December 23, 2009

AUSTRALIA: The Festive Season Not Always Time of Joy

. CANBERRA, ACT / Department of Health / December 23, 2009 Christmas is traditionally a time of celebration, connecting with family and friends and sharing in the giving spirit, however, for many it can also be a confronting time. It can be a time when our troubles are magnified. Separation from loved ones, memories of a loss, family conflict and added pressure including financial strain can all have an impact on our mental health. In the same way we continue to look after our physical wellbeing, it is important that we remember to look after our mental health and to connect with those who are most vulnerable at this time. Nicola Roxon MP Minister for Health and Ageing The recent campaign by the suicide prevention organisation R U OK? highlighted the importance of reaching out and starting a conversation to find out if someone is having trouble. This is particularly relevant during the holiday season. It is important to seek help during times of emotional distress and to encourage others to do the same. There are a variety of support services available in the community for people experiencing an emotional crisis or for people who have an underlying mental health problem exacerbated by the pressures and stresses of the holiday season. Lifeline Australia’s telephone crisis support service experiences high call volumes in the lead up to Christmas and New Year, and the organisation is urging all Australians to be patient and kind with their families, friends and loved ones this festive season. Lifeline and other telephone counselling and web-based self-help resources are available to support people during this holiday season. Web-based resources may be particularly appropriate for people in rural and remote areas or for people who for reasons of anonymity prefer not to use face to face services. Some of these resources include: Lifeline Australia 13 11 14 – provides a free, confidential and anonymous, 24-hour telephone crisis counselling service for adults experiencing emotional distress. Anxiety Online is an internet-based ‘virtual’ treatment clinic for Australians living with anxiety disorders and those seeking to address their anxiety and stress levels more generally. If you need ongoing support for anxiety or depression, you can also talk to your GP about the subsidised mental health services available under the Medicare Better Access program, and through the Access to Psychological Services program (ATAPS). Both of these programs enable referral of people with a mental disorder for psychological services. In the event of a significant mental health or suicide crisis, call your state/territory emergency response service. In a small number of cases, we or our loved ones may need specialised and intensive support because of heightened level of risk of mental illness or suicide. The Suicide Call Back Service is a free nation-wide telephone support service which provides professional counsellors with specialist skills in working with suicide-related issues, assisting clients to work through difficult emotions through a series of telephone counselling sessions. The Living Is For Everyone (LIFE) website provides a variety of resources including fact sheets which give you information on the warning signs if you feel someone close to you is at risk of suicide, and where to go for help. Please remember to take care of yourself and others over this holiday period. [rc] Nicola Roxon, MP E-Mail: © Commonwealth of Australia