There is light during COVID‑19

Imagine for a moment, back to when we were pondering about what 2020 had in store for us and considering our “New Years” resolutions, if someone said to you….”In 2020 you life is going to be very different to anything you have ever known before. You won’t be allowed to see friends or family, go to work/school and even going to the gym was definitely out”. Maybe you would have burst out laughing and proceeded to say “that would NEVER happen!”

Five months into 2020, and….this is our new “normal”. Restrictions on seeing friends and family, no gym, no restaurants or cafes, and work/school is so different to how we usually know it. Many of us made huge adjustments to life and now as restrictions are beginning to ease, we need to make huge adjustments again. 

Let’s start by acknowledging that this is an unprecedented event and we are in the midst of a global pandemic. It is never been more important to look after ourselves with the priority being to be safe and manage daily living as best we can. Someone individuals are going to be able to manage with little to no impact on their well-being, however, the reality is many of us are either struggling or having difficult days here and there. 

Despite these challenging times we face, so many of us might be taking on more responsibilities….whether it be at work, putting in extra hours or undertaking different responsibilities. As a business owner trying to save your business and think of innovative ideas to stay afloat. As a parent…you are now a school teacher, dance teacher or sports coach trying to ensure to continue your child’s education while still maintain your role as a parent. Or maybe you have found yourself out of work and are now learning the world of job seeking and budgeting. As most of us find ourselves trying to adapt to keep our lives running as “normal” as possible, we may find ourselves struggling in some way or another. I’d like to take a moment to say “well done, I can see you are doing the best you can, and it is ok you have some difficult days that you feel you can’t ‘keep it together’. It is ok!”.

There are a number of key signs you may want to keep an eye out for to help check in with yourself and your well-being in this time of uncertainty. Some behavioural warning signs may include: sleeping difficulties, procrastination and avoidance of tasks, excessive activity levels (are you taking on more and more AND MORE?), crying easily, more conflict within relationships, feeling on edge all the time, withdrawal and isolation (beyond the social distancing rules! Do you find yourself not answering the phone and avoiding social connection) and have you found yourself drinking more alcohol, taking drugs or other medications? 

Physical warning signs are also important to keep a watch on during the COVID-19 crisis. Are you feeling exhausted? Eating more or less? Increase in somatic complaints e.g. headaches? And the not so fun changes to our gastrointestinal system? 

Sometimes we notice a rollercoaster of emotions during a crisis. Are you feeling sad, depressed, anxious, fear or worry? Maybe you are experiencing irritability, anger, hopelessness, self-doubt or guilt?

This is a time to acknowledge that we are in the midst of a global pandemic. The situation creates fear, uncertainty and sickness (perhaps you have contracted COVID-19 or know someone who has or more sadly, lost someone. We are in survival mode and in that space, we might expect to be having any of the above responses to the changes we have experienced so far in 2020. Being kind to yourself is part of self-care, “it is ok to not be ok”. 

What you need right now is maybe to take a break, or do something fun or relaxing. Reach out for support to your loved ones or to other professional services. This is a time where it is vital to look after ourselves, to get through this challenging time. Take some time to create a routine, aim to get plenty of sleep, maintain physical activity and eat a well-balanced diet. If you are working or studying from home, then it is important to allocate specific work hours and breaks to maintain a work/life balance. And finally do something you enjoy, whether it be your favourite TV show, or something creative or sporty or finding a cosy space to read a book….take some time just for YOU

By acknowledging that this is a challenging road and it may impact on your well-being and resilience, we can collectively support each other and find ways to get the best quality of life. If you are feeling unusually vulnerable or less able to manage yourself then there are various support services in place including Lifeline (13 11 14). Sometimes talking problems through and learning strategies to deal with mental health can increase your sense of confidence and ability to manage things going forwards. Sometimes the support from a psychologist can be a turning point to lasting changes and improvements to your life. Our team at  Emerald Psychology Practice are on board with supporting the local community through this difficult time. Our psychologists are trained in helping to manage many conditions including depression, anxiety, grief, stress and coping and so on. So, if you need additional assistance, please call to start the process of recovery. 

