How to Access Affordable Telehealth Therapy When You Live in Rural Australia

Mental illness affects people from all areas and walks of life. While everyone deserves to live a happy and healthy life, not everyone is able to access affordable and effective mental health help. However, Telehealth is trying to change that.

The Telehealth initiative is designed specifically for people who live in rural or remote regions of Australia, where accessing professional psychological services can be difficult. It brings experienced psychologists right into your lounge room by allowing you to connect via video chat. If you’ve ever used Skype or FaceTime to speak with a friend or family member, it’s like that – but it’s designed to get your mental health on track.

Here’s what you need to know about this service…

If you’re struggling with anxiety, depression or any other mental health problem, Ok To Talk can help you find a great psychologist. Get started using our fast and FREE online service today! 

What is Telehealth?

‘Telehealth’ is an initiative that helps people from rural or remote areas of Australia access professional and affordable psychological services from the comfort of their own home. Rather than having a face-to-face appointment with a therapist, Telehealth allows clients and psychologists connect via videoconference for their sessions. Eligible people can access up to 10 subsidised Telehealth sessions per year with a Mental Health Treatment Plan, significantly reducing their out-of-pocket cost.

How can Telehealth benefit me?

For people who find it difficult to access therapy due to their location, Telehealth is a game-changer. The truth is that mental illness is rife within rural or remote regions of Australia. For people in these areas, their nearest psychologist may be hours away. Telehealth is designed to help eligible individuals access the professional services they need to take care of their mental health!

Another great thing about Telehealth sessions is that they are just as effective as in-person therapy. You will receive the same type of professional help as someone who attends a face-to-face session, it will simply be far easier for you to access.

Am I eligible for this service?

To be eligible for Telehealth services, you must:

  • Have a Mental Health Treatment Plan.
  • Live in a rural or remote area.
  • Live 15km+ from the psychologist.
  • Be in Australia for your sessions.

If you’re unsure whether you would be eligible, don’t worry! When you use our free online matching service and put in your town or suburb, we can let you know whether Telehealth is an option. If you’re already travelling long distances to see a psychologist, you might even be able to switch to Telehealth sessions.

How much will it cost?

With your Mental Health Treatment Plan, you can access up to 10 subsidised therapy sessions per year. This means you will only pay a portion of the total session fee, making it much more affordable. In some cases, it is possible to have your Telehealth sessions bulk billed, meaning you will have no out-of-pocket cost. Your eligibility for bulk billed sessions will depend on your financial situation and whether your chosen psychologists offers it as an option.

If you are not eligible for Telehealth, you can still choose to do therapy remotely via video link. In this case, however, you must pay the session fee in full. The good news is that Telehealth fees are usually the same as face-to-face sessions. It’s important to know that fees do vary between psychologists, so you should always check what their price is after the Medicare rebate. But don’t worry too much ­– Ok To Talk’s online portal can filter psychologists based on how much you can afford to spend. We can help find the right help for you, no matter your budget.

If want to learn more about Mental Health Treatment Plans, check out our blog.

What will I need for a Telehealth session?

To take part in Telehealth therapy, you will need access to a few important things:

  • A quiet, private space to use for your session.
  • A smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer with a camera.
  • Headphones with an in-built microphone so you can communicate clearly with your therapist.
  • A reliable broadband internet connection.

It’s normal to feel a bit nervous or unsure of how to approach a Telehealth session. This is why it’s a great idea to do a ‘test call’ before the session. Not only can this test-run calm your nerves, but it can help iron out any microphone or camera problems you might have before your session. Someone from our team can even help you do a ‘test call’ to ensure you don’t waste any valuable session time ironing out any issues. This way, you will be ready to go as soon as you connect with your psychologist for the first time!

If you’re struggling with mental illness of any kind, Ok To Talk can help you find a great psychologist. Get started using our fast and FREE online service today!

 

How to Encourage Your Friend to See a Psychologist

No one wants to see a loved one suffer with mental illness. But how can you help them take that first step towards getting effective professional help? We know this conversation can be tricky. After all, mental health is a very personal subject for most people. To make this situation less daunting, we’ve created a simple guide to help you help your friend make an appointment to see a psychologist.

Before we get started, make sure you’ve read our previous blog on how you can find a great psychologist for your loved one. With the details of a great professional in hand, you can make the most of our suggestions below.

How to talk with your friend about going to therapy

Encouraging someone to seek mental health help can be hard. However, for many people, the process of actually finding a psychologist themselves is often the most daunting and difficult part of the process.

