Mental health and wellbeing

Below you will find information about mental health and wellbeing, along with links to resources for more information. This is general information and you should speak with a qualified healthcare professional for medical advice.

Quick links

 


What is mental health?

Mental health is the term often used when we talked about mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety conditions. However, according to the World Health Organization, mental health is “a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.

One way of thinking about it is that it is a continuum ranging from:

  • Mental health is where we are feeling good, functioning well and coping with life’s normal stresses
  • Mental health problems begin to affect how we think, feel and behave. They may develop into a mental illness if they are not effectively dealt with.
  • Mental illness is a health problem that significantly affects how we feel, think and behave. It is diagnosed according to standardised criteria (eg depression and anxiety)

People who have cystic fibrosis (CF), or care for someone who has CF, are in a higher risk category for poor mental health due to the ongoing associated stresses of CF. Being aware of the risks and having strategies in place can help.

 

Good mental health

Good mental health is when we are feeling good, functioning well and coping with life’s normal stresses. If you have good mental health, you feel good. You might feel happiness, love, joy, compassion, connectedness, and you feel generally satisfied with life.

We all have to face challenges in life. People who have good mental health are more likely to be able to cope with the ups and downs.

Read Nardia’s Note To My Younger Self

Some of the signs of good mental health include:

  • feeling confident when faced with new situations or people
  • feeling optimistic
  • not always blaming yourself
  • feeling good about yourself
  • having good self esteem
  • setting goals.

 

Maintaining good mental health

Mental health is complex. We need to constantly work at it (just like physical health) using a range of strategies and approaches.

Healthy diet: Having a healthy, balanced diet plays an important role in your overall health and wellbeing. Foods and affect your mood, energy levels and concentration. For example, eating lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains can reduce your risk of some mental health conditions, while eating foods that are high in sugar may increase your risk.

Being active: Regular physical activity can be a good way to boost your mood, reduce stress, and improve sleep. It is also known to manage symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Sleep: Our sleeping patterns can affect how well we feel throughout the day. After good quality sleep, we wake up feeling refreshed and are better able to cope with challenges and get along better with others. If we have a bad night’s sleep we can feel fuzzy and irritable, and it can also lead to increased anxiety and depression.

Connect with friends and family: Our families and friends can play a key role in our wellbeing. Good relationships can make us feel safe and loved, and provide a sense of belonging. Often we learn the skills to manage life’s difficulties from our family. Spend time with your family and friends. If they don’t live nearby and you can’t connect in person, use technology.

Get involved in your community: Community involvement provides a sense of belonging and social connectedness. It can also offer extra meaning and purpose to everyday life. You can find a group or event that is local, shares a hobby of yours (eg netball, gardening, knitting, photography), or are working towards a common goal (eg planting trees in parks, walking dogs, cleaning beaches). These groups may be in person or online.

Volunteer: Helping others can help you feel more connected

Mindfulness:  Mindfulness practice can help you be fully engaged with whatever you are doing at the moment and aware of your thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them. This can be very helpful when we are faced with challenging circumstances or difficult situations.

 

Low mood v depression

Everyone feels sad, moody or low at times. This is a normal feeling when you are going through a stressful or difficult time. However, if you really aren’t sure why you feel so bad, if continue to feel that your mood is low for a few weeks, and it interferes with your everyday life, there might be something more serious going on.

 

What causes depression?

There is no single cause of depression and it likely develops due to a combination of factors. People affected by depression often experience negative thinking patterns and may stop doing their normal activities, which can make their symptoms worse. Life events (such as trauma or losing someone close to you) and biological factors (genetics, hormones or an imbalance of certain chemicals in the brain) may be contributing factors. A person may find that they fall into a cycle of having a low mood, and so they stop doing things they enjoy such as seeing friends or doing school work, which makes them feel worse.

Some signs and symptoms of depression

Each person who suffers from depression experiences it differently. Depression can range from mild to severe. If you have depression, some symptoms you might experience include:

  • having a low mood (feeling down) for longer than two weeks
  • not getting enjoyment or losing interest in things that you usually get pleasure from
  • difficulty concentrating or remembering things
  • negative self-talk
  • lack of energy, or feeling constantly tired
  • having feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • having thoughts of self-harm or suicide
  • feeling hopeless and helpless.

