A city skyscape.

It might be issues with neighbours, or feeling judged, even being mistreated and discriminated against. Perhaps it’s a much needed maintenance issue that is repeatedly overlooked by your Housing Customer Service Officer. Or it can be those feelings of isolation that surface despite the fact that you may be living in a congested high-rise unit block. What if on top of all that, you are also living with a mental health concern? Adding that to your already full cup, may cause it to overflow.

Mental health can be something like a persistent feeling down for long periods, or stressful and anxious feelings that refuse to abate. It is often a change in thought and behaviour and a mental health diagnosis can include Bipolar Disorder (episodes of mood swings ranging from depressive lows to manic highs), Schizophrenia (affects the ability to think, feel and behave clearly) or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (excessive thoughts that leads to repetitive behaviour) to name a few.

Any dealings with the housing services bureaucracy is often a challenge to navigate. The degree of difficulty with these dealings can be exacerbated when also living with a mental health diagnosis. These dealings may be for a rent review, tenancy inspection, neighbour dispute or a transfer. You practically need the negotiation skills of a UN Peacekeeper for a successful outcome.

Minor issues without the right support can blow out of proportion. A next door neighbour playing their music loud can seem like a personal attack. A slow response to an issue from your housing service provider can seem like a government conspiracy.

Recognition of your own mental health can also be part of the challenge. It can sometimes seem clear to others that there is a mental health issue yet we may foster doubts about our own situation and can delay in seeking any help. Other hurdles can also include cultural, religious and institutional barriers.

Living with someone with mental health can be particularly challenging. We may be caught up in daily mood swings and changes in behaviour that seemingly come out of nowhere. We may be dealing with our own issues and taking on board a flatmate or partner with mental health issues often adds another layer to the challenges being faced.

There is often a stigma associated with mental health. Mention ’mental health’ and for some it can conjure up images of people cast in restraints and locked away in ‘Arkham Asylum’ type conditions. For others it can be something to fear and at best, avoid at all costs. These poor stereotypes can be due to a lack of education and understanding.

HIV Associated Neurocognitive Disorder (HAND) can also affect anyone living with HIV despite their age or how long they have been living with HIV. For more information, click here for a copy of Positive Life NSW’s practical resource when living with HAND.

There is help available if you are living with an untreated mental health condition or you may think you have some mental health issues. Or perhaps you’re concerned for a loved one or friend.

Positive Life has peer navigators who are living with HIV themselves, to support you through the complexity. Get in touch for support on (02) 8357 8386, 1800 245 677 (freecall) or by emailing contact@positivelife.org.au

Your GP will also be able to assist you. By working together you can create a mental health care plan. This plan can also include up to six free sessions with a psychologist of your choice.

The Albion Centre provides excellent psychology and counselling services. Call (02) 9332 9600 or visit www.thealbioncentre.org.au to get things started.

Beyond Blue provides information and support to help everyone in Australia achieve their best possible mental health, whatever their age and wherever they live. 1300 22 4636. Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. www.beyondblue.org.au

QLife is a phone and webchat based counselling and referral service for LGBTI people. Call 1800 184 527 from 3pm to Midnight 7 days a week (AEST). www.qlife.org.au

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Support
housing support for people living with HIV
Ageing Support
Treatments and Managing your HIV