Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Getting help. Misconceptions: Unravelling anxiety, Episode 8

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Misconceptions: Unravelling Anxiety | Online series

There’s help out there for everyone – even if it can take a while to find what works for you. But the experts agree that the first step is talking to someone.

“It might be as simple as reaching out to a friend or a family member to have that conversation and let them know how you’re feeling,” says Mental Health and Addiction Practitioner Romy Lee. “The next step after that is reaching out to a professional – your GP or a counsellor or a mental health service.”

The Government is rolling out a plan to increase mental health services that are accessible, more suitable for Māori and Pacific people, and housed in facilities that are appropriate and safe. But in the meantime it can be difficult to find help, and Clinical Psychologist Dr Lisa Reynolds says there are lots of reasons why.

“People who are living in isolated settings are not going to have access in the same way that others do, and some of the systems aren’t always set up for people in a way that feels right for them,” she says.

Despite the barriers, Dr Apisalome Talemaitoga, Pasifika GP Network Chair, says it’s important that people don’t give up on looking for support.

“There is always help, and your GP or counsellor can refer you on to someone who can help you, or suggest medication that will help,” he says.

For some people medication is life-changing, but some prefer to manage their anxiety in other ways, says Dr Terry Fleming, Associate Professor at Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington.

“I’ve had people scared to talk to a doctor because they think they’ll be forced to take medication,” she says. “But no one can force you to take medication for anxiety.”

And whether or not medication’s your thing, there are simple things you can do to help manage your anxiety.

Clinical Psychologist Dr Eve Hermansson-Webb says that paying attention to your breathing and your thinking can help.

“in terms of our physiology, one of the foundational techniques we often teach people is diaphragmatic breathing,” she says. “We also teach people to look closely at their thinking, because we often ruminate about the worst case scenario.”

Progressive muscle relaxation is another technique that can help calm anxious minds – and so is connecting with friends and whānau.

“I usually call my fiancé,” says TikTok star Leighton Clarke (AKA Uncle Tics). “That always helps with everything.”

Though it’s not possible for everyone, having a healthy lifestyle can also help, says Anxiety New Zealand Trust National Manager Goldie Hamilton.

“Anxiety can almost be like running a marathon,” she says. “If we’re at peak condition, then when a challenge arrives in our lives we’re much more able to deal with that challenge.”

But Hamilton agrees that the most important step is talking to someone.

“If you find yourself wondering – ‘should I reach out for help’? The answer is always yes. If in doubt, reach out.”

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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