Categories
Mental Health

How To Transition Out of Lockdown


The transition out of lockdown might not be as easy as expected

Many of us feel a sense of urgency to pick up our normal lifestyle when lockdowns are finally lifted. After all, it gives us the opportunity to see family and friends, resume sporting activities and get back to work. However, for many others experiencing anxiety and depression, transitioning out of lockdown can be a tough experience and re-adjusting can impact our mental health.

According to Dr Ashwini Padhi, a psychiatrist at South Pacific Private, lockdown has challenged and affected each of us in different ways and because of this, we should try and avoid comparing ourselves to others and what they’re doing when restrictions ease. “Many of us have gone into survival mode over the past few months. Lockdown has taken a toll on many of us – a lack of social interaction, coupled with the pressure of juggling household chores, working remotely and childcare, has left us feeling physically drained and emotionally depleted,” he says. “It’s completely normal to feel uncertain, apprehensive or anxious about what the future may or may not hold for us.”

Here are some actionable tips to help you prepare yourself for the transition out of lockdown:

Avoid comparing yourself to others 

Dr Padhi says many of us are eager to return to a more normal way of life, but the reality of transitioning from months locked in our home to a packed social calendar can be overwhelming. He says there’s no need to quickly return to your pre-lockdown social schedule. “Many still feel fearful of the virus and might be hesitant to fill up our social calendars with pre-lockdown activities. It’s okay to say ‘no’ if you need to transition out of lockdown at a slower pace,” he says. “If you don’t feel comfortable, it’s important to resist the pressure from others.”

Take your time to return to work if you can

Many of us will be navigating hybrid working conditions and might be required to return to the office a few days a week. Dr Padhi says that for many of us our homes were “a safe haven”, a place of safety and stepping out of our comfort zone can be anxiety provoking. “Prior to the pandemic many of us were already stressed with our working conditions and having to renegotiate the same challenges after a long break can instil self doubt, dent our confidence and evoke fear,” he explains. “It is okay to ease in gradually into work and pace ourselves, instead of expecting to get right on top of everything from day one.” Everyone’s circumstances are unique, and Dr Padhi suggests that those of us who feel incredibly stressed about the prospect of returning to work should discuss with our manager for reasonable adjustments and/or a period of flexible working before returning to office full time.

Maintain exercise and healthy eating habits

Dr Padhi also suggests continuing healthy eating habits and exercise. He says eating well and spending just 30 minutes walking outside a day can dramatically improve our mental health. “Eating a healthy balanced diet enhances our overall sense of wellbeing and is key to good mental health,” he explains. “Getting into the habit of eating a balanced diet can boost our body’s immune system and ability to prevent, fight and recover from infections.” Dr Padhi adds that we should try to avoid falling into the temptation of emotional eating, using food as a source of comfort. He also says that it’s important to stick to a good sleep routine  and take regular short breaks from sitting by doing just five minutes of light exercise (such as walking or stretching) as this will help improve blood circulation and muscle activity.

Avoid falling back into addictive behavioural patterns

For those of us who may be in recovery or battling addiction, Dr Padhi says we need to be careful of falling back into addictive coping mechanisms with the reopening of restaurants, pubs, casinos and other leisure centres. “It is important not to misuse alcohol and drugs or gambling as a way of dealing with fear, anxiety, and stress which the post lockdown period may herald.” He also suggests reaching out for professional help if you feel you’re at risk of relapsing.

Don’t plan too far ahead

Dr Padhi says although we all might be starting to think about life after lockdown, we shouldn’t plan too far ahead. “The key is to keep things simple and not take on too much,” he explains. “Enjoy each day for the experiences it brings and focus on the immediate instead of the future.” He says having a structured routine, pacing ourselves to achieve small wins during the day, being kind to ourselves and maintaining a balance between work and personal time are essential to overcome the anxiety of returning back from lockdown.

Stay connected to family and friends and share your feelings

Dr Padhi says it’s essential for us to be mindful of our emotions and not to suppress feelings of anxiety, low mood or stress when we experience them. “Sharing the way you feel with others can be calming and enable us to let go of negative emotions.” It is equally important to stay connected with family and talk to people we trust, he adds.

If you’re concerned a loved one is experiencing depression, they can use our self-assessment tool here or call our team on 1800 063 332.

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Categories
Addictions

Denial and Addiction: The Lies We Tell Ourselves

 

Denial and the Addiction cycle

Many of us live in a state of denial as a way of coping. The truth is when we’re hurting and our life is falling apart, denial helps us escape our reality, rationalise our behaviour, numb pain and hide from the truth. 

The habit of denial usually begins in childhood as a survival mechanism. We use it to protect ourselves and block out painful experiences that seem too difficult to process and accept at the time. Unfortunately this can continue on into adulthood and addicts are particularly prone to denial as it helps the addiction cycle to continue for months and for many people, years. Yet, continuing to deny what is really happening in our life can have disastrous consequences for both us and those closest to us. 