 

Depression not only affects a person’s mood, but can also affect their body. Some of the physical signs of depression may be:

  • having difficulty with sleep – sleeping more or less than usual, waking up in the early hours of the morning and not being able to get back to sleep
  • eating more or less than usual, or having no appetite
  • weight loss or weight gain
  • headaches
  • upset stomach and digestion.

 

Most people experience some of these feelings and behaviours at different times. The difference with depression is that the symptoms are more severe, happen more often, and don’t go away over time.

Beyondblue have a quick checklist that you can use that aims to measure whether you may have been affected by depression and anxiety during the past four weeks. The higher your score, the more likely you are to be experiencing depression and/or anxiety. This is not a diagnosis, but it can give you a better sense of how you’re feeling – Beyondblue Anxiety and depression checklist 

What can you do if you think you’re experiencing depression?

If you think you’re experiencing symptoms of depression, visit your GP or a mental health professional. Another person you can speak to is the psychologist or social worker in your CF clinical team.

The good news is, if you’re diagnosed with depression, there are treatments available. Your doctors can work with you to create a treatment plan that suits your personal circumstances and experience. This is called a mental health plan.

More information

 

Anxiety

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is our mind’s and our body’s way of dealing with challenging situations. Those butterfly feelings we get are our natural response to these situations.

Although it doesn’t feel pleasant, anxious feelings can help motivate us towards our goals. It can alert us to dangers and help us pay attention. So if you feel stressed about an upcoming exam or work deadline, it might make you more motivated to study for it. Without the discomfort of stress, we might never get off the couch.

Anxiety is a normal emotion that comes and goes. Some of the main things it can be triggered by are fears or worries about health, work, relationships or money. While stress and anxious feelings are a common response to a situation where we feel under pressure, they usually pass once the stressful situation has passed, or ‘stressor’ is removed.

Read Susan’s article When I recognise uncertainty as a legitimate stress, it helps me be kinder to myself

Living with or caring for someone who has CF, has many things that are stressful, such as fears around maintaining good health and dealing with those times when your health is a challenge. The emotion of anxiety can be a useful sign to help us prepare for managing difficult events and upcoming changes.

Read Susan’s article How do you tell yourself that the same thing won’t happen to you?

Managing anxiety

Sometimes our anxiety levels get high enough to become a problem. If anxiety doesn’t go away and gets worse over time, this might mean you have an anxiety disorder. This can stop you from taking part in everyday activities, such as going to school, meeting friends, exercising or hospital visits.

The symptoms of anxiety conditions are sometimes not all that obvious as they often develop slowly over time and, given we all experience some anxiety at various points in our lives, it can be hard to know how much is too much.

Normal anxiety tends to be limited in time and connected with some stressful situation or event, such as a job interview. The type of anxiety experienced by people with an anxiety condition is more frequent or persistent, not always connected to an obvious challenge, and impacts on their quality of life and day-to-day functioning. While each anxiety condition has its own unique features, there are some common symptoms including:

  • Physical symptoms, like panic attacks, hot and cold flushes, a racing heart, tightening of the chest, quick breathing, restlessness, or feeling tense, wound up and edgy
  • Psychological symptoms such as excessive fear, worry, catastrophizing, or obsessive thinking
  • Behavioural issues like avoiding situations that make you feel anxious, which can have an impact on your study, work or social life

Beyondblue have a quick checklist that you can use that aims to measure whether you may have been affected by depression and anxiety during the past four weeks. The higher your score, the more likely you are to be experiencing depression and/or anxiety. This is not a diagnosis, but it can give you a better sense of how you’re feeling – Beyondblue Anxiety and depression checklist 

What can you do if you think you’re experiencing anxiety?

If you think you’re experiencing symptoms of anxiety, visit your GP or a mental health professional. Another person you can speak to is the psychologist or social worker in your CF clinical team.
The good news is, if you’re diagnosed with anxiety, there are treatments available. Your doctors can work with you to create a treatment plan that suits your personal circumstances and experience. This is called a mental health plan.

