Mandy did not want to go to school, she was sleeping a lot and had lost her appetite. Her parents were very worried and did not know what to do.
Mandy’s intellectual disability, which affected her speech, made it difficult for her parents to uncover what was behind these changes. She had always loved school and used to jump out of bed to start a new day.
With the help of a psychologist, the family uncovered that Mandy was feeling scared about starting high school the following year. The psychologist helped Mandy understand the feelings that she had been having.
The psychologist also worked with Mandy and her family to create a plan to help her cope with this transition. The plan included several short visits to the new school, she met some teachers and students and they created a storybook that explained her high school routine step-by-step.
VMCH Disability Services psychologist, Jessica Ducat, says many people at some point need to see a psychologist. People with a disability have a higher risk of a mental illness going unrecognised because of the effects of their disability. Jessica is pictured (centre) meeting two VMCH customers at one of our training courses.
“Mental health is one of the most important factors in determining the quality of your life. Unfortunately, many people fail to seek help,” Jessica says.
Family, friends and support workers can play a vital role in helping people with a disability to seek help.
1: Warning signs, the quick five.
Jessica says people can show many signs when they are having a tough time dealing with an issue on their own.
She suggests five key signs to look out for when deciding whether an individual may need support from a psychologist.
- Changes in sleep
- Changes in diet
- Are they still connecting with friends and peers?
- Are they participating in regular daily activities like school, social activities, sport?
- Are they maintaining hygiene (showering, etc)?
2: Early intervention during times of change
Getting help early can make a big difference. That is why it could be beneficial to seek the support of a psychologist during times of major change. It could be moving from kindergarten to school, life after school and other times of change.
“Forward planning before a time of transition can make a big difference for someone going through a big change,” Jessica said.
“Within my practise I like to plan what’s happening for clients not only now but within the next five years and what’s happening with the supports in assisting that person.”
3: The risk of “being strong” during tough times
People are often encouraged to ‘be strong’ to deal with problems and challenges. Jessica suggests this can cause more problems in the long run.
“If you are unsure, it’s always good to seek help and have that reassurance. I think that engaging with a psychologist or a mental health professional shows a huge amount of bravery.”
4: Three steps to getting support from a psychologist
- Make an appointment with a general practitioner to rule out medical reasons: medications, illness or pain
- You can ask your general practitioner for a Mental Health Care Plan to see a psychologist. If you have a NDIS plan you may be able to access support under the goal of improved relationships.
- Call the VMCH Disability Services Advisor for a referral to a psychologist. The typical wait time is two to four weeks.
If you would like to connect with our Disability Services psychologist please call VMCH on 1800 798 921.