Go Get a Mental Health Care Plan
I’ve read somewhere that mental health is about wellness, rather than illness. Everyone has a degree of mental health, in the same way that people alive have a degree of physical health.
I actually only learned how to go to the doctor for physical health when I started needing a mental health plan. I spent a long time just sitting in my anxiety and paranoia about my body and bottling it up, which (as we all should know by now) only made things worse. I’ve had break downs because of my own body but it took a weird and wild ride to where I am now, which started with a mental health plan. So let’s talk about how to get one, but first - some resources:
I'd also like to add before we start that I'm not at all a medical professional in any way, and am only hoping to encourage as many people around me to look into therapy options because it's helped me a great deal. The information I'm sharing is most relevant to people in Sydney, Australia with access to Medicare, which is how I started going to therapy.
If you're interested in going to therapy but that stuff doesn't apply to you, please look into how to get access to professional mental health services where you are. I can give you things to google! We can learn together.
Book a regular GP consultation
If you are as adverse to phone calls as I am, get someone you trust to book in a consultation on your behalf. If you don't want to talk to your regular GP for whatever reason, look up bulk billed GPs in the suburb next to you. If you can book a doc appointment online, even better! Less interactions to get an appointment! Life is hard right now, do everything in the easiest way possible.
Ask the GP for a Mental Health Plan
Sometimes they'll refer to it as a Mental Health Care Plan. They'll ask you a few questions about your emotions, either directly or by giving you a form to check off, and it's usually specifically about how you've felt in the last 4 weeks. I tend to answer these not only with the last 4 weeks in mind, but also with my last break down in mind regardless of how long ago that was, because I don't usually have all my shit together enough to get to a GP within 4 weeks of Bad Times.
Be honest, even if it feels almost like you're exaggerating, even if you're embarrassed about how bad things are/have been. I find that if I'm not in the moment of having a break down, how I feel during the Bad Times is a little surreal in hindsight. It's like trying to recall in perfect physical health how it felt not being able to breathe during a cold.
Something else to keep in mind (since I have had this worry) is that the GP cannot tell other people the things that you talk about unless you're about to harm yourself or others. They might also ask you why you want to pursue therapy, or whether there's a specific thing you want to go to therapy for. This isn't to discourage you from it, but rather to see if they can refer you to a particular kind of therapy since there are all sorts of reasons why people go to therapy, and there are different therapists who treat different kinds of things.
Now you've got a referral, time to find a therapist
Mine have all been in a little unsealed envelope, and it's usually a letter the GP writes for you to give to the therapist that you eventually see. If you don't already see a therapist or have a therapist in mind, the GP will give you contact details about where to call or go to find a therapist. You can ask around with friends and family, but if you're uncomfortable with that, there are plenty of places online to try and narrow down a potential list of therapists, like on the Australian Psychology Society (APS) website or BeyondBlue.
This probably means another phone call (yeah, I know, phone calls suck). This is usually when I stagnate a bit and take like 2 months to actually call in and make a new therapy appointment unless I'm in the middle of a habit of going to a therapist (occasionally in the past I have gotten a referral and let it expire before I even manage to phone in the therapy appointment - they last a year).
At the beginning of finding therapy, I was first referred to Wellbe, which is a bulk-billed psychology service in Sydney fairly flexible in finding a therapist or other kinds of counselling. The best thing about them is that they have appointments available with various therapists outside of office hours, 7 days a week, which I now know is actually kind of a rarity. Personally, I don't mind the gender of my health practitioner but this is something that you might be asked or can ask about when you give that phone call a go.
SBS has a pretty great article on how to find the right psychologist for you. Both the SBS link and the BeyondBlue one have mentioned eTherapy as options, which I personally haven't pursued but I have been recommended by people I trust and respect to MindSpot and Headspace. There is also a directory of online options on Head to Head, which is an Australian government website. I've also had a history of calling Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800) which I'm only just now finding out is a counselling service specifically for under 25s and also available online.
I know it seems like a lot of work, and it can be. I'm very lucky to have not run into (too much) stigma in my pursuit of mental health improvement. It took me a few goes and several years of trying to get into regular therapy. Even now it can be a slog, but when I do the work I feel like I'm moving forward and that's really all I could ask for.
Go on, go get it,