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The mental health impacts of domestic violence on children and why they need support


When we think of domestic violence, most of us think of a man abusing a woman. However, few of us think about the children witnessing or experiencing domestic violence and the repercussions this can have. This is known as vicarious trauma and those hearing, witnessing or being aware of impending domestic violence can often be unaware that they have been deeply affected.

Children deserve to grow up in a loving, nurturing environment without fear. Yet, many children are exposed to domestic violence in the home from a parent or step-parent. Research shows that one in four children in Australia are exposed to domestic violence. “It’s a staggering number and without help and support to resolve their trauma it can affect these children for the rest of their lives,” says Diane Young, senior therapist and trauma specialist at South Pacific Private

Witnessing violence as a child is extremely traumatic at the time, but the trauma can also raise the risk of depression and other mental health problems, new research has found. The study discovered that of children who were exposed to chronic parental domestic violence, 22.5 per cent had major depression at some point in their life, 15 per cent had an anxiety disorder and nearly 27 per cent had a substance abuse disorder.

“Whether physical, verbal or emotional, witnessing or experiencing domestic violence as a child is very traumatic and can impact someone’s life well into adulthood,” explains Young.

Children exposed to violence in the home during their developmental years are especially vulnerable. “It can lead to profound impacts on their physical, psychological and emotional health and wellbeing. It can also impact their brain development, socialisation skills, their sense of worth, how much fear and anxiety they live with, and of course, as a result, their self-esteem,” adds Young.

According to Young, children who witness or experience domestic violence may feel like they’re in a constant state of fight, flight, freeze, or fawn both as a young person and as an adult. “They may live in fear and/or develop anxiety. We also know that they are more likely to develop depression and abuse drugs – it’s a coping mechanism for the traumatic experience,” she adds. 

Young says that child survivors of domestic violence are also more likely to form trauma bonds years later. “These occur when a survivor bonds with someone who is destructive to them. Survivors, as a result of trauma bonding, unknowingly recreate relationships that continue the cycle.”

This is why it’s important to deal with the unresolved trauma from domestic violence by seeking professional help. Each child responds differently to trauma and domestic violence and every situation is different. Some children are more resilient, and some are more sensitive, but the long-term effects can be significant if the trauma is suppressed or ignored.

At South Pacific Private, we take a comprehensive and holistic approach to the treatment of trauma, recognising that it can often be a fundamental driver of unhealthy addictions, behaviours and mental health issues. We pride ourselves on being a trauma-informed facility that can help adults deal with childhood trauma and address the underlying causes of trauma bonding. In a safe environment, clients are gently guided to look at their histories and their family system, as well as any more recent traumatic events. This allows the client to investigate when and how the trauma has affected them. We then provide clients with useful tools and strategies to help manage the symptoms and to repair impacted relationships.

If you or someone you know needs help in addressing trauma, call us on 1800 063 332 or contact us here to see which of our programs are right for you.

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Do I need a digital detox?


Are you playing endless games on your computer or wasting hours scrolling on social media? 

Then you might be in need of a digital detox. ‘Detoxing’ from our digital devices - even just for a few days - can help us relax, recharge and focus on real-life interactions with our family and friends without distractions. In fact, research shows that a digital detox can improve our mental health.

The truth is technology has infiltrated our lives. At work and at home, we have become dependent on digital devices, and although they can improve our lives in countless ways, they can also negatively impact it. 

With this rise of technology, we have witnessed the introduction of new detrimental addictive behaviours - sometimes called internet addiction, screen addiction, device addiction, social media addiction, video gaming addiction or gaming disorder.

According to a study by Monash University, Australians have a problem with phone usage. Researchers surveyed 2838 Australians on their psychological attachment to their phone and usage habits. They found almost half of all participants (43.3 per cent) spent over three hours a day on their phone. The more they used their phone, the higher their level of nomophobia (no mobile phone phobia) and the greater their risk of problematic dependent, prohibited or dangerous usage. 

While technology addiction is not formally recognised as a disorder in the DSM-5, it is similar to other types of dependence and addiction, because it involves dopamine. Every scroll or swipe of the screen sends a hit of dopamine to the same areas of our brain that respond to addictive and illicit drugs.This is why for those in recovery from addiction to other substances or processes, technology addiction can often emerge as a secondary addiction. “Those in early recovery are often looking for healthy activities to fill the time they once spent using [technology],” says Tori Siggery, therapist at South Pacific Private. “However, it’s important to remember that it’s possible to replace one addiction with another, and technology is a common secondary addiction.” 

Is your digital use affecting your life?

