Taking medication for depression and anxiety!
Firstly, I need to say I am not a medical professional, and this article is based on my own personal opinions and brief desk top research. The information in this blog should, in no way, replace the advice from a health care professional.
In 2022, why is that taking medication for depression and anxiety still such a taboo topic, I was in a doctor’s clinic recently and heard a mother (I assume she was anyway) tell her daughter “It’s ok honey, no one needs to know about your [Zoloft]”. I sat there, in the waiting room, wanting to jump up and tell this teenage girl that being on medication for your mental health is absolutely OK and she should be proud of how brave she is for seeking help and putting it into action.
But there’s far more behind this story than an embarrassed teenager. I have thought about this situation a lot and I still can’t understand why this mother, in public, said what she said. Why is seeking help and getting treatment for mental health such a hard thing to understand and accept? If you had a broken leg not a single person would comment or judge you for talking some Panadol, or if you had a chest infection and needed antibiotics, that wouldn’t even raise an eyebrow from anyone. But, as a society, we still (for some reason) see mental health in a negative way, almost like it’s our own fault or that you’re weak if you suffer from a mental illness.
I hope it’s changing as we are seeing lots of influencers and other people sharing their mental health challenges and how they deal with it, and I truly hope this normalises the conversation, or least opens up an opportunity to talk about it with others. In my personal experience, what I have observed is that those people (who aren’t overly sympathetic to your mental illness) often come from families that also weren’t overly sympathetic to mental illness – and so the cycle repeats itself. We need more brave people to break this silence and advocate to normalise mental health challenges.
Let me share with some staggering statistics regarding the current state of mental in our community1, and yes these are Australian figures.
- Over 8 million (about 31.5%) Australians reported that they had been diagnosed with a long-term health condition, with 2 million (about 8.8%) reporting a Mental health condition4
- 1 in 10 teenagers reported that they have engaged in self-harm3
- There is an increase of 1 million people suffering from mental illness in 2014-2016 alone3
- Mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression are experienced by approximately one in seven or 560,000 young people in Australia2
- Over 3000 deaths by suicide each year are recorded in Australia3
- Males are 3 to 4 times more likely to take their own lives than females, but females are more likely to attempt to take their lives3
- Suicide is the leading cause of death in young people aged 15-24 years old3
- Suicide rates are twice as high in young indigenous Australians compared to the same cohort of non-indigenous Australians3
- 5% of our population (800,00 people) are estimated to have a SEVERE mental illness5
- Almost half of all young women in Australia suffered an anxiety, depression, or substance abuse disorder last financial year6
- Every day, at least six Australians die from suicide and a further thirty people will attempt to take their own life7
Ok, so I suffer with depression. I am medicated and have been for years (thank God). Just under a year after my daughter died, whilst heavily pregnant, I fell into a very dark place. I was having vivid suicidal thoughts and even made an attempt one day. Thankfully my husband (literally) forced me to get professional help and I truly believe this saved my life, and my marriage if I’m honest. I have seen a psych, in some shape or form, for over 5 years now and this has given me the space to focus on my mental health and implement tools to help me maintain a pretty good balance of my mental health. Don’t get me wrong, I still have my days where I’m almost incapable of getting out of bed and functioning, but they come less frequently these days.
One of the best things we discuss in my Psych sessions is the concept of “outsourcing”. Effectively my Psych and I sat down and wrote a list of all the things I need and wanted so I could work towards a happier and healthier life for me and my family. The key aspects for me were:
- A safe place to talk about my daughter (Charlotte) without feeling judged or like they want me to move on or “get over it”.
- An understanding and acceptance that I’ve changed, I’m not the same person I was before she died. I’ve felt really deep and painful grief, and this changes you, not by choice but by the actual process of accepting they are gone forever.
- Some time, to collect my thoughts and feelings and internalise them as best as I could.
- Feel connected. Grief is isolating and you can feel like such a burden on people, so often we pull away to protect ourselves from more pain. I needed people to keep the lines of communication and care open, it was too hard for me to do it, especially in the acute phase after her death.
Once we had this list, she asked me to put the names of the people who do and don’t offer this to me. What this showed me is that there are people who can help with one or two of these things, but no one can do them all. This is where the concepting outsourcing comes in. Much like in life when we engage professionals to get a specific job done. Think about building a house for example. The one person can’t build the house, do all the electrics and plumbing, build the kitchen and bathrooms etc. so we engage with professions who are skilled in the areas we need. The same can be done for our mental health. Don’t worry that one person or group in your life can’t help you with everything, just outsource it. So, for example, if you need to talk about it and feel connected, go to the people you identified who are able to help you with this but don’t go to them and expect them to help you with things they aren’t that great at it.
Outsourcing is a powerful tool. It minimises the disappointment and resentment that can build over time (on both sides) when you feel like you aren’t getting the support you and they are getting frustrated thinking you can’t be pleased and you expect too much from them.
The reality is, Grief is complex. It’s not a linear process and comes with countless detours along the way. However, I truly believe that getting the right help can make a huge difference and maybe even save your life. You are not alone, there are literally billions of people in the same boat. Get help, understand your triggers, and do what makes you feel happy and safe. Someone once told me that your life is just that – yours! Run your own race, find your people and try to be happy one day at time! Good advice I think, don’t you! Easier said than done, trust me I know! And if you need medication, then do yourself a favour and get the right advice from your doctor.
Some of signs of mental health issues to look out for in yourself and others:
- Feeling sad or down.
- Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate.
- Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt.
- Extreme mood changes of highs and lows.
- Withdrawal from friends and activities.
- Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping.
If you or anyone you know needs some extra support, remember help is out there if you need it.
(this list is by no means full inclusive):
Life threatening – Call 000 immediately.
- Lifeline – call 13 11 14 or chat online
- Kids Helpline – 1800 551 800 or chat online
- Mental Health Emergency Response Line (MHERL) – call 1300 555 788
- Headspace (for people aged 12 to 25 and their families) — call 1800 650 890 or chat online
- Beyond Blue (anyone feeling depressed or anxious) — call 1300 22 4636 or chat online
- Black Dog Institute (anyone affected by mood disorders) — online help
- SANE Australia (people living with a mental illness) — call 1800 18 7263 or chat online
- This Way Up (anyone with stress, anxiety and depression) — online courses
- MindSpot (people with anxiety and depression) — call 1800 61 44 34 or complete an online screening assessment.
Thanks, as always, reading. If you’re suffering at the moment, may you have gentler days ahead.
It’s refreshing to read about your raw and honest experience Alyssa, knowing first hand how it feels to emerge from dark places and not feel embarrassed about it, but having many around me feel uncomfortable about it for me. The more we discuss it the more we knock down the wall, pebble by pebble it feels like. I am glad you have writing as an outlet, finding this thread back to normality is a challenge for many! Whatever it takes to get you through the day (and providing it isnt hurting others) has been my mantra in many hard times. X Helen