Denial as a coping mechanism. Denial is how addiction can continue to persist when a client’s life is falling apart,” says Diane Young, addiction specialist at South Pacific Private.“Addicts, particularly high- functioning alcoholics, are very adept at compartmentalising,” she explains.

Young says those of us who are struggling with addiction may attempt to hide our behaviour from those closest to us and continue to live in a state of denial because it’s an easier path. “No one wants to admit that they are struggling with drugs, alcohol, gambling or sex addiction,” she says. “A client may use work as a haven away from home, their work with charities or their sporting clubs to hide their ‘other’ life. Their friends may be in denial too, assisting them to hide what is really happening to them,” she adds. “Unfortunately the addict usually has no clue how their behaviour is impacting their families. They will lie when the truth will do.”


According to Young, self-deception and delusional behaviour is common. “We tell ourselves things aren't that bad or we have it under control and can quit any time we like, but in reality, life is spinning out of control,” she says.

It is only when denial breaks down that we can truly understand the lies we have been telling ourselves as a coping strategy. This may happen when someone continues to raise our denial with us, we have a moment of clarity and realise we’re living in denial or we hit ‘rock bottom’ and are forced to accept the truth. Our loved ones may stage an intervention and force us to seek help or we realise spontaneously that we have a serious problem that we have been lying to ourselves about. 

Young says that acceptance is a necessary first step for every patient on the pathway to recovery from addiction. “Without it, treatment that creates long-lasting changes in a client’s life cannot fully begin and the patient will often end up relapsing,” she says. The second step is reaching out for professional help so we can receive the knowledge, skills and support to help us through recovery. “At South Pacific Private, we’re experienced in helping those who are ready to begin a path toward recovery, to repair relationships and to rebuild their lives and find renewed hope.”


If you think you may have an addiction problem, you can take a self-assessment questionnaire here. Alternatively, call our intake team on 1800 063 332

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South Pacific Private Health Professionals

South Pacific Private now offering Private Psychiatric Care

Proud to offer Private Psychiatric Care

South Pacific are proud to provide post-discharge psychiatric support with our team of qualified psychiatrists.

“Our psychiatrists really understand the South Pacific program and recovery journey. They know where a client is at post discharge and have access to their clinical history. A client’s treatment plan may be evaluated or amended with regular appointments - so clients can easily access ongoing support.” - Lynne Fishwick, South Pacific CEO

South Pacific’s team of fully accredited psychiatrists come with decades of international experience and varied backgrounds.

Dr Ashwini Padhi has 20 years experience and has trained over three continents, including at the renowned Tavistock Clinic (UK). Dr Padhi specialises in mood disorders, addictions, complex trauma and impulse control disorder.

Dr Michael Lau specialises in extreme mental illness, addiction, neurostimulation treatment and psychedelic-assisted therapy. Dr Lau is also passionate about equity in mental health and transcultural mental health.


Dr Brendan O’Sullivan brings a wealth of experience including Post-Doctoral studies in Sweden and providing mental health services to Indigenous Australians in remote regions. Dr O’Sullivan has broad interests in adult psychiatry, including mood, anxiety and addiction disorders.

“A big advantage is the continuity of care we are able to provide, giving a client security. An individual sees the same psychiatrist as an inpatient, is reviewed as an outpatient, and monitored in an ongoing way. This minimises the risk of relapse and supports clients to maintain sobriety. In the case of relapse, the psychiatrist is able to provide the individual with direct access into a service.” - Dr Ash Padhi

Our team are dedicated to supporting individuals at every stage of their recovery journey.

Call 1800 063 332 to book an appointment.


If you have any further questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us via email or by calling 1800 063 332.

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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.

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Depression Mental Health

How To Support Someone With Depression

Supporting a loved one suffering depression can be stressful, challenging and frightening

For those of us with a loved one battling depression, it can be a stressful, challenging and frightening time. Although every personal experience is unique, there are ways that family and friends can help someone through their depression. 

While some of us will have a loved one who has already been clinically diagnosed with depression, others may have noticed that something isn’t right and will be supporting our loved one and encouraging them to seek professional help. 

Here we speak with Alyssa Lalor, Program Director at South Pacific Private, about the depression signs to look out for, how best to support someone with depression, ways we can encourage them to seek help and how depression is treated at Australia’s leading treatment centre for mental health.

What signs should we look out for if we're worried about someone? 

It’s common for people not to be upfront with discussing their mental health with their loved ones, so it’s important to know the signs to look out for. According to Lalor, the two biggest signs that someone may be struggling with depression are both physical: eating and sleep patterns. “If you notice they are starting to eat more and eating unhealthy or equally they don’t seem to be eating much it’s usually a good indicator they might be under some stress.” She says the same goes for sleeping. “Partners, parents or housemates may notice that the person is going to bed really late, or staying up all night and sleeping all day, or waking up in the middle of the night,” she says. “Or perhaps you and your partner are no longer going to bed at the same time. Again this can be a sign that they might be stressed and struggling with their mental health.”