There are several ways to determine if your digital device usage is a problem. Ask yourself:

  • Do you find that you lose hours at a time when on your phone or computer? 
  • Are you having difficulty sleeping and/or do you wake up in the night to check your phone? 
  • Do your family and/or friends comment or argue about your screen time? 
  • Do you look at your phone or device when you first wake up in the morning and before you go to sleep? 
  • Do you find yourself phone phubbing (the act of snubbing someone you're talking with in person in favour of your phone)?
  • Do you experience withdrawal symptoms when you’re not using the internet, technology or a device?
  • Do you experience feelings of dissatisfaction, anger, frustration or lack of productivity after online/digital behaviour?

Research shows that there is a connection between internet use and stress, depression and anxiety. Using a device just before bed can actually interfere with the quantity and quality of your sleep. Not only does the activity stimulate your brain, making it harder to switch off, but the screen’s artificial blue light suppresses melatonin, affecting your circadian rhythm. 

Switching off, on the other hand, has been shown to improve our mood. Staring at a screen also leaves you more at risk of headaches, migraines, neck pain, poor posture and vision problems. 

According to Tori, there are the benefits to unplugging from our wired world. “Taking a few days to switch off from all your devices and recharge can help, however it’s important after doing this ‘digital detox’ not to return to old behavioural patterns. Monitor your usage and put in place measures to limit the amount of screen time you have,” she says. “For example, don’t use or play on your phone during dinner time or for an hour before bed. Making small changes can drastically improve relationships, sleep and your mental health,” she adds.

Taking a break from your digital devices can free up your time, allowing you to reconnect with family and friends face-to-face. This can lead to more meaningful interactions and helps strengthen these important relationships. 

“At the end of the day, phones and other devices are here to stay, so it’s important to have a clear understanding of the risks attached to technology, and know the warning signs that you may have become overly dependent on it,” explains Tori. “If your work, school or relationships are becoming unmanageable because of social media, gaming, online gambling or general phone usage, it could be time to reach out for help.”

Seeking treatment 

At South Pacific Private, we’re committed to providing holistic treatment of both established and emerging addictions, disorders and mental health issues. We understand the toll that device, internet and gaming addiction can take on individuals and their relationships with family and friends. 

If your life and the lives of those closest to you are being negatively impacted by your use of technology, please call us on 1800 063 332 or contact us here to find out more about our programs.

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How to tell if you’re suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder


If you’re feeling flat or sad as the days get shorter and darker, you’re not alone.

Most people tend to feel a little lethargic and down during autumn and winter. However, you might be experiencing seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which affects how we feel, think and go about our daily activities. “SAD is one of the more hidden and less talked about mental health issues,” says Alyssa Lalor, Program Director at South Pacific Private. 

What is SAD? 

SAD is a mood disorder and this type of depression is related to how a person feels when there’s a change in seasons. “SAD usually develops in autumn and winter, but an influx of constant grey skies and torrential rain can of course impact our mental health,” explains Alyssa. 

According to Alyssa, symptoms can start out mild and get progressively worse as the season progresses. “The weather, environment and our surroundings can really impact our feelings, emotions and mood.” However, SAD tends to disappear during spring and summer when the weather is warmer and the sun is shining. 

Unfortunately we don’t know what exactly causes SAD, but experts believe that SAD may be caused by changes to the body’s circadian rhythms. Research has indicated that people experiencing SAD may have reduced neurotransmitter levels in the brain, such as serotonin, which helps regulate mood. Others believe that increased melatonin levels (melatonin is responsible for regulating sleep), can play a role, as can low vitamin D levels. 

The symptoms of SAD

Symptoms of SAD can include:

  • lack of energy and feeling tired all the time
  • difficulty in waking up in the morning
  • spending too much of the day sleeping
  • losing interest in normal activities
  • overeating and gaining weight

Understanding and coping with SAD

Alyssa says regular exercise, getting outside and making your home as light as possible can help. However, she says it’s important to be mindful that you might not just be feeling blue because of the weather. “If you notice these symptoms continue for more than two weeks and start to interfere with your daily routines, reach out to a trusted professional for help as you could be experiencing depression.”

The connection between SAD and Trauma 

For many who experience SAD, it can also be a trigger for past trauma, says Alyssa. “Your capacity to manage your emotions is lessened as you feel the darkness, and weight of depression seeping in – physically and mentally your reserves are down, so past traumas can start to once again bubble to the surface,” she explains.  

“To anyone who hasn’t lived with the symptoms of trauma, something as simple as a season change might not be that big of deal. However, for those of us who have lived experience of trauma – SAD as a trigger for trauma makes perfect sense.”  

Coping with SAD and Trauma 

  • Understanding the relationship with SAD and how it triggers your trauma is really a valuable step towards coping with it. Awareness is a gift to bring about change.  
  • Working with a trauma therapist who really understands this relationship and is willing to unravel your history together.   
  • Committing to change and new behaviours (adopting self-care practices) that are supporting and nourishing you in these colder, wetter, darker months of the year.

