June 22, 2010

So you know someone who self-injures

So you've just found out that your child, your pupil, your grandchild or your friend hurts themselves. I am guessing you feel shocked, upset, guilty or angered by this, which are very natural reactions, but what do you do now that you know? How should you approach them? Should you approach them?

In short, now what?

Firstly, it is important to remember that this is not your fault, they are not crazy, they are not seeking your attention and that they are in some degree of emotional pain or turmoil which has manifested in self-injury. They are still the same person you have always known and loved, they are just coping with a problem in a way that might not appear to be very helpful to you, and it is not your fault!

Now that you've processed this information, you need to know what to do, and what not to do. It might take some trial and error to understand which is right and which is wrong for the individual you are dealing with because we are all individuals, and we all hurt ourselves for different reasons and in different ways. The only way to figure that out is to communicate with the person, but for now here is a list of things to do and things not to do!

  • Talk about self-injury with the person, but don't press them for information. Be non-judgemental and let them know that you are there to talk to if they need to discuss this, or anything else, with you. Self-injury is a behaviour that is often very secretive, and the person may feel ashamed about the fact that they hurt themselves, so understandably it might be something that is difficult for them to talk about at first. Just be patient, supportive and do not display any hint of behaviour that may portray you as being judgemental of their self-injury.
  • Do not ask the person to stop self-injurying and do not issue ultimatums. They are very distressing to the person because they feel that their self-injury is often the only thing they can do to cope with their own distress. If you force them to stop self-injurying, they will become even more withdrawn and secretive, and often very afraid that if they do not stop self-injuring you will not love them any more.
  • Do talk to a counsellor about your own feelings and reactions. It is important for anyone in this situation to receive some kind of "self-care" to look after their own wellbeing and mental health. Do not be afraid to seek help for yourself. Caring for someone who self-injures can be very distressing and emotional, and it is important to take care of yourself. You are number one. Always.
These are only three things that you can do, but there are many more. You can read more about how to support a loved one who self-injurers at this website which is a valuable resource for anyone who is affected by self-injury, and also has a very active forum where you can go to ask advice on any aspect of self-injury. A "real-life" counsellor or therapist will also be able to give you some information about how to approach a situation like this.

June 21, 2010

Top Australian Mental Health Advisor Quits

Here is some important news for my Australian readers regarding the state of mental health in the eyes of the Rudd government.

PRIME Minister Kevin Rudd's top mental health adviser has quit, accusing the Government of a lack of vision and commitment to a problem that affects millions of Australians. National Advisory Council on Mental Health chairman John Mendoza tendered his resignation yesterday in a letter to Health Minister Nicola Roxon and council members.

In the letter, obtained by Fairfax newspapers, he said he had regarded his appointment as the "most important public service responsibility of my life" and felt a "deep sense of disappointment" in quitting.

"It is now abundantly clear that there is no vision or commitment from the Rudd Government to mental health," he wrote. "The Rudd Government is publicly claiming credit for the increased investment in mental health when almost all of this is a consequence of the work of the Howard Government."

Professor Mendoza's resignation came as leaked figures revealed the expansion of the Better Access program, which provides rebates under Medicare for services such as general practitioner mental health plans and visits to psychologists.

Most experts on the advisory council believe the program is sucking money from where it is needed - on services for growing numbers of mentally unwell young people - and that it is shutting out men, the poor and rural Australians.

Professor Mendoza described the program as "a mess" that should be overhauled into taxpayer-funded teams of psychologists and other professionals, such as mental health nurses and social workers.

Today, through a spokesman, Ms Roxon thanked Professor Mendoza for his service and agreed that more needed to be done.

"However, the Minister rejects Mr Mendoza's assertion that the Government has no commitment to mental health." Source: http://www.news.com.au/breaking-news/prime-minister-kevin-rudds-top-mental-health-adviser-john-mendoza-quits/story-e6frfku0-1225881829753

Here is another Australian news article focusing on Greens Senator Siewert's thoughts of the resignation of John Mendoza and the state of mental health services and funding.

THE resignation of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's top mental health advisor has prompted calls for an extra $5bn to be committed to this 'neglected' problem. Greens senator and health spokeswoman Rachel Siewert says the resignation of National Advisory Council on Mental Health chairman John Mendoza is indicative of the "tokenistic" approach the federal government has taken on a problem affecting millions of Australians.
Mr Mendoza quit on Friday, after accusing the federal government of a lack of vision and commitment.
Just $175 million was allocated to new funding for mental health in last month's $7.2 billion federal health budget.
In his resignation letter to federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon and fellow council members, Professor Mendoza said the federal government was trying to take credit for Howard-era spending on mental health.