Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Finding hope. Misconceptions: Unravelling anxiety, Episode 10

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Misconceptions: Unravelling Anxiety | Online series

Although you may never completely get rid of your anxiety, living with it can become easier.

“Sometimes I feel like I can have my anxiety sitting on my shoulder,” says Dr Terry Fleming, Associate Professor at Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington. “But it’s no longer right in front of my face any more.”

Reaching out, getting professional help, having support people, using diaphragmatic breathing, trying progressive muscle relaxation techniques, and taking medication can all help.

New advances in treatment are also being made all the time. We haven’t yet reached the peak of what we can do in terms of treatment and therapy, and Dr Apisalome Talemaitoga, Pasifika GP Network Chair, says innovations in using techniques such as medical micro-dosing may help.  

Clinical Psychologist Dr Lisa Reynolds says there is also potential for psychedelics to help people with anxiety.

“The early research is promising,” she says. “A couple of studies were of particular interest to me. People with cancer were given a high dose of psilocybin, and that single experience seemed to have really compelling results. People who had been through the treatment reported significantly less anxiety, less fear of death and dying, less depression, and greater quality of life.”

Treating anxiety with psilocybin – also known as “magic mushrooms” – might sound like the stuff of science fiction, but Reynolds says that in the USA, psilocybin and MDMA (commonly known as the drug “ecstasy”) have been classified by the Food and Drug Administration as breakthrough therapies.

“They may be reclassified as a treatment in the next year or so,” she says. “And if that happens, New Zealand might follow.”

While we wait for new advances in treatment, increasing openness and acceptance around mental health challenges is building.

MP Matt Doocey, National Party spokesperson for mental health, says the increasing awareness of mental health is creating an environment where people feel more comfortable about asking for help.

“We’ve got a young generation now who have a vocabulary to talk about mental health,” he says. “They’re more open to talking about their mental health needs, and they face less stigma coming forward.”

Counsellor Shirleen Prasad reiterates the message that it’s okay not to be okay.

“We all go through challenges in our lives, we all go through ups and downs,” she says. “Be kind to yourself, reach out, talk to someone about it – there is help out there. You’re not alone.”

Unravelling Anxiety Producer Charlotte Wanhill says she hopes the series will help destigmatise anxiety and encourage people to speak more openly.

“If we can open up the conversations around anxiety, and mental health in general, and give people a language and voice, perhaps we can then also change some of the inequities in the health system,” she says.

Other people featured in the Unravelling Anxiety series also have positive messages of hope to share.

“It’s good to talk about it”, “Take one day at a time”, and “Everything’s going to be okay”, are some of their words of wisdom.

Mental Health Nurse Jenna Goldsworthy says, “Life can still be really, really good.”

Unravelling Anxiety follows the first Misconceptions series by Digital Alchemist, The Truth About Miscarriage.

Where to get help
If you think you may be experiencing anxiety, you can ask your GP or a counsellor for advice. You can also reach out to the following organisations:

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