If you think you might be experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder, please call us on 1800 063 332 or contact us here to find out more about our programs.

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Why we’re at risk of replacing one addiction with another


It’s a well-worn assumption that once we enter rehab, we leave in recovery with our addictions completely conquered. If only life, recovery and the addiction cycle were this simple.

Many of those who have been through the doors of South Pacific Private more than once will attest to the fact that just because you’ve knocked one addiction on the head, it doesn’t mean you’re free. In fact, the evidence suggests that you’re highly likely to pick up a new addiction to replace your old one.

Tori Siggery, Inpatient Program Manager at South Pacific Private Hospital refers to this as the ‘Whack-a-Mole Effect’. You know that old carnival game where you whack the mole down with a mallet, only for another to pop up in its place? “It’s is the perfect analogy for what many people experience when they go into recovery for addiction for the first time” says Tori, “unfortunately, it’s often the reason people come back to rehab for second or third stints.”

For those who have experienced life in addiction, they likely know the feeling. When we stop drinking, we might start smoking. When we stop using drugs, we might start gambling. When we stop gambling, we may start excessively shopping. Each time we remove an addiction to a substance or process, we ultimately have an urge to substitute it with something else.

Why do our brains seek out substitutes?

When we’ve been living with an addiction, we’ve essentially trained our brains to crave. The further into the addiction we get, the harder it is for us to feel the natural release of dopamine we get out of life’s every day pleasurable experiences. Bit by bit our tolerance for a substance increases the more we use, as the high we seek becomes harder and harder to get. It happens quickly and it happens easily. But re-wiring or unlearning this pattern once we’re clean of a substance isn’t so simple. 

The symptoms of withdrawal from an addiction can be physically painful, and so it’s natural that our brains will seek out reprieve with something else that brings us pleasure as we slowly detox and bring our levels of dopamine back to normal, functional levels.

This is the danger zone, where many people transfer their past behaviour of addiction from one thing, to another in an attempt to remove the unpleasant feelings associated with sobering up.

How to avoid the Whack-a-Mole

Recovery from addiction is a long journey, and one that should be approached from a holistic perspective; addressing the past history or trauma that may have occurred in order for the addiction to take hold in the first place. By undertaking deep, self-analysis we often uncover parts of us that we didn’t know were holding us back in life, and it can be extremely liberating for many people to discover why they may have developed an addiction. This knowledge and self-awareness is often what reduces the shame and self-blame that people with addiction can experience. Tori’s advice? “Get some professional help. Whether it’s reaching out to your doctor, a therapist or attending an AA meeting, the more work you do on yourself, the more likely you are to address the underlying cause of addiction and stop the cycle of seeking out a high”.

There are some other things we can do to avoid addiction replacement as well. “It sounds simple, but it’s a good idea to try and replace your addiction with healthy things” says Tori. “Whether it’s yoga, surfing, writing, or meditating, find something else to fill that void and nourish yourself spiritually”. Otherwise says Tori, we run the risk of filling the void with something less than desirable, and re-entering the painful cycle of addiction. On certain ‘healthy’ habits, Tori warns “we do still need to be careful. It is possible to form an addiction to something traditionally perceived as good for us, such as exercise which when taken in excess can lead to detrimental health outcomes.” The same goes for clean, or healthy eating patterns which can quickly become disordered and develop into Orthorexia, which is an obsession with eating healthy food.

Finally, Tori says it’s also important to know your triggers. “When we’re triggered, we’re actually re-igniting that learned behaviour from our past addiction. It can be an incredibly powerful neurological response, and one that’s hard to respond to with reason and control.” But, Tori says, if we know what to look out for then we can avoid the triggers, or pre-plan our response to them. “Think back to when you were in your addiction, and what triggered you to act. Then, write it down” says Tori. A trigger may be as simple as a particular time of day (like a Friday afternoon or Saturday night) or it could be something specific, like a particular route home after work that takes you past the bottle shop. “Plan your triggers” says Tori “I can guarantee that they will surface from time to time, but if you’ve got strategies in place, your chance of addiction replacement or relapse goes down significantly”. 

If you’re replacing one addiction with another, reach out for help

At South Pacific Private we treat the entire addiction cycle and are committed to helping clients and their families achieve long-term, sustainable recovery. If you or someone you love is experiencing addiction replacement or relapse, reach out to our caring Intake Team for a free, confidential discussion about what help is available on 1800 063 332, or take an online assessment now.

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Relationships in recovery: Five FAQs about dating sober


If you're in recovery and feel that you might be ready to start dating again, read this first. 

Recovery (put in the very simplest of terms) is a new way of life. Recovery extends to everything we do, from the way we treat our bodies, to how we spend our time and (just as importantly) who we spend that time with. For those of us in recovery who feel ready to dip their toe into dating again, we may suddenly be faced with a whole new set of fears, and this can be confronting. 