Stefany Klein

“I just fancy a beer”

When does it change from “I just fancy a beer” to “I’m addicted to alcohol”? The short answer is, the transition can be slow and progressive and sometimes not even obvious to the individual. Often those around us detect the problem before we are aware of it. Alcohol, unlike most other drugs, is interesting. Firstly, it is legal! It is also easily accessible, promoted in society as normal, engrained in our culture and advertised in mainstream media. It is associated with having a good time, relaxing, socialising and managing stress. The one fact that often gets missed amongst these messages is that it is a drug of addiction with potentially harmful effects. Addiction to alcohol, like addiction in general, does not always occur with the individual intending for it end that way. People may drink responsibly for many years but the onset of a major life stressor could change the relationship to alcohol from enjoying a drink with friends to using it to manage stress. Others may have used alcohol for many years to cope or manage other problems such as anxiety or depression. In fact, for many, the thought that they may have an alcohol addiction is met with “no, not me! I’m just social drinker” or “I’m not addicted, I just enjoy a few beers at the end of the day” or “I could give it up anytime, I just don’t want to”.

There are some factors that indicate alcohol might be a problem. Do you recognise any of these in yourself or others; does alcohol affect your work? Does alcohol affect your relationships? Has alcohol started effecting your mood, mental health or sleep? Has alcohol intake increased over time? Does alcohol use cause financial strain? These are just a few questions to consider. Alcohol addiction can result in many long-term problems. There are now several proven physical health problems associated long-term alcohol misuse along with many other mental health issues. The social cost of alcohol addiction can also be great. It can cause family discord and even family separation. The problem of addiction is not one dimensional and so seeking support can be very important.

We are experiencing an extremely challenging time with COVID-19 and perhaps our usual coping strategies are not available to us. Many of us have resorted to increased alcohol use as a way of coping and managing and its use feels justified at the moment. If alcohol use is starting to feel out of control or problematic, it is important to take a step back and think about the issue more broadly. Understanding what underlies addiction and consequently, what maintains the problems are both crucial to recovery. Working together with professionals and loved ones will always give the best outcomes. Whilst it can be daunting to take the first step…the grass will be greener on the other side.

Useful links:

Life line  13 11 44—Information/Substance-Abuse—Addiction/Substance-Abuse-and-Addiction

Facts and resources about alcohol and drugs

Family drug support Australia  1300 368 186

Youth support and advocacy service  1800 458 685

Australia’s leading alcohol and drug search directory

Find the Right Mental Health Service for you

Find the Right Mental Health Service for you

Mental Health services can be complex, changeable, and it can be a challenge to find just the right options for a person in a specific situation.

As a result of our lockdown experiences we are seeing an increased demand for mental health services across a range of services, and waiting lists for psychologists have hit record lengths. Consider the range of services that are available to find the services that are the best fit for you. Here are some options to consider while figuring this out, or waiting for the right service to become available.

It’s worth persisting to find out what your needs are and what people, services, or interventions can be helpful to you.  Sometimes identifying what the problem is, or what is the change you want, can be an important step towards finding a solution, and is often something that a psychologist can assist with.

When to seek out mental health services?

……for yourself

 At times of crisis, when you have severely depressed mood, harmful behaviours, or thoughts of ending your life.

 When you are experiencing big changes in behaviours or distressing experiences.

 When difficulties are persistent over weeks or months and are disrupting your ability to do your normal work, family, or recreational roles and activities.

 When you are not thriving and not satisfied.  It’s a good idea to seek mental health or personal development support when you want to be functioning better.  You don’t need to be in crisis to benefit from gaining self-awareness and skills that help you to be the person you want to be.   

 …….for others

 When you have a loved on or someone in your care that is showing signs of crisis, risky behaviour, or unusual changes in their behaviour, it is a good idea to support them to seek assistance if you can, or otherwise consult with a healthcare professional to better understand what can be done.  In an emergency you can contact crisis services, or consult specialist services for information and guidance.

 ……..for friends, family, carers

 Those providing caring to a person with mental health needs can experience considerable stress themselves, and carers services can be helpful.

 Carers Victoria has a phone line as well as links to practical and counselling resources.

 Consider the right match for you, including:


Do you prefer face to face or online services.  How far might you need to travel, how often will you need to attend and how much of your time might a mental health intervention require? 