If you’ve read our previous blog and have already found a great psychologist for your friend, this can make the process far easier. By approaching them with the name and contact information of a mental health professional, they are more likely to respond positively to the idea. The overwhelming and often confusing process of finding a therapist has already been done; all they need to do now is book an appointment.

Here are a few things to be mindful of when speaking to someone about their mental health:

  • Make sure your words and tone are kind and compassionate.
  • Express how much you care for them and how you want them to be happy.
  • Tell them that you have already found them a great psychologist suited to their needs and budget. This means all they have to do is book an appointment.
  • Let them know that with a Mental Health Treatment Plan, they can get up to 10 subsidised therapy sessions per year. This makes the cost of therapy far more affordable. In some cases, we can even help you find a professional who bulk bills.
  • Remind them that it’s okay to seek professional help. Mental illness affects many people, and therapy is a great way to overcome problems.
  • Finally, you can suggest to them that they could try going to one session and see how they feel. This can often be a great way to show someone that therapy isn’t as scary as it seems.

What to do if your friend doesn’t want to see a psychologist?

 As much as we might want our loved one to begin therapy, they simply might not be ready to take that next step. The truth is that everyone needs to seek professional help when it feels right to them.

If this is the situation you find yourself in, it’s important not to pressure, guilt or argue with your friend about it. The last thing you want to do is make them feel worse or stop them from confiding in you about how they’re feeling in the future. Remember that they are going through a tough time, so making them feel supported is crucial. If you feel comfortable, tell them that you’re here to support them regardless of their decision. This way, they might come around to the idea of therapy in their own time.

Be sure to protect your own mental health, too

Most of us would do anything to help our loved ones. However, caring for someone with a mental illness can be really hard. Sometimes, it can even start to take its toll on our own wellbeing. This is why it’s important to take care of yourself even when you’re focused on helping someone else.

Practicing self-care, confiding in someone about how you’re feeling and even taking a step back if you need to are great ways to protect your own mental health. If you find that feelings of sadness, stress or anxiety are affecting your daily life, it could even be a good idea to see a psychologist yourself. You can use our free, online service for your own search in the same way that you may have used it for a friend.

mental illness support

How to Find a Psychologist for Your Friend

Mental illness affects one in five Australians. This means that most of us know someone who lives with a mental health condition. Maybe it’s your best friend, or a co-worker, or perhaps even a parent. Whoever it is, knowing how to help them can be tough. While your love and support are super important, helping your loved one find a psychologist is a great way to ensure they get the care they need.

When it comes to therapy, the effects can literally be life-changing. However, many people stop themselves from seeking this help. This is often because they are afraid, lack the motivation or simply don’t know where to look. This is why it can be a great idea to find a therapist suited to your friend’s needs, so the daunting part is done for them.

So, how do you know if your loved one could benefit from therapy? And if they would, how do you go about finding them a psychologist? Here’s our simple guide to finding your friend or family member a great psychologist who will work for them.

How to tell if your loved one needs therapy

A lot of people think that you should wait until you’ve hit ‘rock-bottom’ before getting help. This isn’t true, and it’s not helpful for your friend to put off getting therapy. The sooner they stop digging down towards rock bottom, the less they have to climb back up again! This is why encouraging them to go to therapy sooner rather than later is the best way to support them.

There are a few key ways you can identify whether your loved one may need professional help. This includes:

  • No longer finding joy in activities or things they used to love.
  • Withdrawing from social events.
  • Finding it difficult to go to school or work or maintain personal responsibilities.
  • Increasing their use of substances, such as alcohol or drugs.
  • If they have recently experienced a loss i.e. the death of someone close to them or relationship break-up.
  • A tendency to isolate themselves from others.
  • Signs that they are self-harming.

Finding the right psychologist for your loved one

After realising your friend could benefit from therapy, you might be wondering how to find a psychologist for them.  The good news is that our free online service makes this process easier than ever. It allows you to find a great psychologist who can help your loved one. With the name and contact details of a professional, you can talk to them about making an appointment.

Using our online service is super easy. All you have to do is tell us a bit of information about your loved one. This includes a brief description of what they’re going through and why you’re worried about them. Other important details include their location and how much you think they could afford to pay to see a psychologist. This ensures we can find an affordable professional near them.

Using this information, our service provides you with two options…

  1. Our team can match your friend with a psychologist

Don’t have the time or simply don’t feel confident picking a psychologist yourself? Our team can do it for you. Using the information you provide, we can find a professional who suits what your friend needs. Just give us a few days and we’ll contact you with some information on the professionals we’ve matched you or your friend with. It’s that simple!