Before coming into treatment, we may have soothed those dating-related nerves with substances, so how do we approach the pre-date jitters in this new, sober life? Here are five frequently asked questions Tori Siggery, Day Program Manager at South Pacific Private, gets about dating sober. 

I’m recently in recovery and thinking about dating again. How will I know that I am emotionally ready to start seeking out new relationships again? 

Dating in the world we live in today is a wild ride. Online dating has become the go-to platform to meet people, and with it a whole new set of problems and challenges to really connect with people in an authentic and caring way. 

For people in early recovery, discovering our readiness to seek new relationships is best explored with either a sponsor, therapist or close peers. Often we want to jump into relationships too early because we feel lonely, want to change the way we feel or the pressure of getting on with our lives. Here are some questions to ask yourself that may help you know whether you’re ready or not:

  • Can my recovery withhold a rejection and a feeling of abandonment? 
  • Do I have a solid support system yet? Can it support me when and if I’m feeling overwhelmed with emotion?
  • What are my boundaries like and do I feel as though I can still do my recovery work and be in a relationship at the same time? 
  • Emotional recovery takes time and patience. Am I rushing it?

My date wants to meet somewhere where alcohol will be served. I don’t think I can avoid bars/restaurants forever, so how do I navigate these triggering environments?

It’s true. We may not be able to avoid venues like this forever but we can avoid them for as long as we need to. 

Sober dating is not just for the person in substance addiction but also for process addictions such as sex and love addiction. For both, meet in a public place where there are as little triggers as possible.

Coffee or lunch dates, walks etc. are great first date options, supporting us to hold our boundaries with alcohol or substances, and to take things slowly on the physical intimacy side of things. 

I don’t want to scare the person off early on, but I also want to be honest about who I am. Do I need to tell my date why I am not going to be drinking? And if so, when is the right time to bring it up?

There is no right or wrong time to have this conversation. Many people in recovery (including myself) bring it up pretty quickly, but others take their time. It’s a personal choice.

While we don’t need to tell the person our life story or 4th step on the first date, it can be helpful to let people know up front that you don’t drink. 

It’s best if we keep things as honest as possible, without using fabrications to cover our tracks. Making up a cover story (for example being ‘on a cleanse’) means we set ourselves up to continue being dishonest. We’ll eventually have to tell the truth, or end up having a drink. 

How do I deal with the fear that I won’t be as confident, funny or likeable if I don’t have a drink?  

Practice, practice, practice. 

If this is a fear (and for many, it’s a common one) my suggestion is to go out with recovery friends. This is how we can re-learn how to have fun and be ourselves. In my experience it’s the table of recovering addicts/alcoholics who are the funniest, most authentic and likeable in the restaurant. 

Living sober takes some getting used to and this is why it’s suggested to take it slow, and avoid starting new relationships too early in recovery. 

I used to relax into conversations with new people over a drink. How can I go on a date, and settle the nerves sober? 

Dating without alcohol is no doubt a different experience and it may take longer to relax into conversations and be comfortable in our own skin again. On the flip side of that we will most likely not experience the after effects of our behaviour when we have been drinking and either said or done more than we would have liked too. 

Getting sober and staying sober is an ongoing journey. If you feel you need some additional support with your recovery, get in touch with our caring intake team today for a free and confidential assessment by phoning 1800 063 332, or emailing us here

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Family support is important for addiction recovery


Our relationship to our family system can often be complicated, strained or damaged, especially for those of us battling addiction. When we enter rehabilitation and begin our recovery journey, it’s crucial to have the support and love from those dearest to us.

Our relationship to our family system can often be complicated, strained or damaged, especially for those of us battling addiction. When we enter rehabilitation and begin our recovery journey, it’s crucial to have the support and love from those dearest to us. 

As humans, we thrive on connection with loved ones. Maintaining healthy connections with our family throughout our recovery will give us the greatest chance of success. 

It’s important to understand that every recovery journey is different, as is every family network – whether it be our biological family or chosen family of friends and mentors. Navigating family dynamics can be tricky when relationships are strained, communication is lost or trust has been eroded. Our family members may be feeling hurt, helpless, frustrated, overwhelmed, manipulated, burnt out or isolated from us as we battle our addiction. It can take time and patience for our family to be ready to heal. However, support from loved ones is a critical part in our rehabilitation - it can make all the difference to us as we attempt to begin a new chapter and repair our lives.

According to therapist Leanne Schubert from South Pacific Private, many clients in recovery cite the pain and hurt associated with family relationship breakdowns as a leading trigger for relapse. “This is just one of the many reasons we involve the family in recovery at South Pacific Private,” she says. “It can be a complex process and a difficult path to walk - most people don’t know how to best support a loved one on their journey to recovery.”

