Some helpful links, and great news for anyone with a co-morbidity

Posted on February 16, 2012 at 9:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Hi all

Just a quick one today to keep everyone updated.

First of all, a link to a fabulous insider perspective on navagating the mental health system by laketothelight. Wow, super comprehensive and very helpful.

Some fabulous news; ACON are now running educational sessions "Snakes and Ladders" of a Tuesday afternoon for anyone who would like to learn more about, or has experienced issues with, both mental health and alcohol and other drugs.

Lastly, we have listened to your feedback and have updated our intake and assessment forms! There is now an "own definition" section on your initial intake form for both gender and biological sex, and the "other" tick box has been removed.

A helpful reminder for us as mental health professionals (and as people) that no one should be considered "other" - just different :)


Taking a break

Posted on February 8, 2012 at 11:20 PM Comments comments (0)

Imanadari Mental Health blog is taking a break until after Mardi Gras.

As I am involved in organising a float for the Mardi Gras this year, I am actually practicing what I preach and making sure I don't get too overloaded. I'll still try to update regularly, but I will just be posting any interesting things that I find rather than writing big posts for now.

This week I found an article on procrastination. It's an issue that most people will have to deal wth at some point in their lives. And even if you don't, I bet you know someone in your life that does!

I like this article, and I think it makes some great points about why people might procrastinate. I am also pleased that it acknowledges the fact that it takes a lot of energy to change behaviour - it's unreasonable to expect yourself to change overnight.

Anyway, enjoy reading and happy Mardi Gras for all those who are participating or supporting!

Navigating the Mental Health System - Part II

Posted on January 27, 2012 at 12:20 AM Comments comments (0)


Financial Help

Hello everyone! I’m back to updating the mental health blog after a break over Christmas and New year. This is part two in my navigating the mental health system series, all about financial help.

I often speak to people who are struggling with finances due to their illness, and having a chronic illness of any kind (mental health or otherwise) can make it hard financially. You are often limited in the kind of work you can do, you may need time off for doctors appointments,and you may need part time rather than full time work.

Unfortunately, getting any kind of financial assistance is a very stressful process, so here is your “how to” guide to make it easier to get access to financial support that you are entitled to.


The benefit from Centrelink that most people are familiar with is Newstart, the payment that covers you while you look for work. However, you may not be aware that Centrelink also have other benefits such as the Sickness Allowance, Disability Support Pension, Mobility Allowance, Supported Wage System and Crisis Payments.

This means that you might be eligible for support if you go through a period of illness, if you have problems travelling to and from work, or if you need to leave your home due to domestic violence.

How do I get assessed for the Disability Support Pension?

If you have been unable to work for the past 2 years, you may be eligible to receive the Disability Support Pension.The first step is to approach Centrelink and ask them for the paper work that you will need to complete, and book any appointments you need.

They will usually need a report from your doctor and any treating specialists who might be able to provide them with information about your illness. Centrelink have their own staff who will provide you with a job capacity assessment.

What about psychological issues such as depression and anxiety?

Centrelink have their own psychologists who have received specialist training to perform job capacity assessments. They will refer you to one of these psychologists, who will ask you questions about your condition and ability to work. The psychologist will usually spend at least 1-2 hours with you, and may request that you return for another session.

What if I'm not elligible for the DSP?

Many people who eventually receive the DSP spend some amount of time receiving Newstart. This can be difficult because Newstart requires you to look for a certain number of jobs per fortnight, which can be hard if you are suffering from depression or anxiety.

Difficulty applying for jobs

If you have been having difficulty applying for jobs because of your condition, you will need to get a medical certificate from your doctor. You don’t need to go in every day, but the medical certificate does need to state that you are currently medically unfit to work for 8 hours per week.

Missingappointments/job interviews

If you miss an appointment, make sure you get a doctors certificate. If you miss several appointments Centrelink is required to give you a “Comprehensive Compliance Assessment” to determine why this has been happening. If you can bring medical certificates to this assessment, they will usually provide you with extra support, and may give you leniency around the amount of jobs that you need to apply for each week.

