A four-pronged strategy to coping with mental illness
Today is World Mental Health Day. We need to have a conversation about coping.
Step 4, as advocated by Chris and Lifeline. Learn from others.
We’ve come so far in our understanding of depression and anxiety yet, today, as every day, six Australians will take their own lives. Six. So many Australians simply aren’t coping.
If you’ve never experienced mental illness, it sucks. It sucks a hell of a lot. Forget about descriptions of dark clouds and black dogs; let’s talk about the adrenalin overload that literally makes your head spin. Let’s talk about the obsessive, racing thoughts that could outrun Usain Bolt. Let’s talk about how locking yourself in your own bedroom will help protect you from ‘out there’. Whatever the hell that means. But it feels just that little bit safer, so you keep doing it.
Depression isn’t a so-called “first world problem” or a bad case of the sads. It’s an illness. So too with anxiety - it’s not simply an overdose of nerves or an epic rush to beat the deadline. It makes your heart pump enough blood for three people a day and leaves you so tired that all the triple-scoop cups of Blend 43 in the country barely leave you awake.
So how do we cope? How do we find a way to get through, especially when our thoughts are rushing so hard and our mood so inexplicably low that we couldn’t grasp a rational thought if it smacked us in the jaw like a right hook from Danny Green?
We talk, we listen and we share. If you are struggling, don’t keep it to yourself. If your mate is starting to skip out on parties or snaps at you for making a harmless joke about his mum, he’s probably not OK. So ask him how he’s going. If you find that when it comes to the crunch, your ability to cope with day-to-day life slips through your fingers, then you need to prepare.
Lifeline today launched its Get Help section, aimed at helping people to get through tough times. What particularly excites me is their Coping Kit.
I was planning to tell you a story about how I cried in high school, had panic attacks during uni and thought I was going to be taken away by the Men In White Coats from my first office job (this sounds flippant, but I ACTUALLY thought that). I won’t bog you down in the details but the reality is, for eight years, I wasn’t coping. I needed help. I needed support and I needed to cope. Where do you start? How do you start?
Back to the Coping Kit. If you or someone you know is struggling, you need this kit. Fill out the form, print it out and stick it in your wallet. Because when the time comes and you start to panic, help is literally in your own back pocket.
As Lifeline told The Punch: “It’s hard to think clearly when you’re in a time of crisis. At times like this you need something to refer to, a reminder.
“Someone you can call, an activity you enjoy doing, whatever it is to help you.”
What else can you do? Here are four simple coping tips from The Punch. Share yours.
1) Pick up your phone: Call your best mate. Call your dad. Call a GP. If that seems too intimidating then start with someone you don’t know, especially if you’re worried about being judged, and call Lifeline. They’ll tell you where to go next;
2) Put down your phone: Once you’ve spoken to someone who can help you and put a plan in place, it’s time for you to get out of your head and into life. This starts with putting the phone away. You don’t need to respond to every text, Tweet and Facebook poke. You need to switch off before you can switch on. Go for a walk without your devices. Have dinner and actually taste the food on your plate. Watch a movie and remember every line without having to look it up on IMDB. Life, real life, can actually be pretty good;
3) Do what you love: If shopping for new camel chinos, wailing to Sympathy For The Devil on your air guitar, and nailing the hill climbs during spin class are things that get you going, then do those things. Do all of those things. In that order;
4) Learn from others: There’s nothing more inspiring than reading a success story. I spent three hours researching Mark Zuckerberg when I saw The Social Network, and Barack Obama’s The Audacity of Hope is putting pressure on James Bond and David Beckham at the top of CP’s man-crush file. Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford commencement speech, Anh Do’s autobiography and the TED Talks archive are few places you could start.
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