Mental Health: Signs of Trouble and How to Get Help
Mental health remains one of the most under-reported, and therefore under-treated, matters related to health care in America. Several factors contribute to the failure in dealing effectively with mental health challenges, including an enduring stigma that causes a wide array of disorders to go largely undiagnosed. The challenge in getting the proper treatment to those suffering from mental illness involves removing or reducing the stigma and providing avenues for those afflicted to seek help.
To begin addressing the problem, the signs and symptoms of mental health disorders should be well-defined and the public must be educated--one of the primary goals of Mental Health Month. As a concerned friend, family or community member, learning how to identify mental health issues and understanding the resources available in these situations is key.
Warning Signs for Mental Illness
The signs of mental illness are varied and depend upon the type of disorder present. Though final diagnosis should always be left to trained and experienced mental health care practitioners, these general signs of the most common forms of mental health disorders can reveal a problem in time for sufferers to seek the assistance they need:
• Sudden and pronounced withdrawal from friends, family, and a normal daily routine
• Prolonged periods of feeling down
• Severe mood swings
• Extreme changes in eating and sleeping habits
• Severe fluctuations in body weight, sex drive, and/or alcohol consumption
• A demonstrated and sudden inability to deal with daily life and routine
Determining the severity of symptoms is difficult. One of the most telling signs that mental illness is an issue might involve the visibility of several symptoms at once. A person who feels down could merely be having a tough time dealing with a life-changing event. However, a sudden sour mood coupled with an inability to concentrate and unexplained weight gain is one example of a series of symptoms that might be cause for alarm.
Getting a person that you suspect suffers from a mental health issue to seek help is a delicate endeavor. The aforementioned stigma plaguing the situation might cause the person you intend to counsel to recoil at your inquiries or attempts to assist. Conveying the changes you see in them by contrasting their current behavior with what you’ve known to be normal can aid the individual in realizing he/she may not be aware of the drastic nature of his/her symptoms.
While approaching the topic of a potential mental health disorder can be tricky, one helpful path includes reaffirming your support and offering to assist in seeking professional help. This can be especially helpful if family or group therapy is recommended, as you can be close for support during the sessions.
You might also point out that the afflicted person should see his/her family doctor first; it can put the person at ease knowing he/she will meet with someone familiar. The regular family doctor is a great starting point for getting help, and he/she will refer the patient to additional help if needed.