Lalor says that often friends who are struggling with their mental health will withdraw. “You may notice that they keep cancelling plans, making excuses why they can't catch up, stop replying to text messages or don't answer their phone.”

She says that depression is more than simply feeling down or having a bad day. The person may also be very emotional, lose interest in normal activities, have trouble concentrating and remembering things or cry for no reason.


How can we approach a conversation and encourage them to seek professional help? 

Raising the subject of seeking professional help for depression can be daunting for family or friends. Lalor says to avoid giving advice and trying to ‘fix it’. She says you can start the conversation one of these ways:

  • You haven’t seemed yourself lately, how are you feeling? 
  • Hey, I’ve been noticing that you’re a little XXX, is something troubling you? 
  • I just wanted to check and see how you are travelling...

“Ask them if there is anything you can do for them. Letting them know you are here if they need to talk is important,” says Lalor.


How is depression treated at South Pacific Private? 

“Depression is a very common issue for our clients at South Pacific Private,” says Lalor. “At least 75 percent of clients would put their hands up if you asked them: ‘do or have you ever struggled with depression?’.”  

“One of the main advantages of our treatment here at South Pacific Private is that it’s a therapeutic community-based treatment approach.  This is half the battle when dealing with depression, as depression makes you isolate and withdraw, but in treatment you have to adapt and attend groups and lectures and be part of the community,” she explains. 

The program at South Pacific Private aims to build resilience and confidence, equipping clients with the tools they need for living a life of freedom and joy.

“We also offer evening depression and anxiety support groups for our clients, lectures on the subject and you have regular psychiatrist reviews and group therapy sessions with your primary therapist,” explains Lalor.

Helping someone with depression can be overwhelming for the support person too -  how can we look after themselves?

Lalor says it’s important to look after yourself by taking time out for self-care. “When supporting someone with depression, you can become more vulnerable to experience your own mental health issues,” she says. “Remember you can only offer what you have. It’s like when you’re flying, they tell you to put your oxygen mask on before your loved ones because if you can’t breathe you are not much good for your loved ones.”

If you’re concerned a loved one is experiencing depression, they can use our self-assessment tool here or call our team on 1800 063 332.

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Addictions Recovery Seeking Help

6 Reasons Group Therapy Works for Addiction Recovery


Group therapy is effective but how does it help addiction recovery? 

When it comes to ending an addiction and sustaining recovery long-term, group psychotherapy and regular, longer term group meetings are some of the most powerful tools in the treatment toolkit. 

From substance addictions like drug abuse and alcoholism, to behavioural addictions like compulsive gambling and sex addiction, group therapy and longer term meetings through groups like Alcoholics Anonymous have a proven, positive impact on recovery. 

“We build group therapy and group meetings directly into our programs, and the reason is simple: It’s extremely powerful and it works,” says Di Young, Addictions specialist from South Pacific Private, a Sydney-based addiction rehab and mental health treatment centre. “The idea of speaking about these kind of issues in a group can be nerve-wracking and we understand that, nobody’s ever forced to share, but what we see is that almost everyone comes to quickly understand the value of group conversations, and becomes very comfortable with the way our groups are structured and designed.” 

The research shows that group therapy is just as effective, and in some cases more effective, than individual therapy. “At South Pacific we take a blended approach with group sessions, lectures, small and large group work, and one-on-one therapy, and our clients and our staff see great benefit in those offerings” Young says. “If a treatment centre isn’t building group work into their program, and are pitching themselves more as an isolated retreat, without group work, the client may not have the opportunity to delve deeply into their presenting problems which almost always run deeper.”

So, why is group therapy effective and how does group therapy help addiction? There are multiple reasons.


Group Psychotherapy Breaks Down Shame and Isolation

Addiction is a disease that thrives in isolation, is fuelled by shame and compounded by fear. “When you’re suffering an addiction, it can be easy to feel as if you’re the only one who's ever felt this way, as though nobody understands you and as if you’re a unique failure for having brought the situation about,” Young says. 

Just a few minutes in group therapy, however, is sometimes enough to completely shatter those assumptions. “People often come out of the first session saying they had no idea that other people were going through the exact same thing, that other people were having the same thoughts play out in their head,” Young says. 

Groups Showcase a Pathway to Recovery, at All Stages

When we’re in the depths of addiction or just beginning to process trauma, it can feel like the start of an impossible or overwhelming journey. Being part of a group which includes members from all stages of recovery – from early recovery right through to years of sustained recovery – delivers a powerful demonstration that a better life is possible, and assist in providing a clear path of how to get there. 

Groups help members share their experiences and the strategies that  have worked for them, and can help foster the adoption of healthier coping mechanisms and techniques for avoiding or managing triggers. 