  1. Find a psychologist from our network of professionals

This second option is more hands-on. Once you’ve provided some information about your friend, we will show you a broad list of professionals that might be good for them. You can learn more about each psychologist, their experience and their therapy style by looking at their profile. After you’ve found one (or more) you like the sound of, you are free to schedule a phone call with them. This allows you to learn more about them and get a feel for whether they are right for your loved one.

Here are a few tips on how to approach speaking with a psychologist:

  • Don’t provide any name or contact details for your friend. The psychologist can answer your questions without this information.
  • Focus on telling the professional key issues your friend is dealing with. For example, “my friend needs help with anxiety and relationship problems”. Try to avoid sharing specific experiences your friend has had.
  • Use the time to ask the psychologist questions. Some good things to ask are “how do you help people with anxiety?” or “have you helped many people with relationships issues?”
  • Throughout your conversation with a psychologist, it’s important to remember that your goal is to find out whether they are right for your friend. You should avoid relaying their story or experiences, as it will be important for the professional to hear this from your friend first.

What’s next? 

After you’ve found a psychologist suited to your friend’s needs, it’s time to get your friend on board. We’ve written a blog dedicated to helping you talk to a loved one about taking the crucial step of booking a therapy session. Head on over to that page to learn about this next step!

If your friend could benefit from seeing a psychologist, use our free online service to find the perfect match for them anywhere in Australia. Get started today – it takes just a few minutes!

Psychological support when you’re not eligible for Medicare

If you’re not eligible for Medicare, maybe because you’re a tourist or temporary resident, here are some ways to get psychological support while you’re here.

Pay full rate

You can see any psychologist of your choice without having to visit a doctor first. It’s going to be pricey, because you’ll have to pay the portion of the fees that Medicare would usually cover. You do have the option though.

Check with your travel insurer

The Australian government expects all visitors to have travel insurance. It’s a condition of some visa types that you have it. So get your money’s worth by asking your insurer what they can do for you. Long-term travel insurance, the sort that’s designed for temporary residents, will often give you something.

Check out NewAccess

NewAccess is a six-week psychological coaching programme for people with some mild mental health issues.

If any of the following are causing you to feel unhappy, moody, angry or unable to concentrate or sleep NewAccess could be right for you: work stress or uncertainty, change in living arrangements, new parent worries, family problems, health concerns or uncertainty, long-term isolation or loneliness, financial worries.

If that sounds like you, contact them to check eligibility.

Aged 25 or under? Go to Headspace

If you’re a young person visit Headspace for online counselling, or go to one of their centres for in-person support. They have services for people who don’t have Medicare.

 

The OkToTalk Story

I started this service because when I needed mental health support, to get on top of my depression, it was a ridiculous struggle. It took about 6 goes before I found a therapist who could understand me, offer useful suggestions, and help me work within my own values to change the way my life was going.

What made this extra ridiculous is, I was doing a psych degree at the same time. All the stuff on the lecture slides was also stuff in my life. I knew so many fancy phrases for the circus going on around me and in my head, and that knowledge didn’t help a bit.

It ended up with me researching an antidepressant as my final year project, while I was prescribed that antidepressant at the same time, to try and keep a lid on my suicidal thoughts. I got through the year then didn’t go back.

Meanwhile, friends who heard I was doing psychology now would often say “it took me 5 goes to find the right psychologist. What is wrong with your profession?” And I’d tell them, “what’s wrong is there are good psychologists, almost all good psychologists — but you don’t just want a good psychologist, you want one who’s good for you.”

And that bit’s hard. Your GP is supposed to be wise and experienced and give you a personalised referral. Or he un-pins a ratty business card from his corkboard for someone he talked to at a medical conference in 1998. In my case, I got sent to the alphabetically first psychologist from a list in his computer. My therapy with Dr A. Aardvark didn’t work out.

Maybe you pass on Dr Aardvark and turn straight to Dr Google. Happy hunting through a list of 200 psychologists within 10km of your house. Unless of course you live in the country, where it’s 0 psychologists within 100km of your house. Need bulk billing? Call every phone number and ask. Want a psychologist with a style that might suit you? Gives homework? Shares strategies? Helps with goals? Forget it, every psych website is all where they went to uni + what associations they belong to + a list of disorders they treat.

So I ended up asking friends and colleagues if they’d seen a good psychologist. This works well, because your friends and colleagues are often quite similar to you and their recommendations will probably work. On the other hand it sucks because you have to tell all your friends and coworkers you might be crazy.  My friends already knew I was crazy so I just did it and it worked.

It doesn’t solve the big problem though. There are 5 million Australians who need to be seeing a great psychologist, and only about 1 million of them are.  We need a smart automated system that asks you what’s going on and suggests psychologists who are great at that thing, nearby, who you can afford. We need it to check in with you after each appointment, make sure your session went well, and look to see if your life is improving too.

