Not sure where to begin?
There are many people that can support you during your mental health journey however finding the right support can be a daunting task and you may feel unsure where to begin. Finding North is here to provide information and resources to anyone who may be experiencing a change to their mental health and wellbeing or would like to learn how they can support a loved one.
Understanding mental health conditions
If you are unfamiliar with how changes to your mental health can impact your wellbeing, you will find a number of mental health conditions listed here.
Getting professional help
Finding the right mental health professional is an important but sometimes tricking task. While a particular mental health professional may be a good fit for a friend or family member, they may not be the right person for you. Before choosing who to see, you should feel clear about what you want to gain from seeing a health professional as well as what you need and expect from them.
Types of professionals
General Practitioners (GPs) are medical doctors who have completed extra training in general practice. This means they have a broad knowledge of health issues and are qualified to treat people of all ages. Your GP is a good place to start if you are experiencing changes to your physical or mental health and well-being. They can coordinate your health care and look after you long-term.
If you have concerns about your mental health, your GP can make an assessment and, if necessary, create a mental health treatment plan, refer you to mental health professionals, prescribe and monitor medications and manage all of your ongoing health needs.
Your GP can see you at their practice or can treat you over the phone or internet. Some GPs also offer home visits or care for people who are living in residential care facilities.Find a GP
A psychiatrist is a specialist medical doctor who assesses and treats persons experiencing a mental health condition. They can complete a mental health diagnosis and work out an appropriate way to help you. This may include psychotherapy (talking therapy) and prescribing medication. When working with you, they will explore broader social and cultural factors that might be affecting your thoughts and behaviour in order to help make changes to improve daily wellbeing. Psychiatrists may talk with your family members and others, such as your carers. Psychiatrists often work in collaboration with general practitioners and other health professionals to best meet your mental health and emotional needs.Find a Health Professional
Clinical psychologists are trained to assess and diagnose mental health conditions though they’re not allowed to prescribe medication. Psychologists use psychotherapy (“talking” therapy) to help you improve your mental health. Psychologists are interested in knowing about the difficulties you’re experiencing, how long these have been happening and how they are affecting your day-to-day life. Psychologists will ask questions about your past and encourage you to talk about your thoughts, feelings and behaviours. They will suggest ways to cope with the difficulties being experienced.Find a Health Professional
Social workers do not diagnose mental health conditions but they work with you and your family, friends or carer to figure out what kind of support you need. They use talking therapy and they help you to find ways to manage things like housing difficulties, employment challenges and relationship problems. They also offer support for drug and alcohol problems. The social worker’s aim is to help put in place a plan for you to get well and stay well.
A mental health nurse is a registered nurse who has taken extra training to work in the area of mental health. Mental health nurses work closely with other health professionals to provide the best level of care to you. The nurse may help to put care plans into place, manage medication, ensure you’re receiving the help you need, support your family members and offer education about mental illness to the community.
A counsellor is a trained professional whom you can discuss any issues you are having in your life with. Counselling involves talking about your personal challenges and working to address any issues and explore options and solutions for personal change and growth.
Depending on the services provider counsellors offer support support both over the phone and in person.Find a Health Professional
Occupational therapists (OTs) help people with a mental health condition to manage practical, everyday tasks and figure out ways to get things done. This may include help with organising (for example, planning, shopping and cooking a meal), prioritising tasks and keeping track of what needs doing, and engaging in social activities. OTs also show ways to keep calm when you feel overwhelmed by too much information or unsettled by your surroundings. OTs can provide strategies to calm an anxious mind and body and respond effectively to distressing or challenging emotions.
Who should I speak to first and what can I expect?
Sometimes it can feel uncomfortable talking about how you are feeling, especially if you aren’t feeling great.
Some people may experience a sense of relief from saying how they are feeling out loud whilst for others, this may increase feelings of anxiety and fear of what people will think or you may even feel a little awkward.
Talking about what is happening for you is important. If you have a close friend or family member that you trust talking with them is a good place to start. You don’t have to talk with them face to face if you aren’t ready, making a phone call or sending a text message to let them know you would like to talk soon is ok too.
Once you have spoken with them you may even find that they are able to help you find a health professional or other supports to connect with.
Sometimes, people will struggle to understand what you are going through, and they may ask a lot of questions or give you a reaction you weren’t hoping for. You don’t have to answer every question and if you are feeling discouraged or as though the person you have spoken with isn’t being helpful, you may choose to speak to someone else instead.
We acknowledge that not everyone will have someone they feel they can talk to and that in some cultures mental health is viewed differently. You are not alone, there are people that want to help, and we are here to help you find them.
If you have concerns about your mental health talking to your GP is an important first step. Your GP can make an assessment, and if necessary, create a mental health treatment plan with you.
However, sometimes things don’t go the way we had hoped. If you feel like your GP wasn’t helpful, or you don’t like the way they supported you, or the lack of support they offered you, you may decide to find a different GP. After all, if your hairdresser gave you a haircut you weren’t happy with you wouldn’t go back you would more than likely be looking for a new one.
To learn more about how your GP can support you visit our General Practitioner page.
Find a lived-experience network
Finding North Network
Finding North Network is for the exclusive use of those who understand mental illness firsthand. The Network is a forum for people to share their experiences, discuss ideas, and develop their voice in speaking to the issues surrounding mental health in Australia. Come Join us!
Additional tips to start a conversation
If you are still looking for more information, Think Mental Health provides additional tips around how to start a conversation about mental health.
If you are a young person who is wanting to talk to their parents about your mental health Reach Out offers 6 tips to help you get started.