Talking about mental health issues is often considered taboo — which usually results in the person feeling isolated. But, the reality is that nearly one in five adults in the United States has a mental illness. Speaking about these conditions is essential to establish healthy relationships, as well as to obtain proper treatment. Since bringing up the topic is so difficult, it’s good to have a guideline of how to do it, and how to answer questions that may pop up during the conversation. That said, in order to communicate what you’re feeling and how it affects you, you first need to recognize symptoms and how to seek help.
What are mental health issues?
Mental health is an umbrella term that covers a long list of ailments. They include a person’s psychological, emotional, and social wellbeing, and there are many circumstances that could cause them to occur — such as life experiences, brain chemistry, and biological factors.
How To Recognize Mental Health Issues
There are many mental health conditions — including anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and addiction, to name a few. Each of them has their own set of symptoms. However, common warning signs of a mental health disorder may include any of the following:
- Feeling constantly sad or irritable
- Trouble concentrating
- Extreme mood swings
- Drastic changes in sleeping habits
- Drastic personality changes
- Feeling constantly worried to a point where it interferes with daily activities
- Feeling helpless or hopeless
- Regular physical ailments such as headaches, stomach ache, or vague aches
- Increased hunger or lack of appetite
- Pulling away from loved ones
- Experiencing fear for no reason
- Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
- An extreme fear of weight gain
- Not eating, throwing up, or using laxatives to lose weight
- Engaging in high-risk behavior that could harm you or others
- Changes in sex drive
- Substance abuse
- Hearing voices
- Difficulties staying still
- Thinking of harming yourself or others
- Thinking about suicide
When occurring in children, other signs include:
- Temper tantrums
- Frequent nightmares
- Aggressive behavior
- Excessive worrying
- Changes in school performance
How to Seek Help for Mental Health Issues
While getting a diagnosis is essential for you to receive the treatment you need, it’s also helpful to first tell a trusted person. Mental health issues are difficult to navigate, and having a good support system is highly beneficial so that you don’t feel like you’re carrying the burden on your own. This trusted person can also help you reach out to your health insurance or primary care physician.
If you don’t have insurance or can’t afford treatment, you can look for government-funded healthcare centers — also known as Federally-Qualified Health Centers or FQHC. Another resource is to contact the national helpline at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which provides free information and referral services 24/7, 365 days a year. Do not go to an ER, since you could end up receiving a significant medical bill for their services.
Talking to Others About Your Mental Health
While letting others know about your mental health issues is never easy, there are certain steps you can take to make the process less overwhelming. Some of them include:
1. Writing everything down.
Don’t just think about what you want to say. Get a pen and paper and write down in detail how you feel and how long you’ve been experiencing symptoms. Make an outline of everything you want to say.
2. Choosing whom to tell.
Who’s the person you feel most comfortable with? Whether it’s a family member, significant other, a friend, teacher, or therapist, talk to them first. Do not start out by telling people you know are going to criticize you, make you feel worse, or make you second-guess how you’re feeling.
3. Letting the other person know you want to have an important conversation.
Coming out to others about your mental health is not something you say in passing while someone is about to head out the door, or as they’re otherwise occupied with daily responsibilities. Let them know you’d like to set aside some time to talk.
4. Being honest.
Do not try to downplay how you’re feeling. Avoid phrases like: “It’s stupid, but…” or, “It’s probably nothing, but…” Mental health issues are serious and need to be taken as such. If you’ve been thinking about harming yourself — or are already doing it — or if you have suicidal thoughts, getting professional help is incredibly beneficial and may make you feel better in the long-term.
5. Going at your own pace.
If the first time you bring up the subject, you feel uncomfortable, let the person know. If you want to continue the conversation later in the day, or later in the week, let your trusted person know. Do not add pressure on yourself by feeling like you have to explain everything in a single conversation.
6. Finding a safe place.
There are many circumstances that could influence how others around you react to your news — religion, geographical location, and someone else’s tolerance level, to name a few. If you think sharing your truth may put you at risk, find a support group or a local community of like-minded individuals.
7. Seeking treatment.
Treatment options will vary depending on the type of mental health condition, its severity, and your medical history. It could include therapy, medication, lifestyle changes, or work in conjunction with support groups, among others. A mental health professional will ask detailed questions about your symptoms to make a diagnosis, then design an appropriate treatment plan.
If You’re Struggling With Mental Health Issues, Let Us Help You
At St. Hope, we serve many patients living with a myriad of medical conditions — including mental health issues. We believe that treating people with compassion is as important as the medicine they receive. We foster a trusting patient/medical provider relationship to ensure that everyone who walks through our doors feels comfortable and receives the care they deserve.