So, what can you do if you or someone you love may be having mental health challenges?
The first step is to recognize the warning signs. These can include withdrawing for more than two weeks, making self-harm plans, experiencing unexplained overwhelming fear or mood swings, taking extreme risks, having significant weight change, abusing substances (including alcohol), behaving drastically, changing sleep schedule, having trouble concentrating or worries interrupting daily life and activities.
Second, is to seek help and/or treatment. If it is emergency, call 9-1-1. For all other situations, the primary care physician can perform initial assessments and give referrals to specialists. And, as mentioned above, the federal government also has resources. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) can provide general information or find local treatment services; SAMHSA’s hotline is 1-800-662-HELP (4357). Or try contacting advocacy and professional organizations. They often post details on finding mental health professionals or have practitioner locators on their websites.
Finally, be pro-active in self-care. Self-care is important whether you yourself are overcoming mental illness challenges or are a family members or caregivers helping and supporting individuals with a mental illness. Developing effective coping strategies can dramatically reduce symptoms or burn-out. According to the World Health Organization, practical ways to deal with stress include:
Unlike some other diseases, there is no straightforward test to diagnose mental illness or challenges. Medication and psychotherapy can be incredibly helpful; sometimes more day-in and day-out help is needed to feel good or even just okay. The good news is we have the power to immediately start making changes to ensure our mental health is in as good of shape as our physical health.