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Don’t Go It Alone: How to Find Mental Health Help When You Need It

mental health help, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder; mental health awareness monthIn the United States, 1 in 5 people are affected by a mental health condition.[1] While people don’t get the help they need for mental health conditions, it is important to remember that there is hope and help.

Sometimes it can be difficult to realize when you need help for a mental illness. Symptoms may seem related to something else, and you might find yourself coming up with ways to explain why you are feeling the way you do.

There are more than 200 classified mental illnesses, according to Mental Health America.[2] Some of the most common include depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and anxiety disorders.[3] Specific symptoms vary among conditions and individuals, but may include changes in mood, personality, personal habits and/or social withdrawal.

Mental illnesses can be life threatening. Fifty percent of those with schizophrenia attempt suicide, 15 percent of clinically depressed people take their own life and 10 to 20 percent of individuals with eating disorders will die.[4] However, with proper care and treatment, many people learn to cope with or recover from mental illnesses.[5]

When your mental health becomes cause for concern

So how do you know when it is time to seek professional help? If you are in crisis, seek immediate help by calling 911 or a 24-hour crisis center such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which can be reached at 800-273-TALK (8255) and live online chat—calls to the NSPL are free and confidential.

Common symptoms of mental illness in adults, young adults and adolescents include the following[6],[7]:

  • Confused thinking
  • Prolonged depression (sadness or irritability)
  • Feeling of extreme highs and lows
  • Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning
  • Excessive fears, worries and anxieties
  • Social withdrawal
  • Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy
  • Changes in eating habits such as increased hunger or lack of appetite
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Inability to perceive changes in one’s own feelings, behavior or personality
  • Substance abuse
  • Strong feelings of anger
  • Strange thoughts (delusions)
  • Seeing or hearing things that aren’t there (hallucinations)
  • Growing inability to cope with daily problems and activities
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Numerous unexplained physical ailments (e.g., headaches, stomachaches)

One of these symptoms on its own cannot predict a mental illness, according to the American Psychiatric Association, but you should definitely seek the help of a mental health professional if you are experiencing multiple symptoms at the same time that are causing problems in your daily life. In general, if you don’t feel like yourself, it is a good idea to schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider to determine the root cause.

Don’t wait until you are in crisis to seek help. Early intervention can often minimize or delay symptoms, prevent hospitalization and improve prognosis.[8]

Where to get mental health help for yourself

As stated above, if you are in crisis, seek immediate help by calling 911 or a 24-hour crisis center such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which you can contact at 800-273-TALK (8255) and live online chat. You can also find local crisis centers at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

If you are not in crisis but have concerns, schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider or a mental health professional. You can check with your health insurance plan to find in-network mental and behavioral health professionals and determine your benefits for such care.

There are many places to seek mental health help. In addition to seeing a medical or mental health professionals, you can work with national and community organizations that offer education, support and resources to those with mental illness as well as their friends and family.

Examples of such organizations include the following:

Referrals from families, friends, healthcare providers and other people you trust can also be helpful in finding professional mental health support.

How to help others when you’re concerned

If someone is in danger or putting others in danger, call 911 for emergency services—don’t wait.

If you notice early warning symptoms in someone, the American Psychiatric Association suggests you encourage that person to[9]:

  • Have an evaluation with a mental health or other healthcare professional
  • Learn about mental illness, including signs and symptoms
  • Receive supportive counseling about daily life and strategies for stress management
  • Be monitored closely for conditions requiring more intensive care

When there is not an immediate crisis, the organizations listed in the section above can help you find mental health services, support and resources for family, friends, coworkers and others in your life with a diagnosed mental illness or who may be mentally ill.

You can also get trained as a Mental Health First Aider to learn how to help someone who is developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. To find Mental Health First Aid training in your area, visit www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org.

Your support might matter more than you think. Check out NAMI’s “Hope Starts With You” PSA series to learn how you can spread hope to those affected by mental illness each and every day.

 

 


[1] National Alliance on Mental Illness. “2016 Mental Health Month.” Accessed May 24, 2016. https://www.nami.org/mentalhealthmonth

[2] Mental Health America. “Mental Illness and the Family: Recognizing Warning Signs and How to Cope.” Accessed May 24, 2016. http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/recognizing-warning-signs

[3] Ibid.

[4] Fields, R. Douglas. “The Deadliest Disorder.” Psychology Today. March 11, 2011. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-new-brain/201103/the-deadliest-disorder-0

[5] Mental Health America. “Mental Illness and the Family: Recognizing Warning Signs and How to Cope.” Accessed May 24, 2016. http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/recognizing-warning-signs

[6] Ibid.

[7] National Alliance on Mental Illness. “Know the Warning Signs.” Accessed May 24, 2016. https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Know-the-Warning-Signs

[8] American Psychiatric Association. “Warning Signs of Mental Illness.” Physician review by Ranna Parekh, M.D., M.P.H. in September 2015. https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/warning-signs-of-mental-illness

[9] American Psychiatric Association. “Warning Signs of Mental Illness.” Physician review by Ranna Parekh, M.D., M.P.H. in September 2015. https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/warning-signs-of-mental-illness

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