9 Tips For Supporting a Friend On Their Mental Health Journey

9 Tips For Supporting a Friend On Their Mental Health Journey

For someone struggling with mental illness, support from a friend or loved one can make all the difference.
If you’re concerned about someone in your life, but not sure how to go about asking if they need a hand, you can follow our 9 tips to help ensure the conversation is as open, effective and supportive as possible.

1. Find a private place.

If you’re initiating the conversation take the time to think about the time and place. It’s best to choose somewhere you can talk openly, and a time when you can listen actively, without rushing or checking your watch.

2. Be prepared for any resistance.

The person you’re reaching out to might not be ready to talk, and that’s okay. If you reach out and they dodge conversation or say it’s not something they want to talk about, it doesn’t mean the conversation is a failure. You’ve still let your friend or loved one know you’re concerned, and you’re there for them if they need you.

3. Ask gentle questions.

Do ask gentle questions to help your friend or loved one explore their options. You might ask how long they’ve been feeling this way, or if they need support to see a GP or to contact a mental health professional.

4. Recognise your own level of expertise – or where your ability to help is limited. 

Do know your own boundaries. It’s great for you to reach out and offer support, but it’s also important to keep yourself physically and emotionally secure and to remember to take some time out for your own self care. Be mindful of where your expertise or capacity to help is limited. You might need to refer someone on to a professional or other support services.

5. Make sure you have an emergency plan.

If someone is at risk of hurting themselves or someone else, you need to call 000 or to reach out to a trusted person, like a parent, teacher, or health professional immediately.

6. Allow them to express themselves fully.

Try not to use language like “don’t worry”, “cheer up”, or “it’ll be better tomorrow” – language like this can make someone feel as though you’re minimising or trivialising their experience.Instead allow them to express themselves freely without interruptions.

9 Tips For Supporting a Friend On Their Mental Health Journey | Radiant Mental Health

7. Do not diagnose, or analyse.

It’s important not to offer your own diagnosis of what they’re going through, or debating the facts of their experience.

8. Avoid trying to ‘fix’ the problem.

Though it is incredibly hard to see a friend or loved one hurting, it’s important to understand that mental illness is complex, requires patience, and won’t just disappear over night. Instead listen actively, practice patience, ask gentle questions, and suggest different ways for your loved one to seek support.

9. Listen non judgementally. 

Try not to judge, analyse or question experiences you can’t relate to, or can’t quite wrap your head around. Experiences of mental illness are unique to each individual and can manifest in very different symptoms, behaviours and feelings. Try to listen without judgment, and to respond calmly, without exhibiting shock or alarm.

If a friend or loved ones need professional support you have a range of options.If someone is at risk of hurting themselves or someone else, call 000 immediately, even if they ask you not to. 

For a friend or loved one who isn’t sure what they’re experiencing, or needs immediate support, it’s best to go straight to a GP. If you’re friend or loved one is ready to talk to someone and seek support, they might use a service like Radiant to find and connect to a counsellor or mental health professional that feels right for them.

Same Sex Relationships & Couples Counselling

Same Sex Relationships & Couples Counselling

This article was contributed by Tal Schlosser, Director of myLife Psychologists.

Sydney’s 41st Mardi Gras is only a few days away, and the city is awash with rainbows and glitter. This is a special time of year when we get to participate in this joyous and spectacular celebration of LGBT+ pride. So it is in anticipation of this much loved event that we’re thinking more specifically of our gay and lesbian clients and couples, and the issues they face.

Same sex couples, like all couples, deserve to receive effective, tailored, and research-based therapy to strengthen their relationship and emotional bond. Going to couples therapy can feel daunting, and like all couples, gay and lesbian partners need to feel that their therapist is respectful, empathic and non-judgmental.

While all significant relationships share many similar features, there are some unique aspects to same sex relationships. Same sex couples face unique barriers that are likely to require strength and resilience, including social and cultural stresses and prejudice.

Strengths of same sex couples

The work of Drs John and Julie Gottman, renowned couples therapists and researchers, has contributed greatly to our knowledge base of the strengths of same sex relationships, and what makes them succeed or fail. Their research has demonstrated that:

  • All couples, gay or straight, experience the same problems and the same paths to staying happy together.
  • Overall relationship quality and satisfaction tends to be the same across all couple types.
  • Strengths like humour and the ability to calm down during an argument are especially important in the success of same sex couples.
  • Compared to straight couples, gay and lesbian couples use more affection and humour when they bring up a disagreement, and partners tend to be more positive in response to this.
  • Same sex couples, in comparison to straight couples, are more likely to remain positive after a disagreement, which is important for repair.
  • Same sex couples use less controlling and hostile emotional tactics, which may reflect a greater degree of fairness and equality in these relationships.
  • In arguments, lesbian couples tend to be more emotionally expressive, both positively and negatively, than gay men.
  • When it comes to repairing after a disagreement, gay men find this more difficult than lesbian or straight couples if the initiator of the disagreement becomes too negative.

