A Lived Experience

I am obviously an advocate for help seeking behaviour when it comes to mental health. I recognise that help comes in a number of ways and that therapy is just one of those options. I also recognise that not everyone who does seek help is ready to make the changes and that what works for one may not work for another.

What I have found to be true though is that someone sharing their journey and their lived experience of mental health touches nearly everyone. The interpretation and messages received may be different to each person but that willingness to be open and genuine about their experience speaks to people.

This clip of Lucy sharing her lived experience is one of these messages. She speaks openly about her journey with an Eating Disorder in an open and genuine way and invites you in to share her story. She doesn’t use fancy language or medical terminology, she is simply herself.

I am sharing this today with you all in recognition of the courage Lucy has found to share her story and her desire to share it with you all in the hope that others may seek help and that she may be a part of other people’s journey and know that just through living her own experience she may also influence and be an inspiration to others.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions….

So often I am asked by people ‘Am I making the right decision?’ To be honest I have a standard answer to fit every situation. Why the one answer you ask? I believe this answer to be true 100% of the time. So what’s my answer you ask? Well here it is – ‘There are never any right or wrong decisions, just choices to make’.

Seems a little simple and vague you say, let me explain a little more. When we are making decisions or choices as I prefer to call them, we are weighing up the pros and cons according to our past experiences, our knowledge and most importantly our values.  As no two individuals are exactly alike neither are their decision making process or choices. We cannot judge someone on our own processes and choices and we can never have a true understanding of how and why someone makes the choice they do. To be honest we don’t have to approve their decision just accept it and respect it as belonging to someone else.

So if this is true, and for me it is, people then ask ‘how do I make the right choice for me?’. Now here is when I can be a little more helpful and less philosophical. When you make choices it’s important that they be aligned with your values, what’s important to you. This is what drives your goals and ambitions in life and when you act, or make choices, aligned with these values then you are moving towards your goals and you feel good about yourself and your choices. It is when you make a decision that falls outside of what’s important to you that you compromise your values and consequently your mental health. I’m not saying you can compromise ever, in fact compromise is an important value of mine – trying to be flexible and try new things. What I am saying is when things are of great importance to you make choices that are aligned with your values. When you do then it’s as close as you will come to making the right decision for you!

Values are not set in stone and they change across the span of your life. What’s important to me today never even hit my radar when I was a student, or in my early adulthood. My values certainly aren’t aligned with those of my parents, and sometimes not with my friends or colleagues. I like that we can all be different and I respect someones right to have different values from those I have. In fact conversations are so much more interesting when they are and to be honest these conversations and experiences will shape changes in my value system as I grow.

It seems like every year, sometimes more than just once, something will happen in my life which ensures that I reevaluate where I am at in life and what’s important to me. When I do I like to come back to a little exercise that I did at a workshop once on values. Feel free to check it out yourself or maybe the values card exercise that a colleague of mine blogged about last month is more your style? Maybe give them a go and give yourself a break on the worry of if your decision is right or wrong and start being ok with it being the right choice for you at the time.

Supporting online interventions

Did you ever have a moment when something you had been waiting for, for such a long time finally happened? For most of my career I have been working towards equity in accessibility for mental health services for all Australians. I’ve worked in a number of different positions to try and affect change on the smaller individual scale, the local community and the bigger picture. Whilst some of the road blocks have been about stigma, others affordability issues, and others eligibility issues the biggest hurdle I’ve recently tried to overcome is equal access to services for those who cant make it into a service because of their location, physical limitations or the hours offered by providers.

As many of you know I worked at The University of Newcastle as the online counsellor, giving me the opportunity to develop online counselling skills to eliminate an inequality of access to mental health services for the students studying at UON. I was able to offer services outside of regular business hours, services that were online and could be accessed by students from an offsite location, and also offer the distance education students in rural and remote parts of Australia the same access to counselling support as those studying on the campus. This was a great success for the students, UON and for me.

I recently left the university in April this year with the goal of continuing this journey and spread my skills to other clinicians across Australian universities. I hoped when I made this jump that I would one day also be making the jump to sharing these skills and experiences with my colleagues in private practice and other organisations so that it was not only students who would benefit from this approach but all Australians. While some of my colleagues are keen there is always a stumbling block of utilisation of the services given the lack of financial support provided by Medicare for eligible Australian’s to be able to afford psychological interventions with a rebate for sessions under the Better Access to Mental Health Care Scheme.

Last week I got the very exciting news from the Federal Government via a media release that there was a break through! From November 1st individuals who are eligible for a Mental Health Care Plan from their GP for Psychological treatment and live in rural and remote areas of Australia, as classified under the Modified Monash Model regions 4-7 (check out this site to see if your area is covered) , will be able to use these services to connect with registered providers anywhere is Australia remotely using online videoconferencing methods. The initiative will last 4 years and have an estimated cost of $9 million.

What a win for the Australian people! People who live in these areas often have reduced access to psychologists and other health professionals, or find it difficult to use the only provider in town because of dual roles that people in remote and rural areas of Australia have. To be able to have greater choice and availability of services allowing for better therapeutic relationships and reduced burden of poor mental health is a big step forward in Australia providing quality health services.

Now in addition to working with my colleagues in universities across Australia I’ll also be looking forward to working with my colleagues in private practice in skilling us up in the technology and strategies to make this a successful outcome for improved psychological services for Australians.