She says that both clients and their families often need guidance on communication and boundary setting skills, as well as support in their own journey of healing. “Honesty and compassion are key in supporting a loved one in addiction recovery. Family members are often drawn into behaving in ways and doing things that they are uncomfortable with. They might also be unwittingly enabling the addiction by accepting excuses, justifying someone’s dysfunctional behaviour or lending their loved one money to get them out of trouble. Although it often comes from a place of love and care, it allows the addiction to continue.”

Leanne says that for clients with substance addiction, the family may have to undergo some lifestyle changes to maintain a supportive environment that reduces temptation. Other families might be asked to assist with treatment plans and take their loved ones to appointments to deal with ongoing health issues. 

At South Pacific Private, many clients and their families attend the three-day family program. “We encourage families to be functional by sharing how they feel - without anger or casting blame. This helps build intimacy and strengthens relationships. We want families to be supportive and the client to be successful in recovery,” says Leanne. 

South Pacific Private is Australia’s only hospital to integrate a dedicated Family Program within recovery treatment. Our range of workshops and programs dedicated to families, friends and partners are designed to equip everyone with the tools and strategies necessary to set clear and effective boundaries, communicate effectively, deal with unresolved trauma and care for one's own mental health.

If you are concerned about your own, or a family member’s mental health, support is available. Get in touch with our caring intake team today for a free and confidential assessment by phoning 1800 063 332, or emailing us here

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Can excessive gaming lead to problem gambling?


As parents everywhere endure a love/hate relationship with screen time, researchers have identified links between excessive gaming and problematic gambling.  

During the lockdown and home schooling days of 2020 and 2021, many of us found reprieve with iPads, iPhones, gaming consoles; anything to help us get that bit of work done or bust the monotony of being isolated at home. And, in ordinary times, screen time is a saviour for many of us trying to balance work/life or simply for enduring a long road trip with the kids!

However, you might have noticed screen time actually becomes less effective the more a child is given. You may even see some behavioural changes or concentration issues after a few too many hours spent buried in a game.

If you’ve joked with your partner or friends that your child seems addicted to their device, it’s quite possible that they are. This is because games are designed to be immersive, and keep the player engaged.

For children with no family history of addiction and a stable upbringing, odds are that addictive tendencies towards games mightn’t progress further and impact their adult lives. But, for those with a family/genetic history of addiction, we know that there is an increased chance of them developing addictive behaviours. The environment we grow up in turns genes on or off. This is known as epigenetics. Rudimentary studies show some subgroups of gamers may be susceptible to developing gambling problems later on (Molde et al, 2019). While it's important to note that problematic gamers do not always develop a gambling addiction, there are links that we need to be aware of.

The similarities between gaming disorder and pathological gambling

We already have extensive evidence from neuroscience studies that gambling behaviour impacts the reward-system area of the brain of a gambling addict in the same way that a substance affects people with an alcohol or drug addiction by releasing the production of neurotransmitters triggering pleasurable feelings.

Researchers have now undertaken Functional Neuroimaging Studies in people who have Gaming Disorder and the results are worrying, showing similar correlates between the neurobiological activity in the brains of people with gambling disorder. Fauth-Buhler & Mann (2015) found these correlates to be connected with the impact on the reward-based learning centre of the brain, as well as heightened reactivity to gaming cues, impulsivity of choice behaviours and a decrease in the sensitivity to losses.

How game designers take inspiration from gambling  

There are many games out there now for young children and teenagers that mimic gambling, with gambling-like elements that may make gambling feel normal for children when they eventually become exposed to it. Researchers at the University of Plymouth and Wolverhampton support this, showing that some games are psychologically and structurally like gambling. For example, 'loot boxes' are a feature of some online games. These are opened using real money as incentives (depending on the game) for extra rewards, such as weapons or cosmetics. The research stated that players are sent reminders that they can access ‘limited time’ items in the loot box, potentially triggering fear of missing out on the item. 

The neuroscience behind process addictions like gambling

Addiction research shows us that the mesolimbic dopamine pathway (the reward reinforcement centre in the brain) deals with reward. Pleasurable feelings are released when the reward centre has been activated. This can reinforce motivation and learning – which are also parts of the mesolimbic pathway. In essence, people tend to be motivated to do more of what gives them pleasure.

Why gaming needs to be carefully supervised

Common to all addictions, both process and substance, is the psychological distress caused by the consequences of the addiction. This is what often brings people to treatment in their adult years. Addictions impact people’s motivation and mood and can include depression, feelings of remorse, guilt or shame. Left untreated these feelings can get worse over time as the addiction progresses. The person may use more of the substance or process to avoid these feelings. 

For parents, avoiding games completely seems (and likely is going to be) impossible. Even for the most stringent families, much of the homework provided by schools takes the form of apps designed to teach reading, maths or sounds in an engaging game format. So what can we do to minimise the risk of developing problematic gaming or gambling behaviours?

