The Lowdown
25 July 2022 • 7 min read

Mental Health Challenges

We all feel a big range of emotions every day. There will be some emotions that feel good and some that we find uncomfortable. These feelings can come from things we have no control over like lockdowns, or whānau pressures.

Non-binary person staring into mirror with the reflection of them made up of multi-coloured jigsaw pieces.

It can be caused by negative messages that we receive either directly or indirectly through prejudices or racism, or it can come from within ourselves when we put ourselves down and tell ourselves hurtful things.

Most of the time those feelings will pass and we’ll carry on with life, but sometimes they can hang around and develop into a more serious problem.

This is something that happens to everyone at times.

There is no single cause for mental health struggles - you could think of them as your mind’s response to having to deal with what happens to us in life and things that have happened to us in the past.

Mental Illness

This term might sound intense or worrying to you because of what you’ve seen on Tiktok, TV and social media, but a person who has been diagnosed with mental illness is not broken, crazy or weird.

Mental illness is not forever. There are many kinds of mental illnesses and some only last a short time. Most mental illnesses can be treated and many people who are diagnosed with mental illnesses can live without their condition having much - or any - impact on their lives.

If you’re wondering if you might have a mental illness or just need to talk about how you’re feeling, you might want to have a conversation with someone you trust and ask them to support you in finding a mental health professional. Alternatively, head to www.youthline.co.nz or www.whatsup.co.nz to get in touch with someone who can give you advice on what to do next or just listen and offer you support.

What if nobody accepts or understands how I’m feeling?

Sometimes our whānau or friends may not understand mental health. They may make you feel uncomfortable talking about what you’re experiencing, and you might find yourself wanting to keep it to yourself because you don’t think they’ll get it.

Many people don’t feel comfortable talking about people’s feelings at all, even the good ones, and it can be hard to break through that.

If you’re struggling with this, you need to know that what you’re feeling is real and just because they don’t understand or have the right response doesn’t mean that you should stop trying to talk about what’s going on. Look at your support network – who do you have in your life who you can really trust? Identify these people and remember that they’re there for you and want to help.

If you’re unable to connect with your family and friends about what you’re going through, don’t give up. There are people out there who understand and care – you might find support through your school counsellor, maybe through an online community, maybe even a leader in your church or the faith based community you’re a part of, or your doctor may be able to refer you to a mental health professional. If you’re unsure where to start and know you need to speak to someone, check out 0800 What’s Up or Youthline to speak to a counsellor online or on the phone for free.

There are lots of things we can do to improve, maintain, and support our mental health, help our minds to feel well and help ourselves feel better if we’re experiencing uncomfortable emotions. These things won’t always prevent the hard times, but they can help you get through them. Check out Small Steps for some easy and effective ideas.

We need to make conversations about mental health normal so that we know how to find support when they need it. If uncomfortable feelings affect our thoughts and behaviour in a way that hurts us or others, it’s important that we talk to someone we trust and ask for help.

Where to get help:

If you’re thinking about harming yourself or are having suicidal thoughts, call Lifeline on 0508 82 88 65 now to talk to someone who cares and can support you.

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