“What’s great about our groups at South Pacific is that people who are at the very beginning of their recovery can see people at every point down the track, from those who are a few weeks clean to those who have spent decades free of the addictive cycle,” Young says. “For those of us who are much deeper into recovery, the chance to help others is actually a source of strength for our own recovery as well, and helps give a real sense of purpose even when things are sometimes feeling low.”

Group Participation Can Build Healthier Relationships with Ourselves

Those of us suffering from addiction often have a somewhat distorted image of ourselves. We can often feel worthless, hopeless or like a burden, and even if people tell us this isn’t the case, or we know we suffer from serious self-esteem issues, it can be a difficult thought pattern to break.

The structured nature of group psychotherapy, with rules about participation, confidentiality, support and engagement, is designed to ensure a supportive environment in which members not only feel safe and comfortable in engaging, but in providing real and genuine feedback to each other as well. Positive reinforcement from other group members, and the confidence we gain by sharing our reality, helps break down and reshape negative self-esteem issues and distorted self-perception.

“If you’ve gone your whole life being told by parents or other authority figures that you’re unworthy, broken or weak, then having a group reinforce the positive things your therapist and friends are telling you about yourself really helps to chip away at those negative thoughts and feelings that too often just compound our other issues,” Young says. 

Groups Promote Healthy Relationship Dynamics

The tone and atmosphere created by the structures and rules which underpin group meetings are designed to create a supportive environment and healthy person-to-person relationship dynamics. Research shows that this environment helps model positive relationship dynamics and healthy boundaries to participants who may have experienced toxic and unsupportive relationships with family, friends and partners. 

Research shows that in effective group settings, participants feel more security and are better able to communicate their feelings and boundaries in group settings and in other appropriate areas of their lives. Experiences in groups can lead to healthier, more confident and more sustainable relationships with bosses, colleagues, parents, spouses, siblings, children and people more generally.

“Being able to discuss something in a group framework often makes it easier to share those same things in other important relationships, be it with family members, friends or partners,” Young says. “We also report back to groups on how those relationships are going, and can get feedback which helps us understand if our partner or family member’s responses are healthy and normal, or if we may be experiencing gaslighting, coercive control or unreasonable expectations.”


Group Meeting Binds Us to Recovery

In the early stages of addiction recovery, groups add much needed structure to our lives, which can sometimes have become quite chaotic with traditional relationships with family, coworkers and friends sometimes having broken-down. Regular group meetings in person or online, such as those provided by Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous and other organisations, can add much needed structure, routine and support. 

Studies show that as well as providing support and understanding, groups also deliver positive peer pressure and provide a degree of accountability for addicts in early recovery. Groups of individuals who have gone through substance abuse issues themselves are also particularly good at confronting individuals who may be in denial about problematic relationships, through patterns or behaviours. 

“When you’re going through recovery alone it can be a lot easier to fall off the wagon or to deny things are really a problem,” says Di Young. “The evidence is really clear about that being much less likely to happen when you’re part of an ongoing support group.”

Long-term, Sustained Support (with Proven Results)

Longer running, regular support meetings can provide lasting, long term support. “Even if you go to a comprehensive addiction treatment centre, you’re less likely to relapse years down the track if you combine it with AA or another support group or our Day Programs,” Young says. “It’s part of why we build those support groups right into our treatment programs from the start.”

Support groups and Day Programs can provide ongoing support and insight as members get further into recovery, as well as help and support at times of crisis or relapse. When members face difficult moments or challenges, groups are able to provide support, advice and positive reinforcement and lessen feelings of isolation. 


Reach out today by calling our team on
1800 063 332 or take an online self-assessment.

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.

Categories
Mental Health

Why Are Mental Health Issues Triggered During Lockdown?


For many of us experiencing extended lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic, feelings of uncertainty and powerlessness, together with limited social interaction with our loved ones and wider community, financial stress, and disrupted schedules are taking a toll on our mental health. 

“The impact of lockdown has touched every area of our lives; the way we work, our thinking of the future, our financial stability, our social interaction, our personal freedom, and our relationships,” says Dr Ashwini Padhi, a psychiatrist at South Pacific Private. “This coupled with our struggles to adapt to digital platforms, juggling household chores and childcare has left us feeling physically drained and emotionally depleted. Worrying about loved ones and their health, fear of contracting the virus, the social and economic uncertainty and the sense of not being in control of our lives is bound to cause psychological distress in most of us,” he adds. 

According to Diane Young, an addiction and trauma specialist at South Pacific Private, being stripped of our freedom and control over our lives to stop the spread of COVID-19 can be incredibly debilitating and distressing. She says it’s a universal experience - we’re not alone in this. “Lockdown takes many of our choices away - how far we can travel, who we can see, if we can socialise or not, whether we are able to work, or not,” she says. 

Over the past few months, Young says that many clients have talked of feeling in a ‘low ebb’. “This is about the loss of our human connection, our sense of sharing the day-to-day minutiae of our lives,” she explains. “There are many people who haven’t seen their families for up to 18 months – this impacts their sense of wellbeing, their mental health and not surprisingly they can fall into sadness and loneliness,” she adds. “Social isolation is difficult to navigate – we begin to feel like we don’t matter to others. We begin to feel small, and want to isolate more, to fall into binge watching TV and binge eating. We do this to feel some comfort and to numb ourselves from our aloneness.”


