Mental Health Month: How to recognise and find support for anxiety & depression

Updated: Jun 15, 2021

June is Mental Health Month at TEAM, and we are excited to open up meaningful conversations about mental health in our community. Our mental health - just like our physical health - encompasses a spectrum ranging from optimally healthy to severely unwell (and everything in between). When we’re physically ill, we don’t beat ourselves up about it - we tell people we’re under the weather, get any help and treatment we need, and look after ourselves until we’re back on our feet. Even though we shouldn’t treat our mental health differently, most of us still don’t ask for help when our mental health is compromised. Let’s commit to changing that! Half of us will experience a significant mental health challenge in our lifetime, and we all deserve to receive care and support in these periods rather than suffering in silence. This post focuses on recognising and seeking support for anxiety and depression, the two most common mental health conditions.

How to recognise anxiety:

Anxiety is the most prevalent mental health condition in Australia, and will impact 1 in 4 of us. Feeling anxious sometimes is a healthy part of the human experience. These periods of anxiety are temporary, are in response to a specific situation, and end when this situation is resolved. Anxiety that affects our mental health is frequent or persistent, isn’t always connected to an underlying cause, and limits our ability to function fully in our lives. Anxiety can cause feelings of fear and worry, and physical sensations including a racing heart, rapid breathing, restlessness, tension, and a sense of being on edge. You can find more information about anxiety here, and take a quick online checklist for the signs of anxiety here.

How to recognise depression:

Depression affects 1 in 7 Australians. It causes a persistently low mood, social withdrawal, and a lack of interest and pleasure in usual activities. Feelings of worthlessness, helplessness and of being overwhelmed can become all-consuming. Physical indications of depression include fatigue, appetite and weight changes, increased substance and alcohol use, and altered sleep patterns. You can find more information about depression here, and you can complete a quick checklist for the signs of depression here.

How to approach somebody you are concerned about:

If you are concerned that someone you know may be experiencing anxiety or depression, it can be difficult to know what to do. One of the most powerful things you can do is simply to reach out and initiate a conversation – this can make all of the difference to somebody having a hard time. R U OK recommends a straightforward approach to having this conversation:

1. Ask: (for example: ‘are you ok?’, ‘how are you going’, or ‘how are things with you?’) You might briefly explain why you are asking (for example: ‘you don’t seem like yourself lately’).

2. Listen with an open mind, and acknowledge their experiences without judging or rushing them.

3. Encourage action. This could include self-care strategies, support from family and friends, and professional assistance from organisations like Beyond Blue or a healthcare professional.

4. Check in a couple of weeks after the initial conversation.

When you initiate a conversation with somebody you are concerned about, it is important to remember that they may not want to talk to you - and that is completely OK. If this happens, the best thing to do is let the person know that you are there if they want to talk in the future. You can find more information about how to approach somebody you are concerned about here and here. If you are concerned that the person may be at risk of harm, contact 000 or Lifeline (13 11 14) for urgent advice.

Where to find support for yourself or others:

The good news is that anxiety and depression are both treatable conditions, and there is plenty of treatment and support available. Reaching out and asking for help when you are experiencing a mental health challenge can be one of the most powerful and important steps you ever take.

  • If you are concerned that there is a risk of harm to yourself or others: contact 000 or Lifeline (13 11 14)

  • Your GP: can assess, diagnose, and guide treatment plans for mental health conditions. Mental Health Plans created by GPs are subsidised by Medicare and can include any appropriate combination of sessions with a mental health professional, other specialist referrals, medications, and medical certificates.

  • Beyond Blue (1300 22 4636): provides information, resources, self-assessment tools, links to other support services, and offers 24/7 connection via phone, email, forum or text.

  • Head to Health Australia: a database of digital mental health resources.

  • Reach Out: offers support for young people under 25.

Other resources:

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