Potential challenges in same sex relationships

Same sex couples may face additional challenges to straight couples in navigating life’s challenges as a strongly bonded couple. These include but are not limited to:

  • Managing differences in approaching coming out and acceptance of sexual identity.
  • Coping with prejudice and others’ negative attitudes towards the relationship, which is especially challenging when it leads to conflict with family members or other important people.
  • Negotiating monogamy and a degree of openness in the relationship (both physical and emotional) that both partners are comfortable with.
  • Clarifying and establishing boundaries with each other, around issues such as the differences between a friendship and a couple relationship, negotiating living arrangements, and maintaining a friendship after separation.
  • Negotiating roles around areas like housework or parenting without the traditional gender role expectations.
  • Coping with parenting when there is a non-biological parent.
  • Managing sexual problems (e.g. mis-matched libido/desire).

Finding the right counsellor, therapist, or support for you is one of the most powerful steps you can take towards mental wellbeing. Start your search for the right mental health professional for you by clicking here.

Depression – Why Aren’t Men Getting Help?

Depression – Why Aren’t Men Getting Help?

This article was contributed by Tal Schlosser, Director of myLife Psychologists.

We’ve recently had Mental Health Week, a wonderful national initiative aimed at raising awareness of mental health and wellbeing, as well as reducing stigma and supporting people to get assistance. While acceptance of mental health issues is improving, as a society we still have a long way to go and unfortunately many who need help still don’t seek it out. This is particularly true for men who often suffer in silence.

Depression is a serious condition and no one is immune. It does not discriminate on the basis of gender or factors such as economic or professional status. One in eight Australian men will experience depression at some time in their life, and men aged 35-44 years have the highest rates of depression. Overall, women experience greater rates of depression than men, but men tend to deal with the issue differently. Many men find it difficult to recognise and acknowledge that they are experiencing depression, and importantly, men are less likely to seek professional help.

So why is this? Most obviously, there is cultural pressure on men to fit the “bloke” stereotype which can make it very challenging to admit to any vulnerability, even for today’s generation of men. Many of our male clients describe the pressure they feel to appear strong, cope with problems on their own, and serve as “the provider”. Many feel uncomfortable sharing their feelings with others, especially their male friends.

Men can also tend towards a D.I.Y approach to life, believing they can fix everything themselves, including their mental health. Far from being a personal weakness, depression is a serious condition like other medical issues. Trying to fix it yourself is like trying to heal a broken leg without a surgeon.

Depression is very different than normal sadness or being down in the dumps. These are some of the warning signs to look out for in men who may be struggling with depression:

Physical signs:

  • persistent pain
  • reduced energy
  • lower sex drive
  • changes in appetite and/or weight
  • changes to sleep
  • increased use of alcohol and/or drugs

Emotional signs:

  • feeling more guilty
  • feeling more angry and irritable
  • less interest in hobbies and previous interests
  • lower motivation
  • feeling down or nervous
  • taking unnecessary risks
  • thinking about death or suicide

If these symptoms are very serious or have persisted for more than two weeks, it’s probably time to get a professional opinion on the situation.

The good news is that help is available. Depression is highly treatable. For most people, depression can be reduced or eliminated through a combination of changes to lifestyle, psychological therapy and possibly medication. Beyond Blue’s “Man Therapy” website is geared at Aussie males, and is a good place to get more information. The Black Dog Institute’s website is also very useful. If you think you or someone you care about has depression, then do something about it. Leave the D.I.Y for your home maintenance rather than your mental health.

Finding the right counsellor, therapist, or support for you is one of the most powerful steps you can take towards mental wellbeing. Start your search for the right mental health professional for you by clicking here.

10 signs of burnout and how to treat it

10 signs of burnout and how to treat it

This article was contributed by Gemma Cribb, founder of Equilibrium Psychology.

We all have days when we are less than our best. We all have mornings when we’d rather be doing almost anything else than going into work. And if we can deduce anything from the proliferation of terms like “hump day” and “Friyay” we are not alone in feeling like this!

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It happens when we feel overwhelmed, lacking in energy, and helpless to meet the constant demands placed on us. Burnout often stems from our work whether it be our paid job or the labour we do at home and caring for children or ageing parents.

Burnout is a gradual process that can creep up on us. We may dismiss our feelings of burnout as a “bad week” at first, but they can become worse over time. Burnout reduces our productivity and saps our energy. It makes us vulnerable to illness and has a negative effect on our relationships and mood. It leaves us feeling exhausted, cynical, and inadequate.