The reality of today’s world can be difficult to comprehend and lingering lockdowns that seem to never end can leave us feeling helpless and
lead to a distorted sense of reality. “We can believe that we are in a never-ending trap and the sameness of our days can lead us to be in delusion about our reality,” says Young. 

Dr Padhi says this is because lockdown often blurs the boundaries between work and personal life, which skews the perception of time. “We may find the days to be long drawn out and boring,” he says. “Lockdown contributes to a sense of social disconnect, boredom, fluctuations in mood and psychological distress which can cause a cognitive bias with a greater focus on the passage of time making it appear incredibly slow,” he explains. “As individuals we relate to time through important milestones in our lives, and in the absence of these landmarks we may feel that time has got condensed and our reality distorted by the monotony of our everyday lives.” 

Young says for those of us who have been struggling with addiction, lockdown can make it easier for us to fall back into old patterns and adopt unhealthy behaviours, but it’s important to stay focused on our recovery. “Our addiction can escalate again when we feel we have no control over our future and our ability to tap into our recovery communities,” she explains. Dr Padhi agrees: “People may find themselves drinking and smoking more than usual and resorting to addictive and impulsive behaviours such as online shopping and gambling.” However, we have the power to reach out for support, and develop new healthy routines and new ways of thinking to help us cope during these unusual times. Lockdown is temporary and although this is an incredibly challenging period - one that we have never navigated before - there is help available if you or someone you love is struggling. 

How to improve your mental health during lockdown:

Take time out for leisure activities

Allocate time to doing something that gives you a sense of satisfaction and/or achievement This could include trying out a new recipe, cooking, reading a book, listening to music, gardening, tidying up your workstation etc. If you have spare time, take up a hobby.

Try to stay connected

Keep in touch with friends and family through email, phone and other digital platforms. Set regular catch ups and check-in with others. 

Responsible use of social media and digital platforms

Limit your screen time. Be aware of the time spent in front of a screen every day. Limit your time spent on gaming and use your social media to promote positivity and optimism. Make sure that you take regular breaks from on-screen activities.

Have a balanced perspective

Whilst it may seem daunting during lockdown remember you are not alone in this. Keep yourself well informed on the advice and recommendations from your national and local authorities. Follow trusted news channels, reduce how much you watch, read or listen to news that makes you feel anxious or distressed. Seek the latest information at specific times of the day, once or twice a day if needed. 

Engage in physical activity

Engaging in some physical activity, exercise or even daily walks has been proven to improve mood and stress levels. Regular physical activity also has positive effects on blood pressure, reduces weight gain, risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes - all conditions that can increase susceptibility to COVID-19.

Develop a healthy eating pattern

Eating a healthy balanced diet is very important during the pandemic as what we eat, and drink can affect our body’s immune system and ability to prevent, fight and recover from infections. Eat a variety of food, including fruits and vegetables, drink plenty of water, limit salt and sugar, avoid junk food, do not skip meals and have regular times of eating. 

Have a structure to your day

Try to maintain a daily schedule and have a balance between work and personal time. Stick to a sleep routine, maintain personal hygiene, take regular short breaks from sitting by doing five minutes of light exercise, such as walking or stretching. This will help improve blood circulation and muscle activity.

Avoid alcohol, drugs and gambling

Be aware of addictive behaviours and maladaptive coping mechanisms. Limit the amount of alcohol you drink or maintain abstinence, try and limit smoking or quit altogether. Stop misusing alcohol and drugs or gambling as a way of dealing with fear, anxiety, boredom and social isolation.

Think positive and be less reactive

Identify unhelpful ways of thinking and reacting. If you are always preoccupied with worst case scenarios, and negative patterns of thinking, frequently losing your temper, struggling to focus and are always stressed it is time to prioritise your mental health.

Seek professional help

If you feel unwell, are experiencing mood changes, constantly worrying or suffering from anxiety, struggling to focus or are having negative thoughts of hopelessness or life not worth living, seek professional advice. It is okay not to be okay and we’re here to help.


Reach out today by calling our team on
1800 063 332 or take an online self-assessment.

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.

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Family, Friends and Partners Mental Health

How To Have a Meaningful Conversation When Asking RUOK?


At one time or another, all of us will have a family member, friend or colleague that is struggling with their mental health. Unfortunately, many of those people who are struggling won’t feel comfortable enough to open up and have a meaningful conversation. Yet, it is these honest conversations that can ultimately encourage someone to seek help and the treatment they need. 

Asking ‘RUOK?’, or ‘how are you?’ can result in many missed opportunities, simply because we are all trained to answer ‘yes’ or ‘fine’ or ‘good, thanks’. According to Diane Young, a trauma and addiction specialist at South Pacific Private, while it’s always helpful to ask, ‘are you okay?’, people who are struggling will most likely find it difficult to say ‘no’. 