Signs to look out for to mitigate excessive gaming / problematic gambling

  • Excessive use of video games or other online/digital experiences
  • Hours going by without eating, sleeping or connecting with loved ones.
  • Feelings of dissatisfaction, anger, frustration or lack of productivity after gaming
  • Lying about, or hiding how much time is spent gaming
  • Insomnia, tiredness or disrupted sleeping patterns following gaming
  • Conflict with family or friends about excessive gaming

How to have a conversation about gambling with your children

Gambling was once accessible only to adults, confined to the dark walls and flashing lights of ‘pokie rooms’ in pubs and clubs. But with technology, has come increased accessibility, and a child may not understand the site they’re visiting or game they’re playing may be potentially dangerous to them.

The Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation says that having a conversation with your kids about gambling, is now just as important as talking about alcohol use or safe sex.

While it can be hard to explain the perils of gambling to a young child who may not understand the value of money, you can liken it to items of value they understand (such as a favourite toy) to explain it in the simplest of terms.

For older children and teens, you can begin to explain how certain games have been designed to make them play more and spend more. You can outline some of the reasons why gambling is problematic both online and in the physical world too.

By using parental controls on your child’s devices, you will encourage conversations about which games are being downloaded, and you give yourself the chance to assess particular games, before your child starts playing them.

Finally, creating an environment that encourages safe expression of thoughts and emotions, and teaches healthy emotional regulation skills when the inevitable stressors of life hit us, as we all experienced during the pandemic- can contribute to mitigating escalation of problematic behaviours.

If you’re concerned about gaming or gambling, schedule a free, confidential, professional phone assessment, by calling our team seven days a week on 1800 063 332.



Fauth-Bühler, M., & Mann, K. (2015). Neurobiological correlates of Internet gaming disorder: Similarities to pathological gambling. Addictive Behaviors, 64, 349–356. doi:10.1016/j. addbeh.2015.11.004

Molde, H; Holmoy, B; Garvik Merkesdal; Torsheim, T; Mentzoni, R; Hanns, D; Sagoe, D & Pallesen, S. (2019). Are Video Games a Gateway to Gambling? A Longitudinal Study Based on a Representative Norwegian Sample. Journal of Gambling Studies, 35(2):545-557. doi: 10.1007/s10899-018-9781-z. problem-gaming 

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Substance misuse, abuse and addiction

For many of us, it can be extremely difficult to admit and accept that we have a substance addiction or are misusing or abusing.

People use substances for a number of reasons - to have fun, relax, escape pain and difficulties in their life, and enjoy social times. However, substance misuse, abuse and addiction does not discriminate - it affects people from all walks of life. In fact, around 1 in 20 Australians has an addiction or substance abuse problem.

Whether you or a loved one are abusing drugs or another substance, feelings of loneliness, fear, shame and anger can at times feel inescapable. At South Pacific Private, we offer professional help and support for those struggling with substance abuse, misuse and addiction. 

What is substance misuse, abuse and addiction? 

Substance misuse or abuse involves consuming too much alcohol, tobacco or using drugs. We lose our ability to control. The misuse or abuse of drugs and other substances can quickly spiral into dependence and an addiction, and have negative and lasting effects on the individual and their family.

Substances can be classified into seven main categories - nicotine, alcohol, cannabinoids, opioids, depressants, stimulants and hallucinogens. Depending on the substance - some are highly addictive - the problem can swiftly escalate in both the frequency and intensity as our bodies develop neurological, psychological and physical dependence.

Signs to look out for:

There are many signs that may indicate that you or your loved one are struggling with substance abuse or addiction. They include: 

  • Withdrawing from family, friends and life activities that you usually enjoy.
  • Behavioural changes - feeling agitated, conflicts with family or friends, stealing, violence towards others. 
  • Feeling depressed, anxious or paranoid. 
  • Constantly thinking about a substance - drugs or alcohol - and not being able to stop taking it. 
  • Finding that you’re unable to meet your usual responsibilities - not being able to get to work on time or drop children off to school. 
  • Experiencing cravings or urges to use the substance and symptoms of withdrawal.
  • Continuing to use the substance, despite negative consequences.

Seeking help

If you’re struggling to stop the misuse of prescription medications, illegal drugs, alcohol or tobacco, you’re not alone. At South Pacific Private, we recognise that substance abuse and drug addiction can be devastating for both an individual and their family. It can destroy lives, fracture families and risk serious health impacts, including overdose, which is why it’s important to seek professional help to end the cycle. 

As an accredited private hospital we offer onsite, medically-supervised withdrawal and detoxification options. We understand that each case of substance abuse or addiction is unique, with its own set of symptoms, drivers and underlying causes. Our recovery program is based on the proven 12-step principles and includes a fully supported transition phase toward ongoing, long-term recovery support. 