Link in with an agency

There are several agencies who can provide you with support, and help you find a workplace with an understanding of health and mental health issues. If they are aware you have a disability, some workplaces may also be able to offer you part time or modified work. This will give you valuable experience and some temporary extra income until you find the job you want.

What gets in the way of seeking help?

Paperwork and red tape

The best person to ask for help is Centrelink’s Community Engagement Officer. There is one in every major city, and in some regional centres as well. It’s their job to help people access the benefits that they are entitled to, and receive support through other agencies.

It may seem like a simple step, but just arranging a time with a friend to fill out paper work means that you are more likely to complete it. They can also provide help if you are experiencing fatigue or “brain fog” that day.

It's not always simple or easy

Unfortunately, it often takes several visits and phone calls to arrange for help, and it takes time. This can be extremely frustrating if you need help right now, or if it took a lot of effort just to pick up the phone.

Just knowing to expect that it will take a few tries can be helpful. It’s ok if it doesn’t get sorted out on the first appointment, or the second. Persistence is the key. Keep a written record of who you have spoken to, when you saw them, and what they told you to do to. Keep any forms you have filled out in a book or a folder, so that you have things with you when you need them.

Try to make phone calls when you are having a good day, so that you have the time and energy to deal with any frustration that you experience.

It’s ok to ask for help

In order to get help, you first need to recognise that you are someone who is living with a disability. Approximately one in five Australians suffer from a disability of some kind. Many of these are things that we don't always think of as a disability, like depression and anxiety, arthritis, poor eyesight, or back pain.

Disabilities don’t discriminate – you can be living with a disability even if you come from a nice family, have a good education, and are living entirely independently. If you are suffering from any kind of mental health issue or chronic illness, you still deserve help regardless of your socioeconomic status, gender, age or education level.

Helpful websites

People with Disabilities - A helpful list of agencies and other services for individuls living with a disability

Your Finances - The Bobby Goldsmith Foundation's financial information page

Food Services - A list of places where you can get free meals around Sydney, every day of the week

Financial Counselling - Free financial counselling from Financial Counselling Australia


Navigating the Mental Health System

Posted on December 1, 2011 at 12:40 AM Comments comments (0)

Navigating the Mental Health System

For the next little while I will be posting a series of articles to help you find your way around the mental health system. These will eventually be collected together into a "Navigating the Mental Health System" section for the website. Check back regularly for information on how to get the services that you need, and don't forget to email if there is a topic you would like to know about.

Part 1 - How do I get a referral to a psychologist?

As of the 1st of November 2011any individual who is experiencing mental health issues may be eligible for up to 10 sessions of treatment with a psychologist. These sessions are available over the calendar year (so, you could have 10 sessions any time from the 1st of January, 2012 until the 1st of January, 2013).

You will need a referral from a GP, psychiatrist or paediatrician. Most people choose to be referred via their GP. The referral your GP gives you is called a “Mental Health Care Plan”.

Some helpful things to remember

You can make it easier for yourself and your GP by calling before hand and confirming that they can provide a mental health care plan, and request a long appointment.

If you are requesting a referral to a specific psychologist, you will need the following information –

Name of Psychologist

Name of Practice

Address of Practice

Telephone Number

Medicare Provider Number

Registration Number

If you are unsure of any of these details, just ask the psychologist. They should be able to provide them to you, and maybe able to phone them through to your GP. If you don’t know who to see don’t worry, your GP should be able to provide you with a referral.

 What will happen in the appointment?

You GP will ask you a series of questions about your condition. They need to know about any changes to your mood, appetite and sleep. They will usually ask you about physical symptoms. Sometimes they will administer a brief questionnaire – this helps them get a better picture of what has been happening for you.

Sometimes when people are under stress they notice that they gamble more, drink more alcohol, or may use other substances to help themselves feel better. It is important to let your GP know if this has been happening so that they can refer you to the right person.

Your GP may also ask if you have been having any thoughts about hurting yourself, or about hurting anyone else –these are very normal thoughts when you are unwell or in a difficult situation. If this has been happening for you, it is important that you let your GP know so that they can provide you with extra support.

What then?

After you see your GP, you can contact your psychologist and make an appointment. It’s best to contact them as soon as possible as there is often a waiting list. If you are really struggling let them know – they may be able to help you find some alternative support until your first session.