So I’ve been building it. I’m building the system that I wish existed when I first needed a psychologist. Something I’m proud to tell friends, family, colleagues, people at conferences, other mental health services: I’ve built this thing that matches people with the right psychologist, send us all your friends who are sad so we can help them turn their lives around.

HCF, Australia’s largest not-for-profit health fund, saw our pitch early on and decided to back us financially. They invited us into their Catalyst startup accelerator programme, and we got a much-needed boost of knowledge and funding at a critical stage. I’m very grateful for their interest and involvement.

Since then we’ve been working hard on building a matching system that accounts for dozens of things that clients need, are, want, have, or said; plus hundreds of facts about psychologists; plus the feedback and treatment results coming from appointments. We’re devoted to evidence-based practice, and more than 810 versions of the service have been crafted and launched. Our research and development programme is recognised by AusIndustry.

Our social media outreach puts us in touch with ordinary Australians who might be struggling with their lives, thoughts, or emotions. These are the 80% of people who need help but will never do anything to get it, unless we can reach them and show them that there are people who care and there are answers for them.

We’ve now helped thousands of people live their best lives through mental health support. Our 5000+ appointments have an average satisfaction rating of 4.9 stars. Our staff tell me it’s an honour to work for a service that has this kind of impact on Australian lives. We make check-in calls to our clients and hearing the progress that people are making along with their psych just warms our hearts.

There is no other service like ours. Whether it’s the sophisticated data science that makes the matches happen, the staff who are dedicated caring humans making sure no client slips through the cracks, the clients who have often never tried to access mental health before but have decided to trust us, or the psychologists who haven’t seen anything like us before but are prepared to support a service that sits well with their own aim of bringing psychological support to all Australians.

Our growth priorities for 2019:

  • continue to improve the matching system so we get more people to a great psychologist first time
  • partner with other mental health services so they can send us people who need a great psychologist
  • partner with GPs so they can use our service to make great referrals for their patients

Can you help? If you have contacts with mental health services or GPs we should partner with, please make the introduction.

A Guide to Getting Through Panic Attacks

Did you know that around 5% of Australians will experience panic disorder in their lifetime? For those affected, panic attacks can take a real toll on their overall wellbeing. These bouts of anxiety can feel uncontrollable and unpredictable, making them even harder to live with.

The good news is that with the right information and techniques, panic attacks can be managed and overcome. Whether you experience them yourself or know someone who does, here is our simple guide to understanding and overcoming them.

If you’re struggling with anxiety, Ok To Talk can help you find a great psychologist. Get started using our fast and FREE online service today!

What is a panic attack?

A panic or ‘anxiety attack’ can be described as a sudden, overwhelming feeling of anxiety. In some cases, the cause of the anxiety might be known. In others, it could seemingly have no obvious cause at all.

Regardless of why it happens, these bouts of intense anxiety can be incredibly hard to manage. They are often brief, in many cases only lasting a few minutes. However, the physical and emotional symptoms can be very intense, leaving the sufferer unsure of what to do.

Symptoms of an anxiety attack:

Anxiety attacks can look different from person to person. However, there are many common symptoms, including:

  • Dizziness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Stomach and chest pain
  • Trembling and sweating
  • Nausea
  • Feeling detached from reality
  • An overwhelming sense of fear or danger
  • Strong feelings of distress and unease
  • Inability to easily calm down

How to manage a panic attack

While experiencing a panic attack can be really hard, there are a few things you can do to help calm yourself. Here are a few of our top suggestions:

Identify your panic attack

When you’re having a panic attack, you might feel like nothing will ever be okay again. These worrying thoughts can make your anxiety even worse, which is why identifying that you’re having a panic attack can be the first step in calming yourself. Tell yourself that this period of anxiety will soon be over, and that you will be okay afterwards.

Focus on your breathing

During a panic attack, your heart-rate can quicken and make you feel out of breath. Feeling as though you can’t breathe properly may then lead to even more anxiety. This is why it’s a good idea to focus your mind on your breathing. Try breathing in through your mouth for 3 seconds, then out through your mouth for 3 seconds. Do this until your heartrate slows and you begin to feel calmer.

Go for a walk

Getting some fresh air and moving your body can help to calm yourself. A short, 5-minute walk around the block could be enough to take your mind off your anxiety and make you feel better.