If you or someone you know is experiencing substance abuse or addiction, please call us on 1800 063 332 or contact us here to find out more about our programs.

Online Self Assessments

Learn more about key indicators of addiction, trauma and mental health conditions by taking an assessment for yourself, or on behalf of a loved-one.

Seeking Help Addictions Alcohol Addiction and Abuse Drug & Substance Abuse Dual Diagnosis Family, Friends and Partners Mental Health Recovery and the 12 Steps Rehab Well-being

What Ukraine can teach us about minimising our trauma


“At least you’re not in Ukraine, right?”

Sound familiar?

You might have said this to yourself in days gone by, because what happened to you couldn’t be nearly as bad as what you’re seeing on the news. Or maybe your heard yourself saying it out loud to a friend; because their problem can’t possibly measure up to the experience of what you’re seeing others have to go through at the moment.

This mentality of minimising ours or another’s experience in favour of another’s worse experience is not a new phenomenon. Responding to people who disclose to you that they are struggling with trauma by responding with phrases such as “it could be worse” or “just focus on what you do have” are common ways we minimise our own, and others feelings.

When we’re uncomfortable, we minimise

It’s an understandable position that some might take – and one that often comes from a place of deep empathy. With so much terror and violence devastating the lives of innocent Ukrainians, how could we possibly be depressed? We live in Australia where we are extremely fortunate that our homes aren’t under enemy attack as we sleep. But in the throes of trauma, addiction, depression and anxiety, this viewpoint isn’t helpful. Comparing one’s problems to what’s happening somewhere else in the world won’t give clarity to someone living with mental illness. It makes things muddy, murky and minimising.

The other reason we minimise ourselves and others feelings comes down to a simple lack of understanding of trauma and how to respond when someone discloses they’re in pain. “Often a person who has disclosed a traumatic event, whether a recent event or a long time ago, wants to be heard,” says Di Young, senior psychotherapist at South Pacific Private. “It takes courage to tell their story. They will hope that you can sit with their pain, though many unfortunately can’t.”

Unless you work in a mental health role, it’s unlikely that having someone disclose trauma or mental illness to you is something you’re used to. So when we’re put into an uncomfortable situation like this, our instinctual way of responding may be off. This is where minimising someone’s experience (as a way of avoiding our own distress and discomfort) often comes into the conversation.

Many of us are naturally inclined to try and fix things, which can trigger minimising responses as well. But holding back and just sitting in the moment with the person can be difficult. “When someone tells you something significant about a traumatic experience, what they don’t need is advice-giving,” Young says. Even if it's because we're genuinely trying to help, it can often come off as judgmental or minimisation if we offer unprompted advice like “have you tried this?” or “why don’t you do that?”

Instead, Di says, we should take a moment to acknowledge the enormous trust placed in us by the person who has made the disclosure. The person sharing their trauma is often looking for validation and empathy, Di says. “They need you to listen and empathise, they need unconditional support and love."

Understanding and acknowledging mental illness

The danger in minimising your own, or someone else’s feelings is that it compounds the shame and self-doubt that is often at the core of someone’s trauma, addiction or mental illness. But the fact that people elsewhere are suffering abhorrent violence, poverty or natural disaster, doesn’t erase a person’s history. It doesn’t make our own experiences less painful, or less important.

When we minimise someone’s feelings by pointing out how others are far worse off, it can actually be very damaging. Reactions like this are dismissive of a person’s pain, and suggest that they are to blame, and in control of their struggles or past history of trauma. By promoting this sense of shame and failure onto someone, the likelihood of them reaching out for professional help, plummets.

Phrases that minimise someone’s experience:

  • ‘There are people going through a lot worse’
  • ‘Maybe just try and snap out of it?’
  • ‘It can’t be that bad can it?’
  • ‘Try and focus on the good’
  • ‘Remember how fortunate you are’
  • ‘Find something to take your mind off it’
  • ‘But you’ve got so much to be thankful for’

Responses that acknowledge and validates someone’s experience:

  • ‘It must have taken tremendous courage to share this with me’
  • ‘I want you to know I deeply respect the trust you've placed in me by sharing this’
  • ‘Thank you for trusting me with this’
  • ‘I'm so sorry you had to experience that’
  • ‘You didn't deserve that, and you deserve support now’
  • ‘I want you to know you're not alone’
  • ‘You did what you had to do to survive’

Putting your pain into perspective

A wide range of experiences have the capacity to inflict long-term trauma, from sudden, life-threatening events to longer-term, ongoing traumatic experiences, such as recurring abuse or parental neglect. However, any situation that leaves us feeling overwhelmed, desperate and isolated can result in trauma. Trauma, addiction and mental illness are not a choice, which is why looking at these issues comparatively to devastating world events, simply doesn’t help.

