Could health and happiness be just a click away?
Sydney GP and family health specialist, Dr Ginni Mansberg, shares her tips on managing mental health online.
Whether you’re someone living in remote Australia with little access to specialist care, or simply someone who juggles work and home life; getting to the doctor can be difficult.
But when you’re dealing with a mental illness, recognising you have a problem and then seeking help can seem almost impossible.
As more Australians understand the tools available to them, managing mental health conditions could be as easy as a click of a button.
One in six Australians suffer from anxiety or depression in their lifetime, so it is astounding that as many as 40 per cent of patients did not seek treatment in the previous year.
The reasons sometimes include embarrassment, cost or even just not knowing there’s a problem.
Many don’t want to be prescribed an antidepressant medicine.
When medications are needed they work wonders, but did you know that psychological therapies can also be as effective as medicines for mild to moderate cases of depression?
Psychological therapies include a variety of techniques. For example, Cognitive behavioural therapy is based on the theory that upsetting emotions and behaviours are the result of faulty patterns of thinking and that learning to recognise these thoughts and challenge and modify them can help you manage your feelings.
It can be combined with other evidence-based treatments like motivational interviewing and mindfulness, to name a few. The names of the therapies aren’t important but the point is that the treatments used by psychologists can work really well.
For many people, the problem is getting your hands on this therapy.
For a start you need to find a psychologist with time to see you.
Unless you don’t work, or have the world’s most understanding boss, you will likely need an after-hours appointment. Good luck with that!
And they are not necessarily just one off sessions, you may need lots of them. Then there’s the cost.
Despite the creation of mental health care plans through Medicare, you could remain out of pocket to the tune of often over $100 per session. Given the number of sessions you may need, we’re talking big bucks.
TeleThat’s why I am so excited that the evidence is mounting that telehealth delivery of psychological therapies may be as effective as seeing a psychologist in person.
And bonus - lots of the current available programs are Australian developed, anonymous (you can create a user name and password, and some don’t even need an email address or even your name) and many are FREE!
That’s right, you're able to access the help you need, when you need, as often as you need - all from the comfort of home.
I can’t tell you how helpful my patients have found these types of programs.
One of my patients* battling anxiety and depression is a busy mum with two gorgeous but super-energised little boys.
It was affecting relationships with her family, and she was aware her performance at work was slipping.
She knew she had to do something, but medication can only ever do so much. She needed some psychological therapies but that was proving easier said than done!
Her job takes her interstate and she works long hours.
I referred her to a fabulous clinical psychologist through a mental health care plan six months ago, but she only ever made it to one session.
She loved the psychologist but making the sessions was almost impossible.
So we went through my favourite online therapy sites and she is doing really well.
She’s coping better at work, handling those crazy little boys better and getting on much better with her husband and sister.
Here are my favourite websites:
Probably my favourite course of all. Developed through the ANU in Canberra, it was initially devised for teenagers but can be excellent for adults too. And it’s free!
Another awesome ANU online course developed for anxiety as well as depression. Again it is free!
Developed by the Black Dog Institute, this is a great free program. You do need to input your email address and telephone number, but the server is secure and a number of my patients have found this an absolutely amazing resource.
This course does require your GP to enrol you and there is a small fee, but there is a range of more intensive courses for anxiety and depression. The courses here go for longer and are more comprehensive. You could see excellent results!
Luckily, fast broadband, via the nbn™ network, has helped make these programs and accompanying applications accessible to many people - from home, on your mobile device, after hours and on weekends, when your kids are asleep, when nobody else is available to help.
This is a massive step forward for mental health and I am so excited by the options available today.
*Consult your doctor about the telehealth programs are that right for you.
Your experience including the speeds actually achieved over the nbn™ network depends on the technology over which services are delivered to your premises and some factors outside our control like your equipment quality, software, broadband plans and how your service provider designs its network.