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How to link to support networks?

This page posted 9 July 2012

By Kate V (ADAVIC Volunteer)


“No man is an island”.  John Donne’s well known line is just another way of reminding us that we can’t always cope on our own, and that we all need extra support from others at different stages in our lives. For those who are suffering from anxiety or depression, trying to find the right kind of support can be overwhelming. Family and friends are often the first place we look for help, because they love and understand us the most, and they usually have our best interests at heart. On the other hand, although supportive, they can sometimes be too involved in our situation to be objective, and are more likely to want to protect us and try to fix things with personal advice and opinions, rather than to empower us with skills to help ourselves. 

Sometimes, rather than burden those we love with our problems, we might decide to link in to other support networks.  Knowing where to look, what to look for, and what questions to ask are all important parts of the process.  Here are some ideas that might help in your search for support.

General Practitioner (GP)

Medical Practitioners (GPs) are usually a great place to start if you need information and advice about your health care and emotional wellbeing. Many GPs are used to dealing with mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety, and they will be able to suggest various support alternatives, including whether medication might be an option, and whether some other form of professional help, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist or counsellor, might be beneficial.  They can also provide ongoing support by working with you to create a GP Mental Health Care Plan. Together, you will work out what type of help you need, set some realistic goals and choose the best range of treatments. Also, as a Medicare cardholder, this will enable you to a certain number (sometimes up to 12) of bulk-billed sessions at a chosen professional, such as a psychologist. If you have private health insurance, you may also be able to claim sessions. 

  • To find a GP in your suburb, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners ( www.racgp.org.au, or 03 8699 0488) is an excellent starting point.
  • If you are looking for a GP who is experienced in mental health, the Beyondblue website ( www.beyondblue.org.au ) offers a national directory of medical or other mental health practitioners, searchable by suburb. 
  • Another useful website for finding a GP might be the My Doctor  website ( www.mydr.com.au ).
  • If you are looking for a female GP, contacting WIRE on 1300 134 130 ( www.wire.org.au ) might be helpful. 
  • Finally, don’t forget that word of mouth can also be a good way of finding support, and asking others about their positive experiences with their GPs is a good way to start.


Mental Health Professionals

Talking to a non-judgmental person in a safe and confidential environment, can be a supportive way of helping you to cope with life’s challenges. Trained professionals, such as psychiatrists, psychologists and counsellors are all experienced in this idea of “talking therapy”, although their qualifications and techniques do vary.  To visit a psychiatrist, for example, you will need a referral from your GP. As medical doctors who specialise in mental illnesses, psychiatrists are able to prescribe and manage medication. Psychologists and counsellors do not require a referral, and are experienced in talking through a whole range of issues or problems.

  • At ADAVIC we offer a straightforward guide within our Information and Resources booklet and on this website that highlights the differences between these professionals, and offers tips on where to find them. We also have a Find a Therapist directory which lists those professionals who often deal with anxiety disorders and depression.
  • You will also find an informative factsheet about counselling – what to expect, where to look, what to ask and  possible costs - on the WIRE (Women’s Information Referral Exchange) website at www.wire.org.au, or 1300 134130. 
  • Alternatively, the Australian Psychological Society ( www.psychology.org.au, or 180033497) offers an extensive “find a psychologist” function on its website.
  • Medical Centres and Community Health Centres are also another area to consider if you are looking for counselling.
  • Finally, the Australian Counselling Association ( www.theaca.net.au or 1300 784 333) offers a directory of practicing counsellors.

Community and Peer Support

Sometimes talking with a supportive person can be equally effective over the phone, rather than face to face. There are many telephone support and counselling lines that are available, including crisis lines, such as:


24 Hour Services:


Business-Hour Services for anxiety and depression telephone support:


Another great way to link in to various supports is through these and many more organisations that specialise in mental health issues and, particularly those that provide information, resources and telephone support.  An important part of our role at ADAVIC is to support those who suffer from anxiety and depression by sharing information and resources, listening to your concerns over the phone, and by helping to link you with other help and support options within the community. There are   numerous other organisations out there that offer similar kinds of education and support and referral options, and perhaps a good way to find them might be to search for specific words on the internet, such as ‘anxiety’ or ‘depression’ or ‘anxiety support’. Reading articles and personal stories about these issues can help to normalise your experiences and hopefully help you to feel less isolated and alone with your worries. 

Support Groups

Another great way to feel supported and more connected might be through regular attendance at various support groups that are run by ADAVIC, ARCVic and many other support organisations. These groups can be a great outlet to share your feelings and concerns with people who might be feeling the same way as you, and a chance to learn new ways of coping. Many of these organisations, like ADAVIC, also offer the option of online communication with others who may also be needing support for anxiety and depression.  Message boards, discussion forums and online chat rooms can be a great way to link up with other people and share your concerns from the safety of your own home.  DepressioNet ( www.depressionet.org.au ) is a good example of an organisation that offers an online peer support forum for those living with depression.

Local Councils and Community Centres

Your local community also provides an excellent source of support options. Local Councils offer a wide range of services, such as Community Health and Learning Centres, Community Legal Centres, Neighbourhood Houses, Libraries and Leisure Centres. Both regular exercise and stress reducing activities are great for managing anxiety, and classes, such as yoga, mindfulness,  relaxation therapy or meditation are often run within these sorts of Community Centres. They also give you the chance to get to know other people within your neighbourhood. In fact, many of these services and activities offered are relatively low cost and sometimes free, particularly for Health Care cardholders and those recovering from a mental illness. Many of the Community Health Centres also have counselling services available. The City of Boroondara , for example, provides a directory of  Community Centres  and Neighbourhood Houses in the area, and also has an extensive up to date list of community groups and organisations available to local residents ( www.boroondara.vic.gov.au ). Community Noticeboards are also a wonderful source of local information and resources. You will find these in all the Community Centres, as well as libraries, your favourite cafés and even in shopping centres and some bookstores. Local weekly magazines and newspapers are another useful source of information about the surrounding community.

School and Workplace

Finally, don’t discount your work, school, tertiary education provider, or even sporting club as a possible place to find support. Counsellors and social workers are often available for students and staff members to access, and can be at no or low cost.  Although they may be connected to your school or work, their role is always to remain objective and respectful of your privacy, however asking questions about whether your information will be kept confidential is always a good idea. Organisations with good pastoral care arrangements may even be willing to provide you with extra support if you need it, in the form of reduced hours, help with childcare, or training opportunities, to name a few. You might be surprised about what can be negotiated   during difficult times if you are brave enough to ask. Joining a sporting or other interest group can also be a great way to widen your support base, while at the same time providing you with the added benefits of exercise and friendship and new skills.  

Remember

Asking for help and support, although difficult at times, can help to relieve stress, reduce some of the extra burden of coping alone and decrease feelings of isolation and frustration. Hopefully, some of these ideas might help you think about what type of support is out there and how you can best find it. Linking in to a support network could be just a phone call away.



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