If your psychologist bulk bills then you will not need to pay for your sessions. If they charge above the Medicare rebate, you will need to pay the full amount and then take the receipt to a Medicare office to be reimbursed.

Some practices can now reimburse you straightaway using new “Mediclear” software – ask your psychologist about “Mediclear” if this would be helpful for you.

Your psychologist will then be able to see you for 6 sessions. After the 6th session they will need to speak to your GP and decide if you are eligible for an additional 4 sessions.

Getting the most out of your referral

Some people find that they need more than10 sessions. While it is unlikely you will be able to access further sessions through your GP, there are ways that you can structure your appointments to get the most out of them.

You might space your initial sessions close together, and then space them out over time. You might choose to have your first sessions focus on helping you find employment or financial assistance. Or you might space your rebate sessions one month apart, and attend extra sessions in between when you can.

If you have private health insurance, contact your insurer – private health funds often provide cover for psychological services, and some of them run programs that can provide you with extra psychological support.

There are other services you may be elligble for

If you have multiple health issues, or your mental health issues are significantly impacting your physical health, you may be eligible for a referral to some other services such as -  

Aboriginal Health Worker



Diabetes Educator


Exercise Physiologist

Occupational Therapist




Speech Pathologist

If any issues such as pain, hearing loss, diabetes or weight gain/loss are making your mental health worse, you should consider asking your GP for a referral to one of these professionals as well.

Want to find out more?

“Better Access to Mental Health Care” is an initiative of the Department of Health and Ageing. You can find out more about it at the Department of Health and Ageing website.


A word on privilege

Posted on November 24, 2011 at 11:35 PM Comments comments (0)

The Impacts of Environment on Health

I'd like to take this opportunity to talk about one particular individual that has taught me a lot about environmental impacts on health - my axolotl Charlie.

Charlie has not had the best run in life - he had a hard time at the pet store when he was growing up, and for the first few years after coming to live with us he suffered from numerous health problems.

Whenever we would take him for treatment, the vet would immediately tell us to check the environment first. Are the water conditions right? Is there enough sunlight? Is Charlie being fed the right food? Only then, after we had ruled out everything in the environment that could be making Charlie sick, would the vet begin treatment.

What About Privilege?

Until recently, I thought I had a pretty good handle on what environmental factors could be making a person "sick" - are they exercising? Are they eating right? Are they living in a stressful household?

But then someone directed me to this article on privilege, and it served as an important reminder that there are many, many layers of environment to consider when you are dealing with problems with your mental health.

I've ummed and ahhed for a while about putting it on the site because privilege is not something that is generally talked about outside of activist circles. However, when you're talking about mental health, privilege is a very big deal.

There are two ways in which privilege can impact you if you have a mental health condition.

First, not having the privileges that many people take for granted (like being able to read and write, being able to drive a car or being able to speak english) makes it harder to get help.

Second, living in a society that is still not built to embrace difference means that if you fall outside of the norm in any way, you still need to deal with the stress of operating in a society that isn't built for your specific quirks.

Privilege effects us in other ways too - recent research has shown that being female, young, of lower education level and lower socioeconomic status are all risk factors for developing post traumatic stress disorder.

Acknowledging Privilege

What does this mean for you as someone struggling with mental health issues? Becoming aware of privilege can help you understand that your difficulty in dealing with your illness isn't your fault. Most likely, you live in a world that is just not designed for you - yet.

There is some good news - as society becomes more aware of mental health issues, the cultural environment is changing too. Take for example this company in Chicago - a computer company that is designed to help people with Asperger's Syndrome make the most of their strengths.

The next time you are struggling with something, take a different view. Ask yourself - what would my world look like if it were built for to make my life easier, rather than harder? Is there some way that I can change my environment to make it easier for myself? How can I put myself in an environment that plays to my strengths rather than my weaknesses?

If you are an employer or a friend of someone who is struggling, ask yourself - is there anything I can do to make this environment more inclusive? Are there any small changes that I could make that would really help this person?

Reframing your diversity as a unique and positive aspect of yourself will help you find ways to play to your strengths, rather than focusing on your weaknesses.