Search and rescue - seeking help for a mental health problem

A guide for search and rescue service staff and volunteers on how to seek professional help for a mental health problem.

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What is mental health and mental wellbeing?

Taryn blogs about mental health and wellbeing. What do they mean to you?

Taryn Ozorio
Posted on 24/01/2011

How do I take the first steps?

Seeking help for a mental health problem can be a really important step towards getting and staying well, but it can be hard to know how to start or where to turn to.

Our research shows:

  • Search and rescue staff and volunteers are more likely to experience a mental health problem than the general workforce.
  • For volunteers, balancing search and rescue duties with work and personal life can have a significant impact on mental health.
  • Search and rescue volunteers also potentially lack support for their mental health problems if their issues do not relate to their paid employment.

When is it ok to seek help?

You might feel uncomfortable seeking support for your mental health, and feel like you should be able to stay strong. Or you might have been feeling this way for so long that you think you can’t be helped. But it's always ok for you to seek help – even if you're not sure if you are experiencing a specific mental health problem.

You might choose to seek help because:

  • you're finding it difficult to cope with your thoughts and feelings
  • your thoughts and feelings are having an impact on your day-to-day life
  • you want to find out about available support

I always felt like I had to stay strong, that I couldn’t be weak; but that was the worst thing I could do, really, because everyone’s got their limit, and I had reached mine.

Who can I talk to?

The best way to start is normally by talking to a health care professional, such as your GP.

Your GP can:

  • make a diagnosis
  • offer you support and treatments
  • refer you to a specialist service

What should I say to my GP?

It can be hard to know how to talk to your doctor about your mental health – especially when you’re not feeling well. But it’s important to remember that there is no wrong way to tell someone how you’re feeling.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Be honest and open.
  • Focus on how you feel, rather than what diagnosis you might meet.
  • Try to explain how you’ve been feeling over the past few months or weeks, and anything that has changed.
  • Use words and descriptions that feel natural to you – you don’t have to say specific things to get help.
  • Try not to worry that your problem is too small or unimportant – everyone deserves help and your doctor is there to support you.

Being as open and honest as possible, even though extremely difficult, is what has assisted me.

(See our pages on types of mental health problems for more ideas about how to talk about mental health.)

How can I prepare?

GP appointments are usually very short, and sometimes you might forget to say things that are important. Being prepared can help you get the most out of your appointment.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Write down what you want to say in advance, and take your notes in with you.
  • Give yourself enough time to get to your appointment, so that you don’t feel rushed or stressed.
  • Think about taking someone with you to support you, like a close friend or family member.
  • Highlight or print out any information you’ve found that helps you explain how you’re feeling.
  • If you have a few things to talk about, you can ask for a longer appointment (you'll need to do this when you're booking it in).

This information was published in September 2015. We will revise it in 2018.

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