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Responding to mental distress

SA Health July19 Stills Print 137

It's important to take care of your own wellbeing and to take the time to notice what's going on for you, and for others around you. When you can take care of your own wellbeing, it's much easier to be there for your loved ones and support their wellbeing too.

Take steps to look after yourself

It’s normal to feel uncertain, anxious or overwhelmed in difficult times like the COVID-19 pandemic. You might feel lonely, disconnected, or uncertain about your future, feel agitated or short-tempered and less patient, kind and understanding of others. These feelings are understandable and taking steps to look after yourself and the people you care about will help you manage distress. On this page you will find tips and resources for taking care or yourself and your loved ones. Please reach out for help if you need extra support. Services are available to help with money problems, drug or alcohol issues, and domestic/family violence.

Feeling distressed?

Feeling a sense of distress is a normal human response to uncertain and fearful times, but it’s important to recognise if it’s starting to impact on your relationships, your work, or how you take care of yourself.

When you are experiencing emotional overload or distress you can take care of yourself by:

  • Stopping what you are doing and taking three deep breaths
  • Taking time to notice what you might be experiencing, keeping in mind that being anxious, confused or overwhelmed is understandable
  • Being mindful helps you to know how you are feeling and respond effectively.
  • Taking action – call a friend for a chat, take a break, or ask for help from someone you trust.

If you notice you are really struggling you can call any of these numbers:

Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on our mental health and wellbeing

Wellbeing SA has partnered with Professor Nicholas Procter, Chair of UniSA’s Mental Health Nursing Clinical and Health Sciences, to produce a series of videos outlining the impacts of COVID-19 on our mental health and wellbeing.

Communities Through Change podcast

Wellbeing SA has produced a podcast, Communities Through Change, that explores how COVID-19 has impacted the wellbeing of South Australian community members.

You do not need to be an expert to help someone you care about if they tell you they are struggling or if you notice they are distressed. You can offer support and care by:

  • Letting them know you care – you might like to ask:
    • You don’t seem yourself, what’s going on?
    • I noticed that… (observations of signs, changes, patterns)
  • Listening to them without judgement – minimise distractions and try not to “fix” things for that person.

You’ll be amazed at how often just listening to someone gives them the space to find their own solutions. However, if solutions don’t emerge or you're still concerned, ask if it’s OK to connect the person with other helpful resources, including the contacts listed above.

Access to works by artists who live with/experience mental health issues/distress

When we feel distressed, repetitive creative motions like knitting, drawing, or writing contribute to our wellbeing by helping us feel calm and focused – much like mindfulness or meditation.  Creating art can help us to manage our emotions and express our experiences that we might find too difficult to put into spoken words.

At mindshare you will find artwork, short stories, poetry, photography, original music recordings, mini documentaries, digital stories and blogs submitted by people with lived experience of a mental health challenge or illness, as well as their carers, sector workers, family and friends.

Finding light amongst the darkness

Amber Jurek shares her ‘five valuable life lessons’ including the importance of reaching out and being surrounded by people you trust when life becomes difficult. In this blog, Amber promotes self-compassion, celebrating little wins along the way and allowing the people around us to be our strength in times of need. 

Self-care strategies during a time of uncertainty

Jane Borda shares her self-care strategies during a time of uncertainty. Jane has lived experience of mental health issues, and feels her planning and self-care in times of increased stress may also be able to help others.

If you feel that the person is experiencing a mental health emergency or there is an imminent risk of suicide, call 000 or Mental Health Triage on 13 14 65.


Grief is a major issue determining people’s wellbeing and is a major risk factor for both physical and mental illness, and suicide.  The impact of grief is often underestimated so it can be hard to know what is ‘normal’ and what people can do to cope.

GriefLink is a South Australian based website which provides information for people who are dealing with grief and loss, and for those who are supporting them. GriefLink can help people to find information about different experiences of grief, the feelings and reactions people might be experiencing, and things that can help.

Over the last six months, many South Australians have faced losses and associated grief, firstly with the bushfires and subsequently with COVID-19. GriefLink now has specific information for grief associated with COVID-19 and the bushfires in addition to resources relating to suicide.

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