Remember, no matter what is happening in the news, it’s always a good time to reach out for help if you’re struggling. If you’re concerned about a loved-one, or yourself, you can learn more here, or call us on 1800 063 332.

Online Self Assessments

Learn more about key indicators of addiction, trauma and mental health conditions by taking an assessment for yourself, or on behalf of a loved-one.

Seeking Help Addictions Alcohol Addiction and Abuse Drug & Substance Abuse Dual Diagnosis Family, Friends and Partners Mental Health Recovery and the 12 Steps Rehab Well-being

Why continuing care at Beachwood creates better recovery outcomes


Leaving an inpatient program is a big moment; you’ve spent weeks in a new environment, with no outside distractions and you’ve given yourself time to really focus on healing and recovering.

It’s understandable that many people wonder how they’ll cope when they walk out the doors, and whether the skills and new perspectives gained during their program will be easily applied to their ‘real lives’. 

What’s important to acknowledge is that recovery doesn’t finish when you leave South Pacific Private. While some are excited to get home, see friends and family and find their new normal, others may feel apprehensive, and need a way to ease back into independence. Because when we’ve spent long periods of life in a state of dysfunction, finally feeling a sense of normality can be an overwhelming, and unfamiliar territory. The Continuing Care team at South Pacific works with you before discharge to address all aspects of this to prepare you for your departure.

These include:

  • Identifying what you've taken away from their time at SPP. Have they got all the tools they need to thrive?
  • Where you will be living, and who you will be living with. Will this environment be conducive to sobriety?
  •  Identifying what stressors exist for you. What are the major factors at play when you are feeling triggered?
  • Which strategies and self-care they will you utilise after discharge. Do you have systems in place to support your own self-care?
  • Planning your 12 step strategy. Which meetings will you attend and how often?
  •  Identifying if there is a supportive family member available, and whether they will be helpful to undertake the Family Program with.
  • Guiding you through the available support for your ongoing recovery, either through Day Programs or a stay at Beachwood Recovery House.

When entering recovery, it’s very important to address, plan and maintain the above considerations. With these support systems in place, our client’s recovery outcomes are much better.

This is the reason that Beachwood Recovery House exists. A residential sober living facility, right next door to South Pacific Private, that provides residents with ongoing support and guidance during the early days of their recovery, Beachwood is staffed by support workers 24 hours a day. 

The team at Beachwood looks at recovery holistically, bringing together healthy living, spirituality, therapeutic programs, continuing recovery planning, relapse prevention and community peer support. Located close to the beach, Beachwood gives clients the freedom to come and go, enjoy walks on the beach and healthy, nutritionally-balanced meals.

Research shows that clients that spend more time in supported recovery have better outcomes and lower chance of relapse. A residential sober living facility, Beachwood helps to prevent clients from slipping into old behaviours after attending the in-patient program. This is an important step in recovery as according to psychiatrist, Dr Anna Lembke, it takes on average, 30 days to reset the dopamine system and break behavioural patterns

Beachwood also gives clients the chance to continue to grow and develop their skills, engage in group therapy and embed the tools they have learnt at inpatient to support their recovery journey. “A further two weeks at Beachwood provides a therapeutic space, whilst allowing clients to go to their day program and go out without supervision,” says Diane Young, senior therapist at South Pacific Private. “It is a gentle, gentle approach, which allows the client to integrate their learnings with the reality of their lives.

“This gives them the opportunity to take small steps into their new lives, whilst being able to come home to Beachwood and continue to have additional support early in their recovery. Whilst in Beachwood clients often attend our Transitions Day Program which further enhances their knowledge and experience of their new lives.”

Who is Beachwood suitable for?

  • Those who have completed the South Pacific Private inpatient program
  • Those who have completed an inpatient treatment program in another treatment centre and require emotional support as they take their first steps into their new life
  • Those who are sober/abstinent from their addiction and require extra support

Program Snapshot

Attendance of our range of South Pacific Private Day Programs individually recommended by the clinical team, and includes:

  • Daily attendance of local 12-step meetings and support groups
  • Peer group community meetings each morning and evening
  • Daily exercise and mindfulness activities
  • 1:1 support worker meetings with a Beachwood Supported Living Support Worker
  • Optional art therapy on Sundays
  • House curfew is between 10pm – 6am daily
  • This accommodation includes all board, meals and some services.

For a free, private and confidential discussion about whether you may benefit from a residential stay at Beachwood Supported Living, please phone us on 1800 063 332 or email us to find out more.

Healthcare professionals can also refer a client into Beachwood Supported Living.

Online Self Assessments

Learn more about key indicators of addiction, trauma and mental health conditions by taking an assessment for yourself, or on behalf of a loved-one.