“Although RUOK? is a question asked with concern, it can allow the person to answer with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. It limits an open response,” she says. “RUOK? is a good place to start, but sometimes prefacing this question with something else might allow the answer to be more than a ‘yes' or ‘no’. “Ideally we want to allow the person to say a little more. Open-ended questions allow this.”

Here are some ways to start a conversation:

  • You seem stressed and unhappy, how can I help?
  • I’ve noticed you seem a little down. Are you ok?
  • You don’t seem your usual self. Are you ok?
  • I'm worried about you. Are you ok? 
  • How are you feeling about this/that?
  • This is a tough situation… Are you ok?


Young says we should take special care to monitor not only what we say, but our tone and body language as well. “If we have asked and the person has replied that they’re not okay, be empathetic in your response, or simply say; ‘I’m sorry to hear that” or “I’m sorry that you’re experiencing that”. The first step should always be to listen and validate what the person is saying, not give advice. 

If they are open to speaking about their feelings and experiences, be sure you acknowledge how difficult this moment must be and thank them for trusting you. 

“If they’ve said, ‘yes, I’m okay’ and you suspect they are not, we could very gently and quietly let them know that you’ve noticed a change in their mood or behaviour and that you are concerned and you care about them. In no way to criticise them or get angry with them for not telling you,” she explains. “Long walks or long drives allow people to open up. It does with our children and teenagers (if they don’t have their electronic devices), adults will often speak up too.”


Being aware of the signs that someone is not okay is also important so we know what to look out for. “Often you will notice behaviour changes, small things like being emotionally distant, increased drinking, perhaps you will notice them being more reactionary, quick to anger or frustration,” she says. “They may not want to socialise or they’re often in their electronic world, working longer but increasingly irritated by that. In relationships there may be less intimacy and more time away from home. Notice the small things… it is often not what they say, but what they do.”

Young says that seeking professional help is the next step. “Often it is exceedingly difficult to reach out for help in the first instance. Let them know you are there for them,” she says. 

You can encourage the person to take action by saying:

  • How can I help and support you through this?
  • What's a good first step we can take to help you?

 If you or someone you know is in need of help, visit our support page or call our intake team on 1800 063 332 or via email to [email protected] 

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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.

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Addictions Family, Friends and Partners Seeking Help

Choosing a Rehab Program That’s Right For You

Learn how to choose the right rehab for your treatment needs

Once you have taken the most important step, that is, the decision to seek help for addiction, trauma or mental health, you’ll need to choose a rehab program that will meet your unique needs. Selecting a rehab program that is suited to you will give you the best support through your journey to a successful recovery. 

Here, we speak with trauma and addiction specialist, Di Young, about the South Pacific Private programs, the benefits, the differences and what you can expect.

What should I look for when choosing a rehab or a treatment centre?

Before checking in, you should ask yourself:

  • Do they address your specific issue (addiction, depression, anxiety etc)?
  • How do they run their programs?
  • Are they a registered hospital?
  • What qualifications and lived experience do their staff have and what sort of programs are offered?

It’s also important to look for a treatment centre that treats the mind, body and soul. Although cost is a contributing factor, if you have private health insurance with psychiatric cover, there’s only the excess to pay.

 

Why the South Pacific Private programs work 

At South Pacific Private, we recognise that everyone has a different path into and through recovery – it is a journey after all. We offer Australia’s most comprehensive treatment programs for addiction and mental health issues. Our programs are designed for sustained, long-term recovery and provide specialist nursing care, psychiatric assessment and treatment, counselling, psychotherapy, educational lectures, guided sessions with families and partners and ongoing, individualised case management.

South Pacific Private differs from many other rehab and treatment centres as we provide wraparound support that treats not only the most immediate presenting issues, but also underlying causes.

 

Why is residential treatment better than a day program or hourly sessions with a mental health professional?

The residential treatment in South Pacific Private is designed to assist clients do a ‘deep dive’ into why they find their lives in a critical and painful place - whether it be addiction, mood disorders or PTSD. Clients are totally supported through the multidisciplinary team: their psychiatrist; primary therapist; continuing care case manager; the nursing team, as well as the program director and program manager.

 

Why shouldn’t I just do therapy? 

Given that most therapeutic sessions run for 60 minutes to 90 minutes and are spaced over many weeks and months, it takes a long time to understand and work with a client in a deeper way. This means that it will usually take longer to uncover and unpack their history, and address underlying causes of their pain. Residential treatment allows clients to spend several hours a day working with a range of professionals and in group therapy in a holistic, safe setting to help breakthrough denial, anger and fear, and enforce permanent positive change. 

 

What are the benefits of group therapy as opposed to one-on-one sessions? 

