The hurtful messages from the "no" campaign for same-sex marriage have already begun with street posters in Melbourne urging the reader to “Stop the Fags…92% of children raised by gay parents are abused”. This is just the start and there will do doubt be further hateful, incorrect and discriminatory material that will be disseminated in coming weeks.
Children and young people are very susceptible to hateful and hurtful messages. It is innate in our makeup to want to belong to both our peer groups and the wider community. For children, teens and young adults belonging and fitting-in is especially important and often vital for making friendships and feeling accepted.
Messages and communication telling us we are somehow not fit to be part of a community or less equal than straight people can start a cognitive process in the brain where we start receiving thoughts such as “I am not good enough”, or “I don’t belong”, or “why am I gay?”.
It is important and vital that adults, family and peers encourage communication around these types of thoughts the LGBTI youth may experience. There are some excellent methods to disempower judgemental thoughts.
It is totally understandable that hateful and hurtful advertising and communications can result in messages in the brain that become judgemental and critical. This is normal and how our mind responds when we want to belong to a group yet we hear or see messages that tell us this is not possible. These negative thoughts and judgements can accumulate and that is how anxiety, stress and depression occur.
Just being positive does not generally work and self-judgmental thoughts have a way of getting around positive thinking. Basic mindfulness techniques are fantastic way of slowing judgemental thoughts down and diminishing their power such as slow, deep breathing and concentrating on the breath as it enters the lungs and is gradually expelled. What this does is slow the negative thoughts down if they become overwhelming.
Another great strategy to reduce the impact of painful thoughts is naming the story that is going on in your head and placing it in a cartoon frame. For example, if there are constant thoughts about ‘being gay is wrong’ or ‘gay people don’t deserve to be happy’. Place the thoughts mentally in a little cartoon boat with some nasty people yelling these slogans and mentally send the boat under a giant waterfall of green slime. This imagery is loved by teens and adolescents as a way of simply knocking the wind out of the strength of hurtful messages and giving them a reason to laugh.
Naming the hurtful messages is also great way to deflate their power. For example, when the mind starts the process of saying ‘being LGBTI sucks’ or ‘why did I have to be LGBTI?’. This could be thought of as the ‘not good enough story’ and when the thoughts start, just smile and say ‘oh, the old not good enough show is on again – I have heard this one before so many times. It is so boring now’. This immediately taps into a person’s natural warmth and humour as an instrument for deflating the power of hurtful messages.
In the coming weeks, when the hate, bile and reckless words are used to try and defeat the ‘yes’ vote, there will no doubt be children, teenagers and young adults absorbing some of this which will start the negative and judgmental thoughts. It is critical we empathise and normalise this – we would not be human if this didn’t hurt. What is important is learning to be playful with such thoughts – to see them as nothing more than words or pictures floating around in our minds that do not reflect our values. By naming them, playing with them and sending them off in a mess of green sludge we can farewell these thoughts and go on with leading the fabulous lives we were destined to live.
A supportive counsellor or therapist can help ease psychological distress in a number of important ways. Three of which are listed below:
Counsellors are non-judgemental and very open minded. They are trained to listen to your story without judgement or any criticism. This allows you the peace of mind to truly uncover your thoughts, feelings and emotions around events or what is happening in your life.
2. Counsellors will not give you answers, but assist you discover the path for yourself Counsellors will generally not provide you with concrete answers of definitive advice, they will through a walking the path with you, help you uncover your own insight and understanding of your problems. This will assist you develop the tools which will help you to resolve your problems or issues on your own.
Counselling is a journey, and it takes time and consistency to work effectively. Because of this, many people opt for regular counselling sessions to make the most of the process.
Counselling can help you understand yourself better and the way you think, which will ultimately help you develop a clearer understanding of your problems.
3. A journey of self-discovery can be more rewarding than any holiday
Counselling often requires you to discuss upsetting emotions and painful memories. Bringing up these thoughts can feel difficult to start with and, initially, you may feel uncomfortable. As the process develops it will feel easier to share your thoughts and feelings. You will feel connected with the counsellor in a warm and therapeutic relationship. And you will feel heard. The process is designed for you to find your inner voice and find your true self away from all the ‘noise’ of everyday life. Many people find this journey of self-discovery liberating and energising.
Online counselling is a great way to work with a supportive counsellor without having to attend an actual face-to-face session. Visit www.counsellingonline.biz for more information.
Acceptance and Behaviour Therapy (ACT) is ideally suited to delivery through online counselling. According to ACT in times of distress and when we are in addiction phases we often become fused with our thoughts and we elevate their importance to facts. So, a thought to drink, to eat or take drugs becomes a fact or an order that must be obeyed. ACT encourages people to notice and accept their thoughts and feelings and also shows them strategies to remove their power. Clients working with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy learn various techniques to diffuse the power of addictive thoughts such as reframing the thought with a funny voice and picturing the thought as a cartoon character. The goal in ACT is for clients to discover their core values and commit to a course of action based on their values.
When ACT is delivered through online counselling with professional organisations such as www.counsellingonline.biz the goal for clients will be help them lead a rich and meaningful life while accepting the pain that inevitably goes with it. Addiction can be a large block to leading such a life and with ACT we support the client to understand that addictive impulses such as thoughts, images, feelings, sensations, urges and memories can all have their power and hold over us removed by using mindfulness and other strategies to handle such experiences.
