This Woman Wants You To Know Finding A Psychologist Isn't A Big Deal
"I still felt exhausted all the time but I didn't know it was different because I didn't have anything to compare it to."
Western Sydney University student Simona Sukanova was first overwhelmed with anxiety during her Higher School Certificate, when she froze and was unable to complete three of her exams.
"I just couldn't do it and walked out each exam," the now 21-year-old psychology student told BuzzFeed News.
"My sleeping and eating [patterns] were disrupted and I was really isolated."
In the second semester of university, Sukanova's father was diagnosed with cancer and died four months later.
"I still felt exhausted all the time but I didn't know it was different because I didn't have anything to compare it to so I felt very lonely," she said.
"I'm Macedonian, and in our culture there is a massive stigma around mental health, it is just not talked about."
She talked about how she was feeling with her GP, who wrote a referral to a psychologist and signed Sukanova up for a mental health care plan with which she could claim Medicare rebates on 10 sessions.
Sukanova tried a private mental health practitioner but it "wasn't the right fit", so she approached Headspace, a youth mental health initiative established by the Australian government.
"Because they cater to young people I felt understood and it wasn't really formal or anything," she said.
"The psychologist I saw allowed me to sort out my own thoughts and guide me through my own healing without being authoritative or anything, and now I don't get scared about exams at all and my grades have actually shot up at uni."
Sukanova belongs to a section of the NSW population more likely to report high levels of distress: young women.
In 2015, 21.6% of females and 12.2% of males aged between 16 and 24 reported experiencing high or very high psychological distress, according to NSW HealthStats.
Across all age groups except for 75+, more women than men reported experiencing high or very high psychological distress.
This fits with a wider trend across Australia. In 2014-15, 14% of women and 10% of men aged 18 years and over experienced high or very high levels of psychological distress, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported in September.
Young women aged 18 to 24 years were most likely to report high levels of distress (20%, compared with 11% of young men).
In the same period, 19% of females and 16% of males reported having a long-term mental and behavioural problem.
"Around half of lifetime mental illness begins by the age of 14 years, and three-quarters by the age of 25," the state's mental health minister, Pru Goward, told BuzzFeed News.
"Mental health issues should be identified at the earliest age possible, in order to reduce the burden and impact on quality of life for young people, their families and communities."
Here are some Australian services where you can seek help if you need it:
Lifeline is a 24/7 crisis support and suicide prevention service. You can call anytime on 13 11 14 for confidential support or use their online crisis support chat.
Headspace provides support and information for young people aged 12 to 25. You can access eHeadspace for online chat support, or call 1800 650 890.
Beyond Blue offers 24/7 phone support on 1300 22 4636 and online support via chats.
MensLine offers support and information service for Australian men via a 24/7 phone support on 1300 78 99 78, and they also offer 30-minute sessions of online chat or video counselling, which you can access here.