I’m on a plane, on my way to Proserpine to visit St Catherine’s Catholic College, listening to the ABC Life Matters podcast. Osher Günsberg is speaking and he prompts me to reflect on conversations about mental health. He explores fear, comfort eating, alcoholism and drug use, ego, coping strategies and the human need for control. He’s calm, honest and open about challenging experiences and it’s inspiring. I’m curious about his story, but more so I’m wondering how he developed the courage to speak out, to engage in these conversations that are helpful, not only for him, but also the community.

The Underlying Message

After some reflection and re-listening to the conversation, I note that he has a significant amount of knowledge about his brain and body, the chemical processes involved with thinking, being and doing, and the reasons behind why certain strategies are helpful for mental health and wellbeing. He explains that he is still learning (as we all are, perpetually), however I sense that his comfort is a result of his deep spiritual and scientific understanding and curiosity. His ability to observe and reflect on the mechanics of his experience appears to have given him a sense of freedom and empowerment. It’s seems to be an acceptance that life will have its ups and downs and a trust that he has, or will find, the skills to cope.

Making the Most of Therapy

This prompts me to reflect on my practice as a psychologist. We are experts in the mechanics of mental health and wellbeing. We are trained to educate our clients about the science and processes behind their symptoms and equip them with the tools that they can use to manage them. Our goal is to empower our clients to manage their experience independently. The challenge of course is that mental health is complex and the mechanics and skills that psychologists teach need to be studied, understood and practised outside of the hour that we spend in sessions. Much like any skill.

The Conversation

I don’t profess to know the details of Osher’s journey, nor how he has gained his knowledge and skills. But, I do know that sharing our experiences with others is incredibly powerful for learning. Discussing the understanding and skills that we use to manage our mental health and wellbeing is one of the most helpful “study” strategies that humans can use. You see, the connections that we build in our brains become stronger, at a much faster rate, when we talk about them with others.

Everyone’s mental health and wellbeing experience is different and Osher’s journey will not be the same as others. However, his conversations are reducing stigma in the community; making it easier for others to share their experience and in a way, increasing therapeutic success rates. Although he doesn’t explicitly state it, Osher is demonstrating that sharing your experience and seeking support from others is helpful. Being human and having feelings is nothing to be ashamed of.

Where to Begin

Mental health and wellbeing requires a tailored approach. However you choose to access support, it is essential that you:
– Seek knowledge, understanding and skills training from a qualified and registered professional.
– Study and deepen your learning and understanding by talking to supportive others.
– Practise your skills every day. Make mental health and wellbeing your priority.

The journey typically begins with a visit to your General Practitioner (GP), which will likely lead to a referral to a Psychologist for up to 10 Medicare rebated sessions per year.

If you would like more information about mental health and wellbeing or if you’d like to make an appointment, please contact us.