Mental Health & HIV
Modern treatments mean that Australian people living with HIV (PLHIV) are living long, healthy lives.
Despite this, there are still challenges that impact the mental health and wellbeing of PLHIV, in many cases, more than others in the community.
The factors that contribute to the mental health of someone living with HIV are complex and many are closely connected. The social, cultural, economic, legal and physical environments in which people live all play a part in of someones mental and emotional wellbeing.
These can include:
- Loneliness or social isolation
- Stigma and discrimination
- Stress and anxiety
- Alcohol or drug overuse
We know from research that people with HIV experience higher levels of social isolation. COVID-19 may have exacerbated anxiety and isolation further due to physical distancing and placed a strain on people’s mental health. Even with life returning to normal, the way we interact with others may not have just yet.
Beyond Blue has offered a few strategies to help you look after your mental health and wellbeing from home. These strategies are also accessible to those of us that have limited incomes. They include:
Staying connected with loved ones
Use your phone, social media and apps such as Skype, FaceTime and WhatsApp to stay in touch with family and friends. Touch base with someone every single day.
Doing things you enjoy
Read that pile of books and watch those TV shows you missed. If you’re lucky enough to have a garden, make the most of it. Why not try a new pastime that you can do at home or online? Painting and listening to music are both great ways of relaxing and practising mindfulness. If you enjoy DIY, now’s a good time to knuckle down and get jobs done.
Focus on eating well and getting enough exercise and good-quality sleep. Take the time to cook fresh, do online yoga or aerobics, meditate and focus on maintaining good sleep habits. Keeping up healthy routines will help both your physical and mental health.
Dodging the panic
Try to limit your media and online exposure. Seek advice from credible sources only and don’t consume news all day long.
If you are finding that you are struggling, don’t hesitate to reach out. If you need assistance please talk to your family, friends or a health professional. You can also get support from organisations such as Beyond Blue or Lifeline. These organisations offer assistance from trained mental health professionals who are available to talk to you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, via phone.
Here at QPP, we understand that everyone can find it hard from time to time. The team here at QPP are here to help you live well with HIV.
Our trained team are here to link you in with appropriate services, or are here if you just need someone to talk to. Please contact QPP via telephone on 1800 636 241.
Also, QPP social groups can provide you with the opportunity to meet and socialise with peers. Support networks like these are crucial aspects of mental health and wellbeing. If you would like to attend in-person or online, just ask.
Again, we would like to emphasise that it is vital that you make your mental health and wellbeing a priority. Connect with friends, family or organisation that can help – some useful links to helpful services are provided below:
- Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636 or Beyond Blue
- Lifeline Australia: 13 11 14 or Lifeline
- MensLine Australia: 1300 78 99 78 or Mensline
Exercise mind and body
Physical and mental exercise can keep your mind and body strong. Regular physical exercise, such as walking, biking, running, swimming, or another activity you enjoy, keeps you physically fit and can keep both stress and depression in check. Physical exercise significantly helps the immune system as well. Mental exercise — doing a daily crossword puzzle or playing brain-challenging games — can help maintain your cognitive health. Exercise your memory, concentration, and attention, all keeps you sharp and in great shape.
Depression and anxiety
For people living with HIV, depression, anxiety are common. At times knowing you are living with HIV, can negatively impact your mental health and increase the risk and impacts of depression. Keeping stress, depression, and physical pain under control can help improve your physical and emotional health, making life easier. If you are struggling, as we all do from time to time, reach out to us so you can live well with HIV.
We always encourage individuals to see a mental health professional if you feel you’re experiencing depression. We can help you find one, and be sure to mention that you’re taking medication for HIV to avoid any interactions with your medications.
Regular STI testing is the best way to identify if you have contracted an STI, and is particularly important if you are sexually active.
Smoking, Drugs & Alcohol
Smoking, alcohol and drug overuse can contribute to feelings of depression, and have negative impacts to your body, but help is available.
Spending time with friends and family, and spending time in group and community activities improves mental and general health. QPP even has social groups that you can join and meet new people.
Poor oral health can affect both physical and emotional well-being, and can also be a contributing factor to a number of secondary health conditions.
Our trained team is here to help you should you have any questions or need support. You can contact QPP toll free from a Queensland land-line on 1800 636 241 or (07) 3013 5555 nationally, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or use our contact us form.