Here are 10 signs of burnout to be on the look out for:

  1. You are getting stuck on work thoughts when you are home
  2. You are drinking to switch off from work
  3. You are finding it difficult to go to sleep because of work thoughts
  4. You are having difficulty remembering things
  5. You are having more days of work due to sickness or just not feeling able to face it
  6. You are getting neck pain or headaches
  7. You are finding yourself more prone to colds and tummy bugs
  8. You find you are making silly mistakes
  9. You find you are caring less about your work
  10. You have thought about quitting and finding a new job or new career

Because of its many consequences, it’s important to deal with burnout as soon as possible. Think of the symptoms above as warning signs and try to change things for yourself as soon as possible. Trying to push through will only worsen the situation and could lead to break down.

Once you have recognised signs of burnout in yourself it’s important to seek support and try to minimise your stress in whatever way you can. Seeking out the help of a psychologist or attending an anti-burnout workshop (such as this one we are running) can teach you essential recovery skills.

One intervention that most people suffering with burnout find useful is “job crafting.” Job crafting involves redesigning aspects your role (at work or home) in ways that lead to satisfaction, engagement, resilience and thriving.

Job crafting can occur in three main domains: we can reduce the stressors in our roles (the boring or frustrating tasks); we can increase the healthy challenges in our roles (the meaningful and interesting tasks) and we can increase the resources available to us in our roles.  This can include gaining more feedback, more social support, automating a tedious process, or learning a new skill.  Job crafting can change the way we think about our work, improve our working relationships, foster positive experiences and, best of all, prevent burnout! 

Finding the right counsellor, therapist, or support for you is one of the most powerful steps you can take towards mental wellbeing. Start your search for the right mental health professional for you by clicking here.

Tips for breaking the people pleaser habit

Tips for breaking the people pleaser habit

This article was contributed by Gemma Cribb, founder of Equilibrium Psychology.

A ‘people pleaser’ is someone who will go out of their way to make others happy. They constantly put other people’s needs and feelings before their own. They will say “yes” when they want to say “no.” They will rush to the aid of friends and family regardless of what is going on in their own lives. They will back down as soon as there is a whiff of conflict so as not to upset someone.
Research has shown that people pleasers, who also tend to be high on the “agreeableness” trait, are not often as successful as people who are low on agreeableness. People pleasers tend to have more unequal and insecure relationships and tend also to be prone to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
Usually, because of a long history of emotional neglect and conditional love dating back to childhood, people pleasers fear conflict. They believe that any disagreement will cause rejection and that they will lose the love or respect they want unless they agree or give in. They believe they have to work hard for the love and admiration that they get, rather than holding a belief that they are valuable and worthwhile for just being them. People pleasers are often also relatively unaware of their own needs and feelings and will rarely ask for help even if they do know what they require from others.
Because people pleasing is often such an old, ingrained habit, it can take a while to break. However, if you are a people pleaser and want to break this habit, you can start by following these tips:

1. Spend time checking in with your own needs and feelings

People pleasers tend to focus on everyone else and rarely spend the time to get to know and understand their own needs and feelings. Paying attention and even taking the time to diarise your own patterns can really help. Useful things to take note of are: energy levels, mood, working hours, sleep patterns and even unhelpful habits like binge-watching TV, binge eating, drinking alcohol and other signs that things may not be all rosy for you.

2. Be aware of your “shoulds” and compare them to your “authentic yes”

People pleasers often make decisions based on what they feel is the “right thing” to do, what they “should” do or what will make others happy. Becoming aware of this rationalisation process and comparing it to when you actually, genuinely FEEL like doing something can really help you separate out your authentic needs from your conditioned habits. And, if the feeling you have in response to a request is not 100% ‘YES’ then treat it as a ‘No’!

3. Get used to slow ‘No’s or buying time

People pleasers often react on impulse and say “yes” before they give themselves time to feel their own energy levels and think about the consequences of saying “yes” for them. Getting practiced at “let me have a look at my diary and I’ll get back to you” or “let me sleep on it” can give you the time to do some self-reflection and reality testing before you respond to any request.

4. A “yes” is always a “no” to something else

Take the time to reality test the request. What WON’T you have time for if you agree to this request? What will you have to put off to fit this in? What is the real consequence of doing this for you? Most people pleasers trick themselves into believing that each request they say “yes” to is “not a big deal” and rarely stop to consider the cumulative consequences of these decisions.

5. Practice saying “no”

Most people pleasers fear conflict. To lessen your anxiety start practicing saying “no” to people and requests and see what happens. Most of the time the consequences won’t be as bad as you fear and you will be nicely surprised at how reasonable people can be. If this is a real challenge for you begin your practice by saying “no” to the people and requests that are most easy for you (e.g. saying no to a telemarketer) and work up to saying “no” to the people and requests that are most difficult for you (e.g. saying no to your boss or parent).
Finding the right counsellor, therapist, or support for you is one of the most powerful steps you can take towards mental wellbeing. Start your search for the right mental health professional for you by clicking here.