Group therapy allows clients to work together, and to understand they are not the only one to struggle as they do. Often addiction, trauma and mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety create a sense of isolation but in group therapy, clients realise they are part of a collective and this facilitates connection. Group therapy also provides clients the opportunity to practise communication and boundary setting skills, and see how in their own lives, their trauma and abuse has impacted their adult lives and the lives of those around them.

 

What is a multidisciplinary team? Why is that helpful?

The multidisciplinary team comprises your psychiatrist (whom you see regularly throughout your stay); primary therapist (whom you work with every day); continuing care case manager (who assists you plan for your discharge ie., what will you do to support yourself after you discharge?) ; your GP (who will attend to your general medical needs); the nursing team (who look after all your nursing needs) as well as the program director and program manager (both of whom oversee your clinical and therapeutic needs). This is highly beneficial for the client as you have a group of healthcare professionals caring for you and recommending the best programs that are suitable for you. This is completely different to one-on-one therapy where just one healthcare professional is overseeing you - it’s one person’s perspective and recommendations. 

What are the benefits of being removed from day-to-day life? 

You have no distractions, which initially many people find either shocking or a relief. The purpose of being removed from day-to-day life is to allow the client to focus on themselves and come to an awareness that they can create a new vision and purpose to their lives. Many clients often express relief when they don’t have to monitor their phone, their emails etc. It also provides an opportunity for the client to reflect and address the ways in which they medicate their feelings and avoid being in relationships with others.

 

You seem to have a lot of rules at South Pacific Private, why is that? (ie. no phones, no TV, no smoking etc.)

We want clients to focus solely on their recovery. South Pacific Private is not a rest-home or a place for ‘time out’, although you may be able to rest and have reflective time. Having no distractions allows you to focus on yourself - a rare luxury in our hectic and busy world. Many clients tell us how relieved they are not to have to check their phones or get distracted by TV,  the internet or other platforms.

 

Why do you focus on families and have several family programs?

Clients with addiction and mental illness often feel very isolated within the family system. Our family programs invite the family into the treatment process firstly to understand how their family member has been working in South Pacific Private, and secondly to understand that we each impact each other, and it can be either positively or negatively. We work with the family to look at their interactions, to set boundaries as well as heal divisions which may have occurred as a result of dysfunctional family behaviours.

 

You talk about trauma extensively. What if I don't relate to having trauma?

Many people come into South Pacific Private with a presenting problem (drugs, alcohol, PTSD, anxiety, depression) with no awareness that many of these issues stem from their own childhood experiences. Trauma comes in many forms - and it doesn’t just have to be a life-altering event such as death, divorce or witnessing a horrific event. The client may have experienced neglect from their parents and felt unloved during their childhood or perhaps their mum was verbally abused by their father day after day. At South Pacific Private, we work with clients where they are and often they are surprised to see their lives through a different (more aware) lens.

 

What are the biggest changes you see in clients at the end of their stay with you?

We see our clients finally have freedom from their addiction, and an ability to manage and live more comfortably with their mood disorder. Clients build confidence with support and awareness. They often express feeling more strength and aliveness. 

We talk about miracles a lot, the miracle of forgiveness, the miracle of connection, the miracle of a new beginning.

 

What are the benefits of completing the Core program - three weeks inpatient followed by two weeks at Beachwood?

Five weeks allows clients to do three weeks of inner and deep work with their therapist and their group in the safety of an enclosed therapeutic space in the hospital. Often the three-week inpatient program is the first time clients have had an opportunity to learn how to be authentically present for themselves and others.

A further two weeks at Beachwood provides a therapeutic space, whilst allowing them to go to their day program and go out without supervision (ie., to take steps into their new lives whilst being able to come home to Beachwood and their other fellow clients). Whilst in Beachwood they often attend our Transitions Day Program which further enhances their knowledge and experience of their new lives.

 

If you are unsure which of our programs are best for you or your loved one, please call our Intake Team any time on 1800 063 332 or email us via [email protected] 

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Categories
Addictions Prescription Medication

How Can Prescription Drug Addiction Be Treated?

Has Your Prescription Drug Use become A Problem? 

For many of us, it can be extremely difficult to admit and accept that a prescribed medication, which may have helped ease our pain or improved our quality of life in the past, has now become a problem. 

Feelings of shame and guilt are common, but if you’re struggling to stop the misuse of painkillers or other medications, or experiencing prescription medication withdrawal symptoms, you’re not alone. 

The truth is prescription drug addiction can affect people from all age groups. It occurs when we lose the ability to control our prescription usage. It may start gradually and develop over time. We may tell ourselves that we ‘need it’ or provide excuses to others to keep the addiction going. 

According to Diane Young, senior therapist and addiction specialist, addiction to prescription medication is a serious and rapidly growing problem in Australia and can lead to financial, relational and physical and emotional issues. She says paranoia, aggressiveness, impaired judgement, impulsiveness, loss of self-control, financial losses and trouble with social relationships and work life can all occur when we’re battling with drug addiction.