More information

 

Anger

Anger is a normal emotion. We all get angry from time to time. Sometimes we feel a little annoyed or ticked-off. Other times we might be really angry and full of rage and frustration.

We may experience anger in situations where we feel:

  • frustrated
  • powerless or not in control
  • mistreated or that someone we care about has been treated unfairly
  • embarrassed, shamed or humiliated
  • fearful.

 

Anger can be very helpful in some situations and when used as a motivator. It can:

  • energise and motivate you to stand up for yourself or another person
  • encourage us to speak with others about how we feel and what we think about certain issues
  • motivate you towards a goal and to solve problems
  • help us face our fears
  • help us accept major changes in our priorities, health, behaviour and lives

Read Shaun’s article on the importance of anger

 

However, if anger gets out of control it can expand into a full-blown rage and become explosive, violent and destructive. Some signs that your anger has become a problem include:

  • relationship problems at home or work
  • overreacting to small issues
  • family telling you that you have an anger problem
  • violent or abusive behaviour
  • using alcohol and drugs to manage your anger.

 

Over the long term, anger can also have negative effects on our wellbeing. This may include muscle tension and body aches, depression, anxiety, insomnia, high blood pressure, increased chance of developing heart disease, stroke, and an increase in the likelihood of developing stomach ulcers.

Managing anger

There are a range of different things you can try to help manage unhealthy anger. There is no one strategy that will work in every situation for everyone. Try, and practice, several approaches until you find the combination that works best for you.

Identify your triggers: What makes you angry? Write them down. Try to resolve them or practice how to better respond to them before they happen again.

Accept it’s okay to get angry sometimes: Try to express your frustrations by being honest, assertive and upfront about things that bother you.

Notice those early signs of anger: if you can, take some time out and walk away before anger escalates. Move to somewhere where you can calm down, consider what has happened and what you will do next. Also ask yourself how much will this issue matter in a week, in a month, in a year?

Identify and challenge negative thinking: Identify negative thoughts you may have. For example, they always say that, you are all against me, this is everybody else’s fault. This thinking can make you feel more angry. Learn to question and challenge this negative thinking.

Practise relaxation techniques: Muscle relaxation techniques can help relieve muscle tension which can help you feel more calm. Other strategies such as learning and practising mindfulness and meditation can also help. Doing regular exercise can help with lowering stress levels.

Work out why you were angry: If you can identify why you were angry you may be able to resolve the source of your anger. For example, you may feel angry because a person has not done something you think they should have done. When reflecting on the situation you can ask yourself whether your expectations are reasonable, do you need to think about their point of view, have you jumped to conclusions about why they didn’t do it.

Get support: If your anger is impacting on your life, or the lives of the people around you, you should discuss your concerns with someone you trust or your GP. If you are becoming violent or abusive then you need to seek professional help early to better understand how to manage your anger, and to make sure you and others are safe.

More information

 

Loneliness and isolation

Loneliness is a feeling of sadness about being by yourself or feeling disconnected from other people. Isolation is when we are separated from others. Feeling lonely and isolated is not uncommon. Most of us will feel lonely at some point in time, even if we are surrounded by people.

Feelings of loneliness and isolation are complex. For people who have CF, or care for someone who has CF, these feelings may made worse when you are unwell, if you are spending time in hospital or at home, or if you feel others don’t understand what you are experiencing or feeling.

While everyone feels lonely sometimes. Long periods of loneliness or social isolation can have a negative impact on your wellbeing. Over time is can:

  • cause aches and pains and headaches
  • affect sleep
  • increase tiredness or lack of motivation
  • cause a loss of appetite, sudden weight gain or loss
  • increased the risk of depression, anxiety and paranoia

 

Managing loneliness

There are a range of different things you can try to help manage loneliness. There is no one strategy that will work in every situation for everyone. Try, and practice, several approaches until you find the combination that works best for you.

Connect with friends and family: If they don’t live nearby and you can’t connect in person, use technology.

Get out and about: Exercise, visit friends, go to public places.

Get involved in your community: Join a club, enrol in study, or learn a new skill.

Volunteer: Helping others can help you feel more connected.

Consider borrowing or adopting a pet: They can be great companions and provide support during times of stress, ill-health or isolation.

