A general practitioner is a good first step in seeking help for mental health, but there are also phone and online services available.

By Colin MacGillivray

FOR people attempting to access mental health support services for the first time, knowing where to go can be a challenge.

While Mitchell Shire health leaders have long appealed for more services with a physical presence in the region, there are many online or phone support services for different situations.

Nexus Primary Health counselling team leader Maggie Abdelmalak said people who were unsure of where to turn should book an appointment with a general practitioner, GP, as a first step.

“Your GP is there to support not only your physical health, but mental wellbeing as well,” she said.

“Through regular check-ins, you and your GP can then decide whether a referral to a mental health service is required.”

Ms Abdelmalak said school aged-children could speak with their school’s wellbeing officer if they were struggling with their mental health.

“The wellbeing team at schools play an important role in supporting your psychological wellbeing in and out of school,” she said.

“If you require more intensive support, they will support you to develop an action plan around your needs.”

Lower Hume Primary Care Partnership interim executive officer and Goulburn Mental Health and Wellbeing committee member Lee Coller said people sharing their feelings with a trusted friend or family member was also a positive step.

“They may be unsure where to go next but sometimes a problem shared is a problem halved, and it’s better that someone else knows,” she said.

Ms Coller said the most important thing people could do was monitor their own mental health and reach out early.

“One of the key messages from the GMHW committee is encouraging people to check in with yourself, reach out and get help before it gets to crisis, rather than our standard ‘I’ll be right, I’m fine’,” she said.

Ms Coller said people who were unable to access a GP or did not feel comfortable discussing their mental health with one could try online services, many of which had phone numbers, texting services or an online chat option.

“For many it can be a long journey, but keep reaching out to find what’s right for you and your wellbeing,” she said.

For a comprehensive list of services and contact details, see the Review‘s mental health services and support list.