Immigration is one of the top stresses along with divorce, major illness or death of a loved one. Immigrants to Australia have to face - at the very least - new, unfamiliar surroundings, loss of contact with loved long-term family members and friends, loss of a secure job along with financial strain. In some cases, the stress of immigration can result in anxiety, sleep disruptions,depression, increase in addictive behaviors, relationship strain, etc.
Most immigrants have mild symptoms of insomnia, sadness, anxiety and so on. However, should symptoms persist and/or become severe, help should be sought. Just as appendicitis can turn into a fatal burst appendix unless attended to, so too can symptoms of anxiety, depression, etc turn into serious mental condtions.
For example, whereas it is fairly normal to experience some sadness, Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is a more advanced stress reaction that can also be fatal. MDD involves a set of symptoms that not only last longer than two weeks but are also severe enough to disrupt normal day-to-day functioning whether at home or at work.
In other words, MDD is not merely “feeling depressed.” MDD is an illness that apart from sadness (with or without tearfulness), may also include at least four of the other eight symptoms: diminished interest in activities, significant increase and/or decrease in appetite/ weight, insomnia or hypersomnia, irritability or lethargy, fatigue, feelings of worthlessness, difficulty concentrating and making decisions or remembering, and in some cases thoughts of death (even suicide). Commonly, depressed people also experience loss of libido, social withdrawal and “not feeling one’s self.”
MDD, as serious as it is, is easily treated. Research has shown that anti-depressant medication in combination with psychotherapy is the most effective and efficient way to treat it. However, psychotherapy alone can also be very effective. Consider EAP services that some employers offer - this usually involves three to five free sessions with a psychologist.
Alternatively, look into the mental health options that Medi-Care as well as private health care providers offer (may also offer six to 12 free sessions). Otherwise, consult your G.P. or psychiatrist about anti-depressants. Whichever option you choose, bear in mind that the sooner you seek treatment, the better your prognosis.
Psychotherapy usually involves acknowledging the stress and then tapping into cognitive and behavioural coping resources. In other words, it is not simply “positive thinking.” For example, cognitive coping may involve acknowledging the negative depressing thought of “I’ve lost everything” turned into a positive frame such as: “Yes, it is very difficult to leave behind my family, friends and job, but I’m making great friends, finding a fantastic job, and turning into a more fulfilled person for overcoming these obstacles.”
Furthermore, behavioural coping would be included to involve engaging in an activity that you used to do when you weren’t depressed, e.g. taking a walk. In fact, exercise has been shown to be very effective in the treatment of depression as has a healthy diet (fruit, veggies) with multi-vitamin/ mineral supplementation (discuss this with a nutritionist).
Whether you have MDD or another severe stress reaction, respond to it immediately before it is too late.