Figures for the 20-21 reporting period (released in March 2022) by the World health Organization (WHO) indicate that mental health disorders increased by 25% on the previous 12-month reporting period. To understand what that means, a natural disaster often results in a 10% rise in the affected area. That 25% increase wasn’t evenly distributed across all sectors of the global population, either: young people and women were over-represented in the data.

The same WHO brief highlighted the impact of social isolation particularly: the connectedness we lost when our ability to work, see loved ones and engage with our communities was (necessarily) restricted. Other pandemic-related factors driving that result included grief and loss, fear of infection and financial worries. For our health workers particularly, exhaustion was a major contributing factor.

Back home in Australia, the 2021 Mental Health and Wellbeing study (MWHS, published 2022) indicated that:

  • One in five people (21.5%) in the community had a mental health disorder in the last 12 months.
  • Anxiety accounted for four out of five (78.6%) of disorders reported in that time.
  • Young people were doing it tough here, too: in the 16-24 age group almost 40% had an anxious disorder in the 2020-2021 year.
  • Around 4% of our population had a depressive episode or disorder diagnosis.

So, we really are seeing more need, meaning you really are not alone and it’s OK to seek help.

Fortunately there are established, proven treatments for both anxiety and depression.

Recognising anxiety

Anxiety is essentially our fear response system – the fight/ flight/ freeze system – being over-activated even when there are no threats. You can find information on anxiety at Beyond Blue, Black Dog and Headspace including online assessment and common symptoms.

What can you do right now to start feeling better?

  • Book some sessions with a (qualified, reputable) therapist or counsellor. The counsellors, psychotherapists and provisional psychologists at Soothing Minds can certainly assist.
  • Learn some breathing techniques and/ or relaxation techniques like progressive muscle relaxation. This helps to reduce physical fear responses and often can reduce worry thoughts sufficiently to allow you mental space to ‘regroup’. Check it out on YouTube.
  • Get in touch with nature. Research shows that connecting to nature is integral to our mental well-being and is best when done purposefully – not just racing through it.
  • Keep a journal. Having somewhere to record your thoughts and feelings that you can come back to later is really helpful. Putting our thoughts into words can be empowering and healing.
  • Talk to someone. Talk to a friend, a family member, a colleague, a helpline, a counsellor or your GP. Talk to us here at Soothing Minds and be heard.
  • Plan some social outings. You may not feel ready to dress up to go out, but you could go and visit with family and friends. Isolation is easy, but bad for us.
  • Talk to your GP.
Recognising depression

We all feel sad or down at times. Depression is when that feeling does not pass. Once again websites such as Beyond Blue, Black Dog and Headspace have information on symptoms and provide online assessments.

What can you do right now to start feeling better?

  • Book some sessions directly with a (qualified, reputable) therapist or counsellor. The counsellors, psychotherapists and provisional psychologists at Soothing Minds can certainly assist.
  • Increase your physical activity – now! 20 minutes of exercise can release a 2-hour supply of dopamine, the ‘feel good’ hormone. Do anything that raises your heart rate – jog on the treadmill, ride a bike, bounce on the trampoline, do some Pilates, walk on the beach, play tennis, kick a ball, walk the dog… just make sure you do it now, not ‘when you feel better’.
  • Do more things you enjoy. Take up your old hobbies again or listen to music which inspires or calms you. Read a book. Create or draw. Cook up a storm… The possibilities are endless.
  • Reach out. Connectedness is a major factor in our wellbeing. If you feel comfortable talking to friends or family, do that. Otherwise, there are support lines provided at the end of this article.
  • But mindfully – choose what you will do and schedule at a certain time (like a bubble bath or tai chi class) or make time every day for minibreaks: pat or cuddle with your pet, turn all the devices off and read a book chapter, try meditation or progressive muscle relaxation. You just need a few minutes in which you set all the demands, worries and daily chaos aside.
  • Notice one positive thing, every day. Change your thinking style. They don’t have to be profound; notice the sunlight on a tree, a dog running or the laughter of kids in a playground – anything that reminds you of good things or makes you feel good.
  • Talk to your GP.

It’s been a tough few years but you are definitely not alone; the professionals at Soothing Minds are here to support you, too.

 Please note the following helplines are provided for all stages of care – they are not ‘crisis only’ and you are not using up resources by calling them. Early intervention works best.

  • Beyond Blue 1300 22 46 36 (webchat also available under Support Services)
  • Lifeline 13 11 44
  • Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800
  • MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78
  • Suicide Callback Service 1300 659 467

Information collated from:

Australian Bureau of Statistics:

National Health service UK:

World Health Organisation (media releases):

Post-pandemic mental health disorders have risen. We’re here to help.

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