Get to a safe space

Panic attacks can make us feel that we are in immediate danger. While this feeling might not be rational, going to a safe and comfortable space can help you calm down. It’s important to note that although taking care of yourself in the moment is encouraged, this approach should only be used as a short-term solution. Continuously leaving or avoiding specific situations or places can reinforce your anxiety in the long-term – which we don’t want.

The key to overcoming this problem is seeking professional help from a psychologist, who can teach you effective techniques to manage your feelings during a panic attack. Our free online service can help you find a great psychologist anywhere in Australia. It takes just a few minutes, so get started today!

Myths about panic attacks:

Panic attacks can be really scary, but there are some common (and dangerous) myths out there that can make them seem even more frightening. Here are a few misconceptions:

You can die from a panic attack

It’s important to understand that the symptoms you feel during a panic attack – such as shortness of breath, chest pain and dizziness – cannot kill you. This can often make you feel as though something is medically wrong. However, the symptoms of a panic attack are all simply a strong physical reaction to anxiety. These symptoms and a panic attack itself cannot kill you.

However, if you are unsure whether or not you are experiencing a serious medical problem or if your symptoms persist longer than usual for a panic attack, please contact a medical professional. It’s always best to be on the safe side!

You can’t ‘cure’ panic attacks

Like any mental illness, anxiety is something that can be overcome with the appropriate treatment. If your anxiety is impacting your life or if you are regularly having panic attacks, seeing a psychologist can help. Our free online service can help you find the right psychologist for your needs anywhere in Australia – so get started today!

You can’t do anything to help someone having a panic attack

While you cannot ‘take away’ someone’s anxiety during a panic attack, you can support them. If you know that a friend or family member often has panic attacks, it’s a good idea to have a conversation about what you can do to help them. This could be something as simple as guiding them to a quiet area, getting them some water or simply giving them some space to manage the experience in a way that works for them.

Seeing a psychologist is a great way to overcome mental illness. Use our free service to find one anywhere in Australia within a matter of minutes!

5 Ways to Improve Your Mental Health in 2019

If taking care of your mental health is a goal for you in 2019, it’s important to create a plan of how you will get there. One way to do this is by being mindful of behaviours or habits that might contribute to stress, anxiety or depression. For many people, identifying which areas to change can be hard. This is why we’ve come up with 5 common areas where a change in mindset or behaviour can really make a difference.

Keep reading to learn our top tips for improving your mental health…

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, Ok To Talk can help you find professional help. Get started using our fast and FREE online service today!

  1. Put yourself first

Before you rule this out for fear of being selfish, allow us to explain. When it comes to your mental health, sometimes you simply need to put your needs ahead of others. This could mean saying no to helping a friend if you need some down time. Or perhaps skipping out on that birthday party because you simply don’t feel up to it.

Putting yourself first isn’t anything to feel guilty about. In order to live happy, healthy lives, we need to learn to rest and care for ourselves. Identifying when you might need some self-care time, or when situations might not be best for your mental health, is a great step towards happiness. Try doing this when you feel it will benefit you and be mindful of whether it makes a difference!

 

  1. Seek professional help 

Seeking professional mental health help can be a tough decision to make. However, if you’ve been struggling with mental illness such as anxiety, depression or addiction, it can really be a game changer.

Psychologists don’t simply tell you what to do. These professionals are trained to help people manage and overcome mental health conditions. This means teaching you realistic, effective techniques that will assist you when dealing with the problems you face. This could include ways to calm anxious thoughts, or strategies to overcome those demotivating ‘down’ days that often come along with depressive episodes.

Even better, in Australia, we’re lucky to have access to subsidised psychologist sessions. This makes seeing a psychologist much more affordable. You can read our blog on how to get a Mental Health Treatment Plan to learn more about the subsidy.

You can also use Ok To Talk’s free online service to find a psychologist suited to your location, needs and budget in just a matter of minutes!

  1. Speak to someone you trust

Carrying the weight of mental illness all on your own can be tough. And while admitting how you’re feeling might be scary, it can really make a difference. Talking to someone you trust – such as a friend, family member, teacher or doctor – is a great first step.

When we keep everything bottled up inside, our emotions can begin to feel overwhelming. Saying how we’re feeling out loud can help us feel better in a number of ways. First of all, the act of verbally explaining your thoughts and emotions can help you to understand them in new ways. Second, confiding in others can help you feel less alone, because you know you have someone to turn to when you need it. So, the next time you are feeling down or on edge, try speaking to someone you trust and see how you feel afterwards!

  1. Speak to yourself differently

The way you think and speak about yourself has a huge effect on your mental health. If you’re always putting yourself down, it can impact your overall mood and perspective. This includes how you talk to yourself in your own head, too! Whether it’s critical thoughts about your looks, weight, job,school performance or something else entirely, it’s important to treat yourself with love and kindness.

