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Four tools to help you take control of your depression or anxiety

Friday 26 May 2017

A young woman sits in a cafe, pensively looking out the window.
Using tools to track your mental health can help you understand triggers and patterns.

In Australia, depression and anxiety are common mental illnesses. One in five Australians will experience depression in their lifetime, but statistics also show that it can take months or years before they’ll search out help for their condition.  

There are all sorts of reasons people delay seeking help: convincing themselves their illness is no big deal; worry about the cost of seeking treatment; a fear of being medicated for their mental illness; or a reluctance to open up to a councillor or psychiatrist about their issue. Sometimes, for people living in remote areas, help is simply too far away to be accessed regularly.

If you suspect you may be depressed or anxious, we strongly recommend seeing your GP or talking to someone as your first step. Choose to be among the one-third of people with mental health difficulties who does ask for help.

There is also a range of online and offline tools that exist to help give you more control over your emotional state.  They can’t always replace professional treatment, particularly if your condition is severe, but for those experiencing mild to moderate anxiety or depression there is evidence they can help.

Whether you’re currently struggling with depression or anxiety, just starting to consider that something might be wrong, or simply interested in building up your resilience, here are four tools you can use to help take control of your mental fitness without leaving your home.

MoodGYM

MoodGYM is an interactive web program built using the principles of cognitive behaviour therapy – a form of therapy often used to combat anxiety and depression by changing the relationship between thought and emotions. MoodGYM was developed by the National Institute for Mental Health Research at The Australian National University, in collaboration with researchers and mental health experts.

MoodGYM’s approach is action oriented – after an initial anxiety and depression assessment, you run through five modules that focus on helping you identify triggers and unhealthy thinking patterns, then develop new coping strategies to help minimise their impact.

As the name implies, MoodGYM is aimed at building up your mental fitness. While developed with those suffering from depression or anxiety in mind, it’s available to anyone who is interested in using the techniques to build up their mental and emotional resilience.

OnTrack

The OnTrack depression relapse program is focused on helping those whose depression keeps recurring and causing problems every time it returns. Like MoodGYM, the initial focus is on learning your triggers, but OnTrack takes a long-term view and sets about helping you identify triggers over the course of a year.

myCompass

Set up by the Black Dog Institute, the myCompass system is a personalised self-help program for individuals with mild or moderate depression or anxiety.

MyCompass includes learning modules with exercises and activities to help you understand parts of your mental illness that have been troubling you, encourages you to track habits or triggers, and has a dairy space where you can record your thoughts and feelings.

The advantage of myCompass is its reminders. MyCompass can be set up to email or SMS you, delivering the occasionally reminder that you’re working through their modules or just delivering an inspirational message to keep you on track.

A woman's legs and arms can be seen, she sits on a couch writing in a journal.

An ‘old-school’ journal

If online tools don’t sound like your thing, you can still get similar benefits by setting up an analogue tracking journal using an old-school notepad and pen. There’s some great advice out there for using Ryder Carroll’s Bullet Journal system to help identify mental health patterns across weeks and months.

Even if you don’t want a system quite so involved, just having a daily log recording your activities and general mood can be a useful reference when you find yourself caught in a spiral of guilt or anxiety.

Having details recorded in the moment, rather than relying on subjective and unreliable memory, can show you just how much you really accomplished. It allows you to engage in a dialogue with your past self, rather than being trapped in your current perceptions of the situation.

More information about depression, anxiety and finding help

If you have concerns about your mental health and would like to take steps that aren’t included on this list, consider the following options.

  • 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) is a 24-hour confidential phone service that provides health advice to Queenslanders, putting you in touch with a registered nurse who can advise you about whether you might want to take the next step. Your call is confidential, like all medical records, and you are not required to give your name (although your gender and age are required, to have symptoms assessed).  
  • Talk to your doctor about your concerns and ask for an assessment or referral. Some general practitioners (GPs) have additional training and expertise in mental health. Search for a GP online or phone beyondblue on 1300 224 636.
  • Search for other mental health services, online or in your local area, using the Queensland Government website.
Last updated: 15 September 2017