Feature Article

Mental Health during COVID-19

Emily Carstairs

Pandemic. One seemingly simple word that is defined as a ‘disease prevalent over a whole country or the world’. We are all currently in the midst of one, but many people could say that people struggling with issues of concern such as alcohol or drug use have been part of a pandemic for far longer than just the present COVID-19 situation. That said, something that is important to keep in mind is that a large proportion of people with addictions have a dual diagnosis with mental health problems, in particular anxiety and depression.

We want you to know that we are here to help and are with you 100% of the way. Also, remember that you are not alone in your own pandemic, as there are many others that are struggling with reaching a place of peace, comfort and health along with you.

In these times of hardship, many of us are starting to feel defeated. It may be due to job loss, loneliness, money issues, homelessness or being separated from loved ones for prolonged periods of time, and the list goes on. These factors can cause anxiety, boredom, depression and anger and are weighing on each and every one of us, which is proving to be a very real and tangible influence on our overall mental health.

Participants of SMART Recovery are at a heightened risk for exacerbated mental health issues because the routine has changed, the contact with peers has been reduced and the assistance of experts has been altered. Plus, there’s always the common fear of relapse. SMART Recovery focuses on the notion of self management and we aim to provide tools with meetings and resources that can empower you to make positive life changes. Take advantage of them.

We want to ask – How are you doing? How can we help? What do you need? Is there more we could do for you?

There have been some statistics released that make the subject of mental health in this current time really hit home. We know that stats aren’t always the answer or an easy fix but it gives you an indication and some perspective of how individual circumstances are a massive factor in effecting how our minds think.

For example, in Victoria alone, the number of people visiting hospitals due to mental health problems has risen by 23%, while the access to telephone mental health assistance has risen by 29% during this COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, Victoria’s request for Medicare-funded psychology sessions has gone up by 6% since this time last year. Sadly, there has also been an increase in hospital admissions due to self-harm and substance use. And that is only in one state…

That said, numbers do not define one person. Every person has a choice. They can choose to be brave and help themselves or they can choose to take what seems like the ‘easy’ option. Be strong, trust in yourself and others, and seek mental health help and support if you need it.

Young people are proving to be at particular risk of experiencing mental health issues during this time due to feeling isolated, unsupported and lonely. Talk to your friends, family or reach out to a support network if you are feeling overwhelmed or finding it hard to cope.

Mental health issues are not a weakness. It’s ok to say that you are not ok. We are all going through a really weird time at the moment and emotions are circling like an out of control cyclone. This is nothing to be ashamed of. Be brave. Shout out. This will help you now and in the long run. People care about you so let them help you.

With the government pledging funds for mental health support, use it. Don’t think “I don’t need that”, think “This is an opportunity to keep my life on the right track”.

COVID-19 has been brutal to everyone in some way, shape or form and we are all feeling lost and confused to varying degrees. Stay strong. Let us help.

  • Beyond Blue has helpful tips on how to look after your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak. Access their Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service online or by calling 1800 512 348.
  • Black Dog Institute has a list of evidence-based tools and resources for you and your community.
  • RUOK? have some tips about looking out for family members or friends who are struggling.
  • ReachOut has ’10 ways to take care of yourself during coronavirus’

In an emergency:

If you, a friend or family member are experiencing distress please contact one of the following numbers:

  • Lifeline on 13 11 14
  • Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467
  • Mental Health Line 1800 011 511.

Other support services:

About SMART Recovery Australia

  • SMART Recovery Australia offers a free nationwide service of online or in person support meetings for people wanting to change behaviours of concern associated with alcohol, drugs, gambling, food, shopping, internet, sex and others.
  • SMART Recovery meetings are run by trained facilitators who teach evidence-based tools and techniques, including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Motivational Interviewing (MI) to help people achieve their goals and make positive life changes.

Online SMART Recovery meetings

Online SMART Family & Friends meetings