A great way to do this is to ask yourself, “would I treat my friend this way?” The truth is that we don’t criticise or judge our friends, because we never want to make them feel bad. We see their amazing qualities for what they are and are understanding and compassionate when they’re going through a tough time.

So, instead of thinking something like “I did so badly on that test, I’m so stupid”, ask yourself “what would I say to my friend?”. The answer is probably something along the lines of, “you tried your hardest and you’ll do better next time!” As you begin to use positive, kind words towards yourself, you might notice a difference in your overall mood.

  1. Get active

You’ve probably heard that exercise can positively impact your mental health. But what if you’re not someone who loves the gym or going for a run? Well, we have good news for you! Studies have shown that doing just 1.5-2hrs of exercise each week can have great effects on your mental health. And you don’t even need to do it all at once. As long as you do this amount of exercise in the week, you will reap the benefits.

If you’re someone who doesn’t love exercise, try mixing up the way you get active in 2019. Ask a friend if they’d like to walk to your local café instead of drive. Invest in a bike and use it to make short trips here and there. You can even make a habit of taking your dog out for a walk first thing in the morning or before it gets dark at night – two great ways to start and end your day! Whatever way works for you is the perfect way to get active!

If you are living with an eating disorder or a mental illness of any kind, seeking professional help can be a great step towards recovery. Ok To Talk offers a free service that matches Australians with a psychologist suited to their needs, budget and location.

Visit www.oktotalk.com.au today to find a psychologist within minutes!

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How Ariel Kaplan Overcame Her Eating Disorder

Please note: This blog contains detailed information about disordered eating. This may be confronting for people who have experienced this type of illness.

Eating disorders affect approximately 16% of the Australian population – and yet these mental health conditions are still widely misunderstood. Actress and personal trainer Ariel Kaplan knows this all too well. Having lived through her own struggle with an eating disorder, she is now passionate about living a healthy, balanced life. After seeking support from friends, family and a psychologist, she now uses her story to help others.

We spoke to Ariel about how she found professional help and what advice she has for those who might be struggling…

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, Ok To Talk can help you find professional help. Get started using our fast and FREE online service today!

Can you tell us a bit about your eating disorder and how it impacted your life?

My eating disorder developed to its full extent when I was about 18/19 years old. It started off as a completely innocent attempt to get fit and healthy, and within a very short space of time it became an obsession and an addiction. I was very fortunate to only be in the depths of my disorder for around a year, and while that year was the worst of my life, I still count myself as lucky because I know people can spend years upon years struggling with an ED.

It changed every single aspect of my life and took away anything that made me who I am. Every thought was about food, every waking moment was spent worrying about how I would control my next meal or not eat more calories than the day before. I genuinely struggle to remember what it was like because that entire year of my life is a total blur, it was as if my mind was shutting down, so it could focus on one thing only. People around me tell me that I was unrecognisable, not just physically but my personality and soul seemed to just disappear. I was truly a shell of a person and I can whole heartedly say it was the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through to this day.

When did you realise that you needed to get help for your illness?

I think I realised quite a long time before I took the steps to actually getting help. I was very aware of what eating disorders were after growing up in the acting and dancing industry with two older sisters; it wasn’t something foreign to me. While my intentions were completely positive and pure at the beginning, I think within months deep down I knew I had spiralled to a point where I was no longer healthy, and more importantly – no longer in control. It was not until I finally broke down to my Mum, probably months after realising how serious it was, that I actually agreed to go get help.

What did you find to be the most effective forms of professional help for you? (Therapy, in-patient treatment etc)

I was fortunate enough to very narrowly miss being put into hospital/in-patient treatment. I was given a few months to prove I could do it on my own otherwise I’d be sent to treatment and I would lose my job and everything I had worked so hard for. So that is when I knew I had to get better, and I did that with the help of a psychologist who was also a certified nutritionist.

She was incredible, she gave me cold hard facts, she was honest and upfront but still caring and thoughtful. I am someone who responds well to honesty and being logical, and she really was the perfect psychologist for me. I know there are some out there who may not be trained in eating disorders so I think it’s very important to find the right person for you.

Was there anything stopping you from getting help? E.g. a fear of being judged, financial issues etc.

Absolutely. The hardest part of an eating disorder is that voice that doesn’t want you to get better. There were no external factors stopping me, everyone else was so encouraging and supportive in getting me help. The only person/thing stopping me was me. The eating disorder becomes your identity and you feel like it’s the only thing that makes you special. It felt as if I no longer was sick, then what would I have?

