The challenges we face day to day
Ongoing challenges in important areas of everyday life, like marriage, whānau and work, can have big impacts on your mental health. It gets worse when one problem starts leading to others.
Many people face a range of long-lasting problems, disagreements and threats in their daily lives. These can include problems with the people close to us such as a partner or children; love or sex problems; ongoing illness or disability; or problems with work (mahi) or school (kura). These problems may come on top of challenges you’ve been through earlier in life.
It’s especially tough if those earlier challenges were never resolved and still cause you to react strongly. The results of this stress can show up in any or all areas of our wellbeing. A number of things can contribute to it, for example:
- not being able to achieve your goals
- being frustrated by what’s expected of you
- money problems
- physical disability
- chronic illness
- ongoing difficulties with people in your life.
Living on a low income is stressful. It can have a big impact on self-esteem and leave you feeling as if you’re letting people down, especially as your whānau grows. Trying to provide for your whānau’s needs while managing debt can be difficult. Talking about the situation with everyone, even the children or mokopuna, can help them understand why they can’t have everything they ask for.
Taking control over the things you can change will help you stay positive and connected with whānau and friends. It can help if you:
- budget so you get the most out of the money you have
- set yourself goals
- give yourself time to think through decisions
- find free things to do
- spend time hanging out with your children or mokopuna.
If things are getting really tough and you can’t afford the essentials, don’t hesitate to ask for more help:
- www.birthright.org.nz Information and support for single parent whānau.
- www.workandincome.govt.nz Information about financial assistance and employment services.
- www.familybudgeting.org.nz New Zealand Federation of Family Budgeting Services Inc.
- www.hnzc.co.nz Housing New Zealand.
- www.sorted.org.nz Independent Money Guide.
- www.mentalhealth.org.nz/assets/ResourceFinder/coping-with-financial-stress.pdf Pamphlet - Coping with Financial Stress.
Discrimination is when you’re judged and treated unfairly or poorly because of the group you belong to, rather than on who you are.
Groups that can be discriminated against include people with experience of depression or anxiety, people whose ethnicity, culture, gender identity or sexual orientation is different from that of most people around them, people who are disabled and older people.
If you’re not part of the mainstream culture, this discrimination can be a cause of distress. You may even start to believe in what others are saying publicly. This can then result in you:
- preferring to be alone
- feeling frustrated
- getting angry
- not believing in yourself
- losing confidence in your abilities
- not going for jobs
- not continuing your education
- missing out on doing things in life you really wanted to do.
If you’re discriminated against because of mental illness, the resulting feelings and the way you see yourself may prevent you from seeking help. That means you miss out on the treatment and support that can help you recover. The Like Minds, Like Mine programme has valuable information about discrimination. It provides a list of places you can get help from if you feel you’re being discriminated against.
Disability is very common. One in four New Zealanders lives with a disability.
Having a physical impairment, intellectual or learning disability does not automatically mean that your mental wellbeing will be affected. But some people with disabilities experience challenges and difficulties that can lead to stress and exclusion from the wider community.
A disability can cause feelings that affect your mental health. You might experience:
- feelings of grief and loss
- disappointment at not being able to reach life goals
- a loss of identity if the disability came about in adulthood.
It's really important to let others know what challenges you’re facing and how you’re feeling.
Many other people living with a disability share your frustration of living in a world that hasn’t taken into account their unique needs and that doesn’t recognise their strengths. Talking with them can be a great place to start.
Don’t be afraid to ask for professional help as you come to terms with the changes to your life.
There are many agencies and social movements that provide information and support for people with disabilities. Here are a few:
- http://www.dpa.org.nz (DPA) is a Disabled Person’s Organisation (DPO) that includes all disability groups. It focuses on achieving inclusion for all New Zealanders.
- www.health.govt.nz/our-work/disability-services Ministry of Health information about services to support people with disabilities.
- www.workandincome.govt.nz/eligibility/health-and-disability/index.html Information about financial assistance and employment services.
- www.beaccessible.org.nz Information on accessible environments.
- workbridge.co.nz A specialist employment service for people with all types of disability, injury or illness.
Alcohol and other drugs
While alcohol and other drugs can have a brief positive impact on our mood, in the longer term they don’t help, and are linked to a range of mental health issues.
You may drink alcohol to help you relax, lift your mood, feel less anxious in social situations, get to sleep, or to hide other problems. But when taken in larger amounts, alcohol is a depressant and will actually make you feel worse. The after effects of too much alcohol commonly make anxiety symptoms worse. Drinking can also affect your relationships with partners, whānau and friends, and impact on your work. The same is true of other drugs such as cannabis and methamphetamine.
Alcohol can change the effects of prescription medicines or other drugs and can make their side-effects worse. It can also make depression and anxiety harder to diagnose or treat.
if you’re worried about your drinking , talk to your doctor or another health professional. You can also call the Alcohol Drug Helpline for free on 0800 787 797 or free text 8681.
Alcohol.org.nz has lots of information and tools to help you learn about how alcohol affects you, or how much alcohol is actually in what you drink. It also has the Is Your Drinking Okay? test you can take if you wonder if your drinking might be a problem. If you're worried about drugs, you can check on your drug taking habits with the Test Your Drug Taking tool from the Alcohol Drug Helpline site.
Long Term Medical Conditions
Many people live with long-term medical conditions. For some, this has little impact on their life and the symptoms are managed quite easily. For others, day-to-day living can be really difficult.
Some long-term conditions can directly affect your mental health (for example diabetes, stroke, and thyroid problems). However, for many people it’s the difficulties that can come along with living with a long-term condition that contribute to depression or anxiety. These difficulties include:
- chronic pain
- head injuries
- grief that you have lost your sense of yourself as a healthy person
- reduced income
- the side-effects of medication or treatment
- loss of social support
- losing your independence
- worrying about others needing to care for you
- not being able to do things you used to enjoy.
Doctors and other health professionals are becoming more aware that having a long-term condition can affect your mental health. However, they are likely to be most concerned about your physical health. It is important that you share any concerns you have about your emotions or mental health.
It’s very important to be familiar with the signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety yourself. Take notice of any unrelated physical pain, extreme tiredness, loss of concentration, feelings of hopelessness or anxiety about your health.