Many therapies that try to work with addictions try to teach people that addictive thoughts are something ‘pathological’ that we should try and get rid of. ACT works differently and supports people as they transform their relationship with difficult thoughts and feelings so that we no longer think of them as ‘symptoms’. We learn to perceive them as harmless (sometime uncomfortable) temporary and transient psychological events.
ACT also does not try and tell people there is a ‘normal’ that we should aspire to or try and become.
Many issues of addictive behaviour involve avoidance – avoidance of uncomfortable thoughts, and feelings. The problem is the more we try and avoid uncomfortable thoughts or feelings the more these thoughts or feelings will intrude into our consciousness. So, we drink, take drugs, gamble to avoid thinking or feelings certain things. This is called experiential avoidance. This may work in the very short term, but not in the long run. ACT calls these ‘emotional control strategies’ that clients try to feel good (or less worse)
ACT offers clients an alternative to experiential avoidance with specific therapeutic interventions. Through the effective use of mindfulness. Clients learn to stop fighting with their private experiences—to open up to them, make room for them, and allow them to come and go without a struggle. The time, energy, and money that they wasted previously on trying to control how they feel is then invested in taking effective action (guided by their values) to change their life for the better.
Despite significant improvements in community and cultural acceptance of diverse sexual and romantic orientations and gender identifications, there is still oppression, discrimination and marginalization of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people around Australia.
Coping with discrimination and oppression, coming out to one’s family, and discovering an authentic sense of self in the face of social expectations and pressures can lead to higher levels of depression, anxiety, substance use, and other mental health concerns for LGBTQ people.
Research shows that youth who identify as LGBTQ are at an increased risk of suicidal ideation and self-harm particularly when they also experience discrimination based on their sexual or gender identity. A recent study found students who identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender were almost ten times as likely to have experienced bullying and victimization at school and more than twice as likely to have considered suicide as their heterosexual, non-transgender classmates within the previous year.
Discrimination may take several forms, including social rejection, verbal and physical bullying, and sexual assault, and repeated episodes will likely lead to chronic stress and diminished mental health. Perceived discrimination—the expectation of discrimination—may also lead to diminished mental health. LGBTQ adults, too, may be subject to similar forms of harassment, as well as discrimination with regards to housing, employment, education, and basic human rights.
Sometimes just having someone who will listen without judgement and help find your path with support, empathy and warmth makes the world of difference.
Suicide is now the leading cause of death in men under the age of 50. This is a striking statistic one we all need to think about. And talk about.
Is it tougher to be a man now? I’m not sure but the constant presence of social media and social pressures through advertising, peer group, media and other signals mean that it is difficult for men to work out who they are, what they stand for and how to be true to themselves. Especially when who they are may be different from the image they project or the one their friends or family expect them to be.
Think of the increasingly dominant phrase ‘man up’, used any time a man moans about feeling ill or worried. The suggestions behind that phrase are terrible when you stop and look. It places the idea of masculinity at some high plateau, where we must be strong and stoic.
Let’s talk openly about what we feel and our thoughts, especially when what we feel and think could be damaging us. In other words, let's not man up. Let's speak out. Sometimes we need to find someone removed from our social circle who is completely non-judgemental and who can listen and guide us in a direction where we can be true to who we really are and start leading a rich, rewarding and meaningful life.
A recent example of how difficult it can be for professionals to seek help was in April 2016, a young accountant plunged to his death from a London skyscraper after his online gambling addiction spiralled out of control.
Joshua Jones was only 23 and working with PwC but also led a double life and was addicted to online gambling. He committed suicide after his gambling habit and associated debts rose uncontrollably, an inquest into his death was told. What this sad story indicates is there are people in the professions with problems and some do not feel able to be able or comfortable to seeking support.
We understand the pressures that professionals have of billing, clients, peer group, family and financial commitments which can make it difficult to take time out to seek help. Therefore, it is vital such professionals impacted by addiction or other issues seek qualified help as soon as possible otherwise the issues will conflate and the potential downside will be greater.
We also understand the increased shame that can exist for professionals as there is a general community expectation of lawyers, accountants and professionals to be stable, together people with their psychological house in order. For these professionals, it can be more difficult to admit to both themselves and others they have a problem.
There have been studies which have concluded that online counselling when delivered using SKYPE and combined with cognitive behaviour therapy or acceptance and commitment therapy can be effective for a number of clinical issues.
A significant advantage of counselling online is accessibility – support is available for those in remote areas and those who may have difficulty attending a clinic of offices. Online counselling has also been shown to be effective for teenagers and young adults who are open to new technology and thus may be open to seeking support through this method.
Online therapy is also very convenient, the issues around scheduling and setting appointment is largely removed. Online counselling may be appropriate for some clients where there may be a stigma around seeking support such as may be the case with certain cultural issues. And the degree of anonymity afforded through online counselling can prompt clients to communicate more freely and openly than they may have through face-to-face counselling.
There are some disadvantages. The main one being the loss of face-to-face contact where the counsellor can see the client’s body language and other non-verbal signs which assist the counsellor in learning what is happening for the client at the moment. Developing rapport between counsellor and client is important to helping the client, and in some cases it can be more difficult to establish that rapport through online counselling. However, our experience is rapport and trust can be developed through SKYPE counselling leading to a very therapeutic client/therapist relationship.