It sounds absolutely insane in hindsight and to anyone who hasn’t experienced it, but the thought of relinquishing control and losing all of this ‘progress’ I thought I had made is quite literally the most petrifying experience you can imagine.

There are is a lot of stigma and misconceptions surrounding eating disorders. Is there any one thing you wish others would understand about this illness and how it affects those living with it?

I wish people realised eating disorders are not a choice in any way, shape or form. They are chemical imbalance in the brain, a genuine illness and I can assure you that anyone who has one did NOT ask for it. It is something I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy. We as people are so quick to judge but you never know what has led someone to where they are. People can seem to have the perfect life with everything you could dream of and yet still, something in their brain tells them they are not enough and never will be.

If you are dealing with or are close to someone going through an ED, just be patient, be kind and don’t push. Make it clear that you are there for them the second that they need you but also tell them that you know they’ll get better and you believe in them. Eating disorders only start going away when the person going through them decides that they want it to go. And it’s not just one choice, it’s every single second of every single day for a long time. Don’t underestimate the turmoil and pain an ED can cause and remember that mental illness is just as serious as physical illness.

What advice would you give anyone who might be struggling with an eating disorder (or another mental illness) and is considering getting help?

I know you feel like you will never get out of this hole, that life will never be normal again and you can’t even remember what it’s like to go out for dinner and not stress or to not check the calories on a label, but I swear to you – there is a happy ending. So many people have made it out the other side, and you will too. Maybe not today or tomorrow but believe there is an end in sight and every day work towards it.

No matter how scared you are, please try and get some form of professional help. I was cynical too, I didn’t think anyone could help me, but in a way letting someone else take control allowed me to breathe and start getting better. You are stronger than you know, and you will be yourself again. You will smile and laugh again. A happy life is so much closer than you think.

If you are living with an eating disorder or a mental illness of any kind, seeking professional help can be a great step towards recovery. Ok To Talk offers a free service that matches Australians with a psychologist suited to their needs, budget and location.

Visit www.oktotalk.com.au today to find a psychologist within minutes!

5 Influential People Who Opened Up About Mental Illness in 2018

It’s no secret that many people find it difficult to talk about mental illness. Feelings of shame and judgement can stop us from confiding in others or seeking help. However, approximately 1 in 4 people around the world struggle with a mental health condition of some kind. And when we talk about it, we help others to speak up and get help, too.

Throughout 2018, many influential people opened up about their mental health struggles. From musicians to actors and even a member of the Royal Family, it showed that mental illness can affect anyone. Most importantly, these people told us that seeking help is nothing to be ashamed of.

Let’s take a look at just a few of the influential people who spoke about mental illness this year…

Ok To Talk offers a free online service that matches Australias with the right psychologist for their needs. If you’re struggling with mental illness and need someone to talk to, click here to get started today!

Prince Harry

Prince Harry made headlines when he opened up about his mental health struggles earlier this year. Speaking in a rural town, he talked about the importance of asking for help when you need it.

“You must not silently suffer. You are all in this together and if I may speak personally we are all in this together, because asking for help was one of the best decisions that I ever made… You will be continually amazed how life changes for the better.”

This message is important as men often have trouble opening up about their mental illness. The stigma that it’s ‘weak’ or ‘shameful’ to open up about these struggles can stop people from getting help. This is why it was so powerful to see Prince Harry speaking so publicly about his own experience. It showed that getting help is important and with the right help, there is always light at the end of a dark tunnel.

Mariah Carey

In an interview, Mariah Carey revealed that she has struggled with Bipolar II for almost two decades. After being diagnosed in 2001, she said she was ‘in denial’ about her mental illness and afraid of the stigma associated with it. It wasn’t until 2018 that she began taking medication and going to therapy. These two forms of treatment has helped her manage the condition long-term.

Mariah admitted that she was at first “afraid of losing everything” if the world knew about her mental illness. This fear is one that many people face and one that can stop them from getting help. However, Mariah Carey has showed that with the right treatment, things can get better. Your illness doesn’t need to stop you from living a successful, happy life.

Chrissy Teigen

Many people assume that postpartum depression develops immediately after a woman gives birth. However, what’s less talked about is how this condition can arise up to 12 months later, too. Actress and model Chrissy Teigen experienced this mental illness ‘sneaking up on her’ after giving birth to her first child. Earlier this year, she opened up about how “sometimes it [post-natal depression] takes time to kick in.” Most importantly, she wanted women to know that it’s okay to speak up and ask for help if they need it.

“I thought postpartum was, you have the baby and you’re sad. It was like, no. It sneaks up on a lot of people. That’s why I thought it was important for me to talk about.”

