Depression and anxiety are as real, scary and as potentially crippling to your life as any over-the-bars moment you’ll ever have. They’re also more common than tutus at a singlespeed race; in fact, approximately one out of five people will have to live with depression at some point in their lives and 14% of Australians are affected by anxiety each year.
Unlike wearing your knicks twice in a row, depression and anxiety are not something to feel ashamed or to feel guilty about. They’re not a sign of weakness, or a lack of personal strength, nor a ‘mood’ that someone can ‘snap out of’. These are serious conditions, and they need to be treated.
Perhaps the best news here is that mountain biking (well, any exercise really, but let’s not sweat the particulars) is good for you. In fact, recent research suggests that frequent, intense exercise can have the same short-term effect on the brain as some antidepressant medications. And it’s not just all those endorphins doing you good; that awesome sense of community found amongst mountain bikers and those rich interpersonal connections can genuinely support recovery from depression (in combination with treatment from a qualified mental health professional).
What can we all do then, to help prevent depression and anxiety? Firstly, look after yourself – there’s nothing brave about pretending you’re okay when you’re not, so if you notice a change in your thoughts of behaviour, act on it. All contact with mental health professionals is private and confidential, and if you let your family and your mates in on what’s going on for you, you might just find they can help you to get better.
Look after your mates and family – if you notice any changes such as mood fluctuations, withdrawal from usual activities (like your regular ride), excessive worry and negative thinking, changes in sleep, weight and appetite, poor concentration, fatigue, irritability or social isolation – make sure you tell your mate or family member that you’ve noticed something’s up, and that you’re there to help them in any way that you can.
Help break down the harmful prejudices around mental illness – for some bloody reason, we continue to hear false, outdated and harmful cultural messages about mental illnesses. Mental illness is not a myth, no more than a broken collar bone or scraped up chin – you wouldn’t leave your mate on the trailside busted and bleeding, and you’ve got just as much opportunity to help them in the case of mental illness.
Joining in on Movember as a Mo Bro or Mo Sista is a great way to show your support and help to breakdown stigmas about mental health problems.
Want to know more?
Accessing a psychologist in Australia:
The best place to start is to see a GP about a referral. GPs can offer medication advice if necessary, as well as refer you to either a psychologist or a psychiatrist. In Australia, Medicare will fund up to 10 sessions with a psychologist provided you have a GP referral, and many psychologists will bulk bill. If you are seeking a psychologist close to your home or workplace the following website might assist you: www.findapsychologist.org.au or call 1800 33 497.
The list below is just some of the people you can turn to for help and answers to your questions. They are all just a web page or a phone call away.
Phone: 1300 22 4636
Black Dog Institute
Phone: (02) 9382 4530
Lifeline (24 hours)
Phone: 13 11 14
Mensline (24 hours)
Phone: 1300 78 99 78