When it comes to mental health, there are no shortage of misconceptions about diagnosis, treatment and management. It’s an issue Dr Christopher Patterson from the University of Wollongong is committed to changing. As the co-founder and co-director of Recovery Camp, Chris is an expert in supporting people suffering from mental ill health. In honour of R U OK Day, we ask Dr Patterson some of the most common FAQs related to mental health.
What are the most common warning signs that someone might be struggling ?
“Some of the key indicators are as clear and simple as someone’s dietary habits, their sleep and even physical activity often go hand in hand,” says Chris. “Mental illness is something that really disrupts a person’s life, their love life, their work life, their um, ability to play and enjoy the activities that they, they once did.”
Is a diagnosis of a mental health issue a life sentence?
“Absolutely not. How you feel with your mental health changes from day to day,” explains Chris. “You might feel good today, you might feel different tomorrow. You might’ve felt bad last year, but good today. So it really does change on a continuum. It’s the same with medication. Medication that might be prescribed now doesn’t mean that you’ll be on that medication for the rest of your life.”
How do I tell the difference between a bad day and a serious mental health problem?
“If you notice that you feel different right now compared to a period last week, last year, where you’re not enjoying the same things that you used to, where you’re finding it harder to do the things that you used to do because of your psychological wellbeing,” says Chris. “It is absolutely worth talking to someone about whether or not you might be experiencing mental health issues or mental illness.”
Should I be worried about asking for professional help, and will I be pressured to take medication?
“Medication for mental illnesses and mental health issues isn’t the only approach nowadays,” says Chris. “There’s a range of different types of interventions for mental health issues and mental illness that are very different from medications. So traditionally there’s a lot of psychological interventions where it’s talking therapy where you can talk to your health professional, a psychologist, a psychiatrist using cognitive behaviour therapy or mindfulness meditation techniques.
“But more and more we’re seeing a lot of complimentary and social interventions where it’s the focus is on art therapy or music therapy or the use of group exercise to really make sure that people feel supported and get to talk to one another about mental health, about recovery, about mental illness.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, speak to your GP about how you can get support.
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