The stigma associated with postpartum depression often stops people from speaking about it. Because of this, many women found comfort and reassurance in Chrissy’s words. Her experience shows that postpartum depression can affect any new mother, and it is never something to feel ashamed of.

Ariana Grande

After a tough couple of years, Ariana Grande spoke out about her experience with depression and anxiety. On Twitter, she spoke about how therapy has ‘saved her life so many times.’ Her own positive experiences lead her to encourage others to reach out for help if  they need it. Earlier in the year, she also spoke about how we need to pay more attention to mental health as a society. She encouraged others to pay closer attention to their loved ones. By doing this, we can make sure people are getting the help they need.

As such an influential artist, it’s amazing to see Ariana Grande speaking so openly about her struggles. Conversations like these help to break down the stigma associated with mental illness.

Little Mix

Being in the public eye, Little Mix know how body-shaming can affect someone’s confidence and mental health. This is why the group used their music video for ‘Strip’ to encourage fans to feel comfortable in their own skin. Women of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities and abilities starred in the video. Beauty is found in diversity, and the group demonstrated this perfectly.

In Australia, women who diet severely are most at risk of developing an eating disorder. On top of this, women who frequently diet are 5x more likely to develop depression. It’s not hard to see how body-shaming can severely impact a person’s mental wellbeing. The conversation Little Mix started about this issue is one that we hope continues throughout 2019!

If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health, Ok To Talk can help. Our online psychologist matching service is 100% free. All you need to do is spend a few minutes signing up and we’ll help you find the right professional for your needs! Click here to get started now!

AMANDA’S MENTAL HEALTH JOURNEY

With 1 in 5 Australians suffering from mental illness, it’s safe to say we all know someone who might be struggling. And yet, mental health is still an issue that isn’t talked about as often as it should be. Here at Ok To Talk, we believe we can all benefit from hearing other people’s mental health journey’s.

That’s why we’re starting a new blog series: one where we chat to people who come from different mental health backgrounds and experiences. Together, we can overcome the stigma attached to mental illness.

If you’re struggling with mental illness of any kind and are looking for professional help, Ok To Talk can help. Our free, online service helps Australians find psychologists all over the country. Start the process today by answering a few simple questions!

Amanda’s Story…

Amanda has lived with mental illness – specifically anxiety and depression – for many years. This is something she speaks about it publicly on her Instagram and YouTube. We decided to sit down and ask her a few questions about getting help, going to therapy and overcoming her struggles.

Can you tell us a bit about what mental illness(es) you’ve struggled with throughout your life?

For as long as I can remember I have been an anxious person, but I wasn’t officially ‘diagnosed’ with anxiety until I was 22. My worst anxiety was in 2016 when I developed a deep fear of death + the unknown, to the point of not being able to drive, sleep or shower alone. This slowly developed into depression which I was diagnosed with in 2017. Both my anxiety and depression have since been very present in my life, but I find come and go in waves. In late 2017, I felt more depressed than I ever had before.

How has mental illness impacted your life?

I try and see the good in my mental illness. It has taught me gratitude and how to be an open, honest communicator. In a bizarre way, I am grateful for the illness – but it has certainly had negative impacts on my life, too. It has affected my relationships – specifically, romantic ones – and I have struggled to keep a steady job due to my anxiety.

How has therapy helped you to overcome or manage your mental illness?

Therapy is one of the main things that has continued to help me on my mental health journey. I have seen a few therapists throughout different times in my life, but found an amazing one in late 2016 who I was with up until I moved interstate. My therapist did “acceptance and commitment” therapy with me which I find continues to give me a greater understanding of the illness I have and how to manage it. I feel like I have a strong relationship with my therapist which has made me a very open and honest communicator in my day-to-day life.

What was the point at which you thought you needed to get professional help?

In late 2016, I was in a romantic relationship and my anxiety got to a point where my boyfriend had to drive me everywhere and had to sleep at my house or I sleep at his. Then, I became anxious even when I was showering so he had to shower with me and/or stand in the bathroom and talk to me whilst I showered. Around the same time, my anxiety started to impact my work and I decided it was time to get professional help.

What advice would you give anyone who might be struggling with mental illness and considering getting help?

My best advice is to always try different therapists if you don’t feel comfortable with the one you are seeing. I have seen many, many therapists in my life but have only really connected and felt comfortable with one – and she was able to help me the most. I believe that therapy is an amazing help with mental illness and also a great motivator for change, it’s all about finding the right one.

If you’re dealing with your own mental health journey, you don’t need to do it alone. Click here to use our free service to find a psychologist suited to your needs anywhere in Australia.

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