Do I need professional help?
Me whai āwhina ngaio ahau?

Seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Talking to a professional about mental health and wellbeing concerns will help you to help yourself. Whether or not you need professional support can only be decided by you and a trained mental health provider. 

To help you decide if you may need professional support, ask yourself these questions:

  • Have you felt sad or depressed most of the time for longer than two weeks?
  • Have you been feeling anxious or had distressing thoughts almost all the time?
  • Have you had trouble working or meeting your daily responsibilities?
  • Have you had problems in your relationships, or trouble taking care of your family?
  • Have you increased your use of alcohol, illicit drugs, or prescription medications, or have you been using them to cope with your problems lately?
  • Are you very angry most of the time?
  • Do other people say they worry about you and think you should go talk to someone?
  • Are you very angry most of the time?
  • Do other people say they worry about you and think you should go talk to someone?
  • Are you having trouble sleeping most of the time?
  • Are you having trouble eating, or have you gained or lost weight without trying?
  • Are you thinking about committing suicide, hurting, or killing someone else?

If you said yes to this last one, please call 111 or go immediately to the nearest hospital emergency department.

If you said yes to any of the others, you would probably benefit from talking with a mental health provider. Contact your GP or a mental health professional. If you are current member of the NZDF (uniformed or civilian), family member, or veteran you can call the NZDF4U wellbeing support helpline 0800 693 348 for confidential advice. If you are a veteran you can also call the VANZ help line 08004VETERANS. You don't have to wait for an emergency to speak to someone. Family members can access community support services accessible through chaplains and defence community support officers. 

Why do people usually seek professional help?

The first steps in reaching out for help can be hard but talking to a professional about mental health and wellbeing concerns will help you to help yourself. Displaying the courage to do this is squarely in the centre of the NZDF’s values and strengths.

Getting this sort of support will help you to feel better within yourself, and just as importantly help you feel more relaxed about connecting with people in your daily life, pursuing your goals, and focusing on your future. Your GP is generally the best place to start. Current NZDF uniformed personnel can self-refer to their local Psychology section, Medical officer or other NZDF health provider.

Will it really work?

Scientific evidence shows that many types of therapy and medications are effective. Within the health care system, many mental health providers are trained in providing these evidence-based treatments. It may be hard to imagine now, but you can work through mental health problems or any other hurdles and come out the other side stronger.

Worried that support providers won’t be able to help you or won’t understand what you’ve been through? You may be surprised to discover they have worked with people before who have been through similar circumstances. You will find out that they can help, and will work hard to understand you and your experiences, no matter what they have been. Counsellors are highly trained mental health providers. Some specialise in working with military personnel and veterans.

If you have a few sessions with a counsellor and you don't think it's going well, you can talk to the counsellor or your doctor about what you want changed or you can ask for a different counsellor. Counsellors are focused on your recovery and will help you get the care you need.

What about practical things like making appointments, costs and transport?

When thinking about professional counselling, many people worry about practical things that might keep them from getting help. Concerns about how to find a counsellor, the cost of treatment, getting time off work, and transport to appointments are very common. each is addressed briefly below-

What does it say about me if I ask for help?

It says you are resilient, even when you’re under pressure, and even when you don’t feel resilient. Remember: no one is alone in this world. People are here to help. Perhaps you believe that you should be able to handle your problems without help from others. The truth is people who use the sources of help around them are able to cope better than those who choose not to. Trying to cope on your own often makes things harder than needed. It can also add loneliness and isolation to your problems.

We’ve heard some people say they thought that needing help meant they were not normal. Some people have also wrongly believed that seeking help meant that they were not fit to do normal things. They learned however that it is not unusual to have problems. Many people report some type of concern about their mental health during their lives, and particularly so after stressful experiences.

Don’t feel guilty about taking time to get yourself well. There’s hardly a higher priority. You will be better able to live a fulfilling life if you are feeling better—and be better able to support the people you care about as well.

Talking about your experiences helps. Getting the support you need to live your life more fully shows strength, self-respect and courage.

What if I'm embarrassed about seeking help?

We get it. There’s no reason to feel embarrassed but our feelings don’t necessarily always respond immediately to reason. You don’t have to tell people that you’re working with a counsellor. You can just say you have an appointment and that it’s personal.

Try not to be upset with friends or family who worry about you. Take it as a sign that they care and want the best for you and are probably looking for ways to help. Remember too that when you’re already feeling off key it is harder to reasonably read the reactions of other people. If you know they care about you, they are probably trying to show it… even if it doesn’t feel like it.

Sometimes people worry others will make fun of them for getting help, because at one point they have overheard someone making fun of someone in your situation. But you’ll soon find out that this usually isn’t true. Many men and women who served in the military have been through difficult times and reported some concern about their mental health.

Expecting embarrassment and shame for asking for help is one of the main reasons why people don't seek help. You might ask yourself the following question: Is it more important for me to worry about what someone else thinks of me? Or is it important to get the help I need to move on with my life?

Who can help me?

As you think about getting care, know that there are many experts to help you. In this section, you can read about the roles and duties of GPs, psychologists, psychiatrists, and mental health social workers.

4 TIPS: When to reach out for Professional mental health help? | Kati Morton

Useful resources

You can read more about the support offered by NZDF Providers and how to contact them here

How to find NZ providers here