There is a range of public and private services with a mix of costs and funding options.  There are many  low or no cost options, however they may also have a waiting period, or limits on their services.  Private services may cost more, however you may have a much broader choice to select a preferred service provider.  Funding for services are often available from medicare, private health insurance, TAC, Workcover, Employee Assistance Programs and NDIS.

Quality of practice

Consider what quality of care you are looking for, and whether treatments are in accordance with evidence based practice and treatment guidelines for specific conditions.

 You may like to consider what accreditation, qualifications, or experience a mental health practitioner might have, the may be registered practitioners with the Australian Health Practitioners Registration Agency, they may belong to an association, or may be practitioners without a regulating body.

Some other considerations that ethical practitioners keep in mind are to practice within their area of expertise and experience and place your best interests as a priority.  They are happy to consider referral to others services that might be a better match for you, and provide realistic expectations, so they don’t promise unrealistically quick and simple cures.

Relationship with health care provider

The quality of a relationship with a therapist providing mental health interventions, or therapeutic alliance, has been found to be a significant factor in the effectiveness of treatment, and about as important as they type of interventions that are being provided.  It is important that you feel comfortable, listened to and respected, that the goals of therapy are developed together, and that review and feedback about how the treatment is sought regularly.  It can also be important to have an idea of how long the treatment is estimated to take.   

 Ask your GP for a recommendation, or other trusted people.

 If the first provider is not right for you, don’t give up, try another.

 What local face to face services are available?

 Community Health Centers

These centers provide a range of helpful physical and mental health services, at low or no cost, by experienced professionals, such as counselling for children, families and adults, physiotherapy, dieticians, podiatry, and diabetes specialists.

 Inspiro (Belgrave and Lilydale) 03 9028 0153

 EACH Upper Ferntree Gully)  1300 003 224

 Monash Health (Pakenham, Cockatoo and Berwick)  1300 342 273

 Public Mental Health Services

Important for mental health crisis, severe or complex disorders.  Referral via 24 hour Psychiatric Triage phone line.

 Eastern Health 1300 721 927

 Monash Health 1300 369 012

Private Psychologists and other mental health practitioners

See your GP for a mental health plan for medicare subsidised sessions.  Funding can also be available for psychological services for TAC, Workcover, Employee Assistance Programs, Victims of Crime, NDIS

Youth mental health service:

(locations in Pakenham and Narre Warren)

What specialist services are available? 

(many are now online)

Trauma – Centers against Sexual Assault

 Domestic Violence – 1800 RESPECT

Relationship Services:

(locations in Berwick, Cranbourne, and Cranbourne North)

Substance Use

 SECADA (South East Drug and Alcohol Services) 1800 142 536

 Not for profit associations that specialise in particular mental health difficulties and disorders can provide specialised supports. There are many of these association, some examples:



Eating Disorders Victoria:

Bereavement from death of a child

Borderline Personality Disorder:

Mental Health Support:

 Lived experience and peer educators can be valuable supports.  It can be helpful and hopeful to hear from others that have had similar difficult experiences.

SANE Australia is an organisation that provides links to lived experienced stories and services.

When you need someone to talk to now…….

 If risk of harm is significant please consider whether emergency or crisis services are needed:

 Calling ambulance or attending the local Emergency Department

Local psychiatric triage 24-hour phone services:

Eastern Health 1300 721 927

Monash Health 1300 369 012

Gippsland 1300 363 322

Domestic Violence 24 hours phone line 1800 737 732

Consider online and phone services that are available to provide professional mental health support, some are staffed 24 hours, and some also have online chats and other useful information.

Lifeline 131 114

Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636

Suicide Call back line 1300 659 467

Mens Line Australia 1300 789 978

Kids Helpline 1800 551 800

When you have to wait for a service……

 While it is important to receive the individual professional service that you need, please see this list of resources and strategies that may be useful at when there is a delay accessing this.

Reducing your stress and demands by taking time of work or asking for help from family or friends.  Your GP is likely to assist you with a medical certificate to take sick leave from work if needed. 

 Make an additional time to check in with existing supports, helpful friends and family, existing services, or your GP.

 Consider online courses from evidence-based providers, such as:

Katerina Volny, Emerald Psychology Practice