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How To Find Help For Your Mental Health

Everyone needs a little help sometimes.

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Who do you turn to when you need help? Taking the first step in seeking help can be intimidating and sometimes terrifying, especially if you don't know where to start. BuzzFeed spoke with BeyondBlue's Research, Policy and Evaluation Leader Dr Stephen Carbone; Suicide Prevention Australia CEO, Susan Murray; and SANE Australia CEO, Jack Heath about how to find help if you're struggling with mental ill-health.

Taking the first step is tough.

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Making the decision to seek help if you're struggling with mental ill-health is tough for most people, but it's also a different experience for everyone. Some may have a strong support network around them; family and friends who can accompany them to visit a GP (General Practitioner). Others may start by seeking advice and support on online forums.

Once you make a decision to get help there are services available regardless of where you live in Australia. Here's a few tips for taking the first step:

* Unsure if you need to seek help? Learn about others' experiences online or talk to a professional working on helplines with BeyondBlue, ReachOut.com, LifeLine, Kids Helpline, and SANE.

* Make an appointment to visit your GP, they are there to help with your mental health as well as physical.

* Keep the appointment. Making the decision to seek help is difficult, but the payoff (the healing process) is worth it.

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Book a double appointment so you have time to speak to the GP about how you're feeling.

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BeyondBlue's Research, Policy and Evaluation Leader Dr Stephen Carbone says it's best to book a longer appointment or a double appointment with your GP. Something that's at least half an hour long. You and the doctor are going to need a bit of time when it comes to discussing mental health items and having the discussion that's required, plus there's paperwork to get through to set up a care plan.

"Most GPs now are very mental health savvy and know that they are the first port of call for a lot of people who need to talk about how they're feeling. They're quite skilled at asking questions and asking about your physical health also, to see if the two are interacting with each other," says Dr Carbone.

Do I have to pay to see a GP?

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The costs vary for accessing mental health services depending on your GP. The Australian government provides basic health care services to people through Medicare, which subsidises GP visits. Some GP clinics "bulk bill" the full cost of the consultation to Medicare which means you don't have to pay a thing up front. But others don't and there may be a small fee up front that you can usually claim back later from Medicare.

If your GP recommends additional treatment, they can help create a mental health care plan, which can include access to a psychologist or counsellor for free for a set number of appointments (up to 10 per year).

Do I need to see a counsellor if I’ve seen a GP?

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GPs can help people with a variety of issues, so they might say, "come to me and I can help you through this", or they may recommend you see someone else for more specialised treatment and provide a referral to a counsellor or a psychologist.

Face to face contact with a psychologist can be incredibly beneficial, and 10 sessions a year are covered by Medicare. Skype or video chat sessions, however, are currently not covered by Medicare. So ask your GP or psychologist about what is and is not covered in a health plan.

Should I see a counsellor or a psychologist?

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Counsellor is an umbrella term that is used to describe people who offer talking therapies.

Then you've got particular types of professionals who offer particular types of treatments; the largest and most common of these are psychologists. But even within that there are different types, but clinical psychologists are most likely to treat someone with anxiety or depression.

Social workers offer counselling, as do mental health workers.

"It is a little bit murky and confusing - anyone can call themselves a counsellor but only a registered psychologist can call themselves a psychologist. The same goes for social workers - they must be registered," explains Dr Carbone.

Still confused? BeyondBlue's Get Support section outlines the different services available.

You can still access help even if you live in regional or remote parts of Australia.

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For very low levels of anxiety and depression, online tools, forums and platforms can be helpful.

Susan Murray from Suicide Prevention Australia says men especially are often more comfortable seeking help in online platforms . However, Murray stresses the importance of taking the next step of visiting a GP to get a referral for the appropriate pathway.

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Can I see a specific counsellor or a psychologist?

Your GP can refer you to a counsellor from their list. Or alternatively, if you already have someone in mind, they can refer you to that person as long as they are listed with Medicare.

What if I don’t like the psychologist I’ve been referred to?

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The therapeutic relationship you have with your psychologist is key to the process. If you're not gelling don't be afraid to seek help from someone else. Psychologists have different styles, there is no one size fits all approach to therapy.

"It's a collaboration - not a one way street. It's you and them working together. Them guiding you through it. You have to feel pretty relaxed with them," says Dr Carbone.

"If you want to try talking to another person, revisit your GP and they will be able to refer you to someone else. And again, don't worry! It's totally normal to try a few counsellors before you find a good fit."

You may need to see a psychologist regularly over an extended period of time, or you might just need a couple of sessions to work through a specific problem.

And you don't have to go alone. A family member can accompany you to the sessions if you want them there for extra support.

Remember: asking for help is not a sign of weakness.

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CEO of SANE, Jack Heath, says Australia has made a marked improvement over the past 10 years in terms of reducing the stigma around depression and anxiety. But work still needs to be done at the severe end of the spectrum.

Susan Murray from Suicide Prevention Australia says, "There is a very common misunderstanding about how widely our community is impacted by suicide because there is a hesitancy about speaking about it and getting help when people need it."

"We don't understand as a community just how wide a problem it is. There are 2500 people who take their own life each year. 6500 plan to take their own life, and as many as 100K think about it."

Jack Heath says, "Stereotypes still persist markedly today and in a sense they are the ones that are going to have the most severe ramifications for the individual and the family, and mental health services."

"When you look at the numbers from the National Review of Mental Health they did last year, there are 700,000 Australians that fall into that category, that have severe mental health disorders."

Part of SANE's strategy for reducing the stigma around what Heath describes as the "severe end of the spectrum" is to invest in platforms that provide people the opportunity to share stories from their experiences. Peer-to-peer support is a valuable, and an often underrated, tool for recovery according the Health.

All week, we're talking about mental health. If you liked this story, you might also like reading these stories:

* People Open Up About Why They’ve Been To A Counsellor

* How To Talk To Your Friends With Depression

* 5 Men Talk About Their Struggles With Body Image

To learn more about mental health, check out the resources at BeyondBlue Australia on 1300 22 4636, Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800 or ReachOut. Always consult with your doctor about your personal health and wellness. BuzzFeed posts are for informational purposes only, and are no substitute for medical diagnosis, treatment, or professional medical advice.

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