“Patients should seek help when they are continuing the ‘need’ for the medication, long after the GP believes it is necessary,” she says. “Patients know when they are wanting too much, focusing too often on when they are taking it, how much of it they have left and how their mood is affected when they don’t have the drug to take. The withdrawals from these drugs are painful and difficult to get through without help.”

 


The prescription drugs most commonly abused include opioid painkillers, anti-anxiety medications, sedatives and stimulants.
Young says there’s a perception in the community that becoming addicted to one or more of these prescription drugs is not as serious as other addictions because the drugs are legal. However, the pattern of addiction is the same as alcohol, gambling and other addictions

“At South Pacific Private we treat prescription drug addiction the same way we treat any other drug addiction, with pharmacological intervention to ease the withdrawal, and compassion and understanding to work through the addiction cycle,” she explains. 

The team at South Pacific Private focuses on providing treatment and support without judgement.
“There is often a need for the client to understand how they have found themselves where they are so psycho-education is essential so their experience is normalised and they are not shamed in the process of recovery,” says Young. “Supporting patients who have this addiction is by understanding, suggesting they get professional help to ease the use and withdrawals from these drugs.”

Young says it’s also important to involve GPs in the conversation. “If a doctor prescribes a medication, without explaining the possibility of becoming addicted, the patient won’t know. That said, GPs now are prescribing a small amount of the drug to prevent any abuse by the patient,” she says. For clients not aware of addiction, or the highly addictive nature of the opioid-based drugs, they believe they are ‘in pain’ and ‘need’ the drug,” she says. “They of course may become secretive and hide what they are taking.”

If you’re concerned you may have a problem with prescription medication use, you can use our self-assessment tool here or call our team on 1800 063 332.

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Categories
Mental Health Anxiety

Learning How To Manage Your Anxiety

 

Learning how to deal with your anxiety can be your pathway to freedom

For those of us experiencing anxiety, the intensity of these feelings can be difficult to shake, alleviate and cope with. We may have symptoms of anxiety that are short-lived and disappear after a few days or weeks, particularly when external stress factors subside, but for many of us, however, the pain and suffering of anxiety does not disappear on its own. These feelings can be constant, overwhelming and debilitating, which can ultimately limit our ability to live a healthy and happy life.

“A lot of people come into treatment and have no idea they have been living with anxiety for much of their life, while for some the symptoms can be so debilitating that it stops them from being able to function in their daily lives,” says Tori McCarthy, a senior therapist at Sydney's South Pacific Private.

“Anxiety can manifest in physical sensations including palpitations, trembling, nausea, fatigue, sweating, chest tightness and shortness of breath,” she adds.

“I was not diagnosed with anxiety until I got into recovery. It was only then that I realised how my body and mind were responding to the world around me and to my internal dialogue which either lived in the past or the future. I was so used to feeling this way that I had no idea that there was something else on offer.”

Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia. In fact, over two million Australians or nearly 15 per cent of the Australian adult population suffers from anxiety. 


According to McCarthy, i
t’s important to understand that there are different forms of diagnosable, treatable anxiety disorders, ranging from Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder (commonly referred to as panic attacks) to forms of anxiety which are triggered by substances, including alcohol and marijuana. She says anxiety is also often accompanied by other mental health or addiction issues. This is known as dual diagnosis.

“The way my anxiety manifested was through hypervigilance, irritability, restlessness and racing thoughts,” explains McCarthy.

“What sets the feelings of anxiety apart from a regular experience of emotions is that they occur out of all proportion with external causation factors; they can even occur suddenly with no apparent explanation or trigger. There are certain things that trigger my anxiety such as public speaking, meeting new people or when my core belief of I’m not good enough gets triggered. Now that I’m in recovery I have learnt to manage these triggers and the feeling of anxiety when it creeps up.”

At South Pacific Private, we address the underlying causes of anxiety, while treating the symptoms of your anxiety. Our compassionate team of clinicians provide support and equip you with strategies for long-term recovery from your anxiety. 


“I am a strong believer that everyone’s recovery tool box needs to be individual to them as what creates a sense of calm for me might make you anxious,” says McCarthy.
“Today when I feel anxious I do things like sing, get out in nature, breath, talk to a friend, listen to music and dance it out.

“Having worked here at South Pacific Private for three years now I have learnt a lot about myself through the model of developmental immaturity and how my adaptations impact my mental health and anxiety disorder. When I’m operating from my adapted adult child (Pia Mellody), I am controlling, believe I need to be better than what I am or am better than you, I don’t reach out for help and I have walls up not boundaries. This place can feel safe and like I am in control but over time I get exhausted and my anxiety takes over,” she adds. “The Program at South Pacific Private supports us to move out of our adaptions and into functional adult behaviour.”

If you’re concerned you may have a problem with anxiety, you can use our self-assessment tool here or call our intake team on 1800 063 332. Our Mastering Moods and Anxiety Program focuses on evidence-based coping skills and tools to help you manage your anxiety and cope with everyday life in a more productive way. 

 

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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.