A Beginner’s Guide to Chronic Pain & Mental Illness

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Did you know that one in five severe chronic pain sufferers also have a mood disorder like depression?

This is no coincidence, as the physical impact of chronic pain can take a toll on a person’s quality of life, and can distract from your ability to function throughout the day and night. This can lead to issues with concentration, feeling unhappy or uneasy, stress and other factors that impact our mental wellbeing.

Chronic pain and the associated mental health issues can have devastating health implications. The Department of Health estimate that 21% of suicides in Australia are attributed to chronic pain sufferers. That’s why it’s so important to take care of both the physical and mental health effects of chronic pain for your overall health and wellbeing.

Effectively Managing Chronic Pain: Where to Begin

The best way to effectively manage the effects of chronic pain is with a multidisciplinary approach, where various specialists adhere to an agreed management plan to achieve the best overall outcome.

A pain management team usually includes a pain specialist, a clinical psychologist and a physiotherapist, as well as an occupational therapist if required. These clinicians may be located at different practices or exist as an integrated team based at the same location. Black Swan Health has its own team of specialists that offer an integrated chronic pain program from a single location.

Regardless of the professional team involved, active cooperation and efforts from the person affected is crucial to improving chronic pain management and outcomes. Self-management of pain can improve the symptoms and effects of the pain itself and improve your quality of life, too. Black Swan Health’s Chronic Pain Program educates and empowers people to better manage their chronic pain, by providing knowledge, tools, and access to a specialised pain physician and allied health team for free.

The Mental Health Effects of Chronic Pain

Psychological support is often an important part of pain management; whether you have a mental health condition or not. The role of a clinical psychologist is to address the barriers that may be affecting your recovery or improved management of chronic pain, as well as assisting you to establish and maintain positive mental health behaviours.

Rachel Home, Clinical Psychologist (Reg) at Black Swan Health, has a special interest in chronic pain and mental health. Rachel highlights some of the common psychological responses that she helps people with chronic pain to overcome:

“I’ve noticed across my clientele that chronic pain (or any chronic illness) invokes a lot of grief. People can have a lot of difficulty accepting that their life has turned out to be so different from what they expected and hoped for. Working through that grief and reaching a place where you are more accepting of your condition is essential if you want to find a better way to deal with your pain.”

“Feelings of hopelessness is another common challenge that we can help individuals suffering from chronic pain to overcome. I can’t overstate the importance of discovering a sense of control – this enables and encourages you to actively manage your pain.”

A clinical psychologist can also diagnose and treat other mental health issues that may arise throughout your chronic pain treatment. Black Swan Health’s counselling services are available as part of our multidisciplinary chronic pain program and as an independent service for your mental health needs.

To find out more about the free Chronic Pain Program, click here.