Although awareness about mental health issues is increasing within society, stigma about seeking help and going to see a Psychologist still remains. This can act as a barrier to people reaching out for support when they may need it the most. This can be especially true for the military population. For serving and ex-serving members, there may be additional concerns about consequences if they did identify that they needed help. In this article, we take a look at some of the myths about what it means to see a Psychologist, and how they might be getting in the way of people accessing support and preventing them from living a more full and happy life.
Myth: Asking for help is a sign of weakness
Fact: Seeking help when you are struggling can be a very difficult thing to do
You may fear that you are weak because you are not able to just “get over it” or “move on” or worry that others will judge you. This may have been something you have heard from others or you may have even been encouraged to “suck it up and get on with the job”. Whilst there might have been times when that was necessary, avoiding or denying your worries or problems will only make them worse in the long run. Acknowledging your struggles and reaching out for help takes a lot of strength and determination. Seeking help means you are taking action and challenging the way you are currently experiencing life.
Myth: Therapy is only for people with “serious” issues or mental illness
Fact: You do not need a diagnosed psychological disorder to see a Psychologist
There are many reasons people seek help including learning how to cope with a diagnosis, relationships, stress, grief and loss, adjustment issues and responses to trauma.
Myth: Seeing a Psychologist is no different to talking to friends or family
Fact: Whilst support from friends and family is very important, seeing a Psychologist is different for a number of reasons
Psychologists have years of training and practice on how to work with a range of cognitive, emotional, behavioural and relational issues. As registered health professionals, they are also held to a strict code of ethics about how they should behave. Seeing a Psychologist is all about you, whereas talking to friends and family is more of a back and forth, discussing each other’s issues. In a session with a Psychologist, people are less likely to censor themselves or sugar coat their issues because the Psychologist has a more neutral position. Also, when you talk to a Psychologist, what you discuss is confidential, which means the Psychologist is not able to disclose your information to others without your consent or knowledge (with a few exceptions).
Myth: Therapy is too expensive
Fact: In lots of cases, therapy can be very expensive. However, Psychologists at Soldier On provide their services with no out-of-pocket expenses to clients
Another service that provides free counselling to veterans and their families is the Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) which provide services Australia wide. Other programs to assist with making access to Psychologists more affordable include the non-liability white card through DVA and the Better Access to Mental Health initiative funded through Medicare. Both allow you to access a Psychologist through a referral provided by your GP.
Myth: Therapy is all about discussing my childhood
Fact: There are a range of different therapeutic approaches provided by Psychologists
Depending on why are you seeing a Psychologist, the Psychologist will tailor their approach to be right for you. For some, that will mean exploring past relationships with family, friends and partners and how these might be impacting them currently. Other approaches will be more focused on what is happening for you in the present and learning new coping skills and strategies. When you see a Psychologist, they should talk to you about your needs and how best to customise sessions to suit your unique personal situation.
Myth: Seeing a Psychologist will ruin my career
Fact: Evidence shows that accessing psychological support as soon as possible leads to better outcomes and might reduce the impacts of any mental health difficulties on your work
A common barrier to seeking help, especially for those still serving in the ADF, is that they are concerned that acknowledging that they need assistance will mean that their career is over, or they will be penalised for doing so. While it may be necessary for some members to be medically downgraded as a result of their presenting issues, this is not always the case. What is important is that you seek the help you need, when you need it.
If you are considering seeking help, please contact one of our Soldier On Psychologists via 1300 620 380 or firstname.lastname@example.org during business hours, Monday to Friday.
Alternatively, you can contact VVCS through their national contact line on 1800 011 046, or Lifeline on 13 11 14, at any time of the day or night.