Institute, this is growing exponentially. Roughly 13,000 in 2010 has turned into 65,300 just 4 years later

So, what’s the point of this? As every hacky journalism teacher has ever said, what’s the angle? The data isn’t new, the conversation that mental health needs to be addressed isn’t new. The mental health disorders which the datasets are primarily based on (depression, anxiety and substance abuse), are not new.

These are all big, scary numbers. So, what can this article do? What can we do as little people, not in control of governmental spending, or (presumably) not important heads of departments?

Let’s go back to one of the points of the Black Dog data.

It is estimated that 54% of people will not access treatment, and 72% of men do not seek help for a mental disorder.  For us ‘little people’, this can be step one. Seek help. Give help.

The paradox of lifeline

Want to talk about it?
Source: Lifeline

Every article or published document ends with the cute little “If you are feeling suicidal contact Lifeline’s 24-hour crisis support service on 13 11 14 or seek immediate help…”

Lifeline and other organisations that provide this kind of service are critical in this mental health epidemic. They do and will continue to save lives, but there is one small problem with the kind of service they provide (being a telephone hotline).

To break the fourth wall of journalism and speak from personal experience; I have suffered from mental health issues and have reached points I thought may have been irreversible, but I have never once contemplated calling a hotline for help.

For many, because of largely anxiety-based reasons, calling someone up for immediate help is an impossible task, and that’s okay.

54% of people will not access professional treatment. 72% of men will not seek help.

But Lifeline and other organisations like it are not the only help available.

Getting help

Family and friends are valuable resources. Having a simple conversation with a loved one is the most important first step in getting help.

There is still a stigma to seeing psychologists. A belief that seeing a professional is an admission that you are broken, that you have failed in some way.

This, if the Curieux reader will pardon my French, is bullshit.

There is no such thing as broken, having any kind of mental health issue, of any kind of severity does not mean that you are in any way better or worse a person than anyone else.

You can believe whatever you want about yourself. You can believe that you are depressed. You can believe you are a narcissist. You can believe you don’t have a problem. You can believe you are untreatable, beyond help. But none of these things define you, and more than anything, you can get help.

You do not have to be on the verge of self-harm or suicide to talk to a professional. You do not even have to believe you are mentally unwell to talk to a professional. Psychologists exist for a multitude of reasons, all of which involve self-improvement, which is why I implore anyone who has read this far, to talk to someone, regardless of what you think it might be for.

It does not have to be lifeline. It does not have to be a health professional. It does not even have to be a person.

Talk to your pets, talk to your stuffed animals, once you’ve started saying things out loud, you’ll get to the next step, you’ll find it easier to talk to your friends and family, you’ll find it easier to talk to a psychologist.

Mental health disorders are not the next pandemic. We have been living through this pandemic for a very long time. Next time you see a loved one, regardless of whether you think they may need it or not, give them a hug and tell them you love them. You never know how much it may help.

So please, even if you don’t think you need it, go see a therapist

For crisis support, call 1300 271 790, or text on 0488 884 227 to reach the dedicated 24/7 University Crisis Line, operated by Lifeline.

The University of Canberra Medical and Counselling Centre is also open 9 am – 5 pm, Monday – Friday. They provide counselling support services to all staff and students on-campus. You can reach them on 6201 2351.

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