Her plans to retire and her dreams for her future were shattered, and Frances found herself walking through fog, dealing with grief and depression.

She was able to get five sessions with a counsellor, who introduced her to a free online therapy course, called Just a Thought. ‘The counsellor said it contained the tools and exercises she would have given me if we were carrying on,’ recalls Frances.

At first she was skeptical about going online for help. ‘I thought, “My situation is so unique, how could it help me?” But it’s actually about changing your thought patterns. It wasn’t immediate, but over time I found it invaluable.’

Just a Thought provides free lessons on anxiety and depression using a proven therapy called CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), which helps you look at your thoughts and how they affect your emotions and behaviour.

For Frances, a lightbulb moment was when she heard the word ‘ruminating’: ‘I was so excited to find out that those thoughts going round and round had a name. And I learnt to let those thoughts go through my head, but then distract myself by looking around and saying, “Oh look at the birds in the tree, look at the leaves”. Over time, it becomes a habit.’

‘It’s actually about changing your thought patterns. It wasn’t immediate, but over time I found it invaluable.’

Frances also found herself becoming isolated, feeling fearful of social situations. ‘The course taught me to push through and just socialise in short bursts, so you gradually build up your confidence,’ she explains.

At 66, age is no barrier to using the online tool: ‘It’s just a brilliant programme to follow. It was just so simple and well thought out and the resources fit any situation,’ she says. ‘But, also, to have help available at your finger tips, because you need that access to help.’

‘You don’t have to think, “This is it”. You can think, “No, I’ve enjoyed life before and I can enjoy it again”.

Just a Thought was developed to bridge the gap for the thousands of New Zealanders who need mental health support, but can’t afford it or are not able to access the public health system. That’s why Just a Thought is, and always will be, completely free.

Frances says you are never too old to decide to change your mind: ‘You don’t have to think, “This is it”. You can think, “No, I’ve enjoyed life before and I can enjoy it again”.

Taking care of her mental health is a decision Frances continues to make day-by-day. ‘Even just appreciating a lovely sunny spot to sit in and read your book,’ she says, ‘And just viewing life as a miracle, really.’

- Name has been changed.

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