Get support: If your loneliness or isolation is impacting on your life you should discuss your concerns with someone you trust or your GP.

More information

 

Treatments and strategies

The best combination of strategies and treatments for managing mental health depends on the:

  • the individual and their needs and preferences
  • the type of mental health problem they are experiencing
  • what level of distress they are experiencing and what impact it is having on their lives.

 

How do you take the first steps getting help?

  • You may want to start by reaching out to someone you trust – have a chat or go for a walk with a friend or family member.
  • Chat with the Social Worker or Psychologist in your CF Clinic Team or the social work team at CF Community Care.
  • Call one of the help lines or online chat services listed at support services.
  • Visit your GP to chat about what support you need and they may refer you to a psychologist or mental health professional that can support you.

Listen to (or read the transcript) Seeking help for the first time in a crisis (All In The Mind, ABC)

Good mental health – mild distress

Self-care and social support are some of the key strategies people can use to maintain good mental health or help manage mild distress associated with mental health problems.

This can include:

Taking care of your general wellbeing: this includes having a healthy diet, being active, getting enough sleep, and being connected. Find out more.

Mindfulness and meditation: Mindfulness is being present and fully engaged with whatever we’re doing at the moment, free from distraction or judgement, and aware of our thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them. This can be very helpful when we are faced with challenging circumstances or difficult situations. Mindfulness and meditation are practices, and like any new skill they take time to learn. There are a range of apps, books and classes on mindfulness and mediation. Each one is different, so you may need to try a few different approaches to see which one works best for you. Find out more about mindfulness at Smiling Mind.

 

Mild distress – moderate distress

If you are experiencing mental health problems that are causing you mild through to moderate distress. You may need to get a mental health care plan and seek professional counselling and therapy.

Beyondblue have a quick checklist that you can use that aims to measure whether you may have been affected by depression and anxiety during the past four weeks. The higher your score, the more likely you are to be experiencing depression and/or anxiety. This is not a diagnosis, but it can give you a better sense of how you’re feeling – Beyondblue Anxiety and depression checklist 

How do to get a mental health care plan?
A mental health care plan is a support plan for someone who is going through mental health issues. If a doctor agrees that you need additional support, you and the doctor will make the plan together.

Book an appointment with your GP. When you make the booking, tell them you want to talk about a mental health care plan. That way, the doctor will know in advance and be able to set enough time. It usually takes a double appointment.

Your doctor might ask you to fill out a questionnaire about how you’ve been feeling to work out the best support for you.

A mental health care plan might include a referral to a psychologist, social worker or other allied health professional for one on one sessions like a psychologist or other mental health professional that can support you. You may also have options for groups sessions if that suits your needs better. You may also be provided with strategies to improve and maintain your mental health.

Medicare Rebate
If you have a mental health care plan, the Medicare rebate covers you for a certain amount of the value of your session ($124.50 for 50+ minutes with a clinical psychologist). If your psychologist charges more, you’ll need to pay the difference – the “gap”. Some psychologists offer cheaper visits for concession holders, so if you’re a student or have a health care card, make sure you do your research. If the person is in year 11 or 12, they might be eligible for extra support. You can also access other allied health professionals, such as counsellors and clinical social workers. Just make sure they are Medicare registered so you can claim the rebate.

It’s important to remember you won’t be able to get a referral for all ten sessions for the year in one go. Your plan will cover you for six sessions. After that, you can go back to your doctor for a review, where you’ll talk about whether it would be helpful to have another four sessions.

To find professional counselling and therapy

 

Mental Illness

Most mental illnesses can be effectively treated. Recognising the early signs and symptoms of mental illness and accessing effective treatment early is important. The earlier treatment starts, the better the outcome. Episodes of mental illness can come and go during different periods in people’s lives. Some people experience only one episode of illness and fully recover. For others, it recurs throughout their lives.

It is rarely possible for someone with a mental illness to make the symptoms go away just by strength of will. To suggest this is not helpful in any way.

Effective treatments can include medication, cognitive and behavioural psychological therapies, psycho-social support, psychiatric disability rehabilitation, avoidance of risk factors such as harmful alcohol and other drug use, and learning self-management skills.

If you are struggling with mental illness it is best to speaking with a professional and get help as soon as possible.