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Breaking the Stigma on Mental Health: Finding Help

May 26, 2018 by Cheryl Proska in Crisis Intervention, For Individuals, For Professionals, Mental Illness

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. In observance, IVA is producing a three-part blog series, entitled “Breaking the Stigma on Mental Health,” to help end social discrimination against mental illness. This is part three of the series. CLICK HERE to read the previous post.

 

Although access to insurance and treatment have increased over the years due to healthcare reform, nearly 56.9% of Americans with a known mental illness are not receiving treatment. As a result, serious mental illness costs America $193.2 billion in lost earnings per year. Why would people deny treatment? Many feel shame in looking for help, while others simple don’t know where to start.

Here are some of the first steps to seeking help for a mental health concern:

Take charge of your mental health — finding help for yourself.

1. Know the common warning signs. These can include, but are not limited to: elongated periods of feeling sad or withdrawn, sudden overwhelming fear for no reason, attempts and/or thoughts of self-harm, excessive or repeated use of drugs and/or alcohol, dangerously poor eating habits, and extreme difficulty concentrating or sitting still.

2. Speak up. Expressing your concerns to a trusted support system as well as your general practitioner is a critical step in the quest for help. Although these feelings may be scary, running from them or pushing them aside for a later time can often make matters worse. These conditions are generally very treatable and easy to manage, but only with the help of licensed professionals. Your doctor may be able to suggest local professionals to seek out.

3. Find the right specialist. Just as there are many different types of mental illness, there are many different types of mental health professionals. Talk with your family doctor to determine which one is best for your specific situation.

4. Make the most of your first appointment. Be prepared to talk openly about what has been going on, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Mental health professionals are there to help, not judge. These are common conditions that millions of people face every day, so there’s no shame or humility in discussing them. Also keep in mind that scheduling appointments with specialists can take months. If you feel that you are in need of help sooner than the date you are given, let the doctor know. Many mental health professionals will work with you as best as they can.

5. Do research. Once you figure out what’s going on, take some time to educate yourself. Not only will it help you better understand your body, but it will also help you educate others. Mental health stigma was born out of fear of the unknown — so the more you’re able to inform, the more you can help to end that stigma.

6. Don’t give up. Not everyone clicks with the first mental health professional they try. If that’s the case for you, don’t call it quits from one bad experience. There are plenty of other professionals, all with different styles, techniques and approaches to treatment. Try out a few until you find the best fit for you.

Lend a helping hand — finding help for a friend or loved one.

1. Know the common warning signs. These can include, but are not limited to: elongated periods of feeling sad or withdrawn, sudden overwhelming fear for no reason, attempts and/or thoughts of self-harm, excessive or repeated use of drugs and/or alcohol, dangerously poor eating habits, and extreme difficulty concentrating or sitting still.

2. Start the conversation. If you are concerned about a friend or loved one, express those feelings to them. Focus on being understanding, nonjudgmental and compassionate. Begin with “I” statements instead of “you” to avoid any feelings of blame. Some examples include:

  • I noticed that you’ve been drinking a lot more frequently. Is everything okay?
  • I feel like you haven’t been acting like yourself recently. Is something going on?
  • It makes me afraid to hear you talking like that. Let’s talk to someone.

3. Tell someone you trust. A third party offers support for both you and the person experiencing mental illness symptoms. However, it is important to check with your friend or loved one before bringing another person in. The only exception is if it’s a true emergency, in which case contact 911 immediately.

4. Offer support. Everyone processes at a different rate, meaning your friend or loved one may not be ready to talk when you are. Make sure to go at their speed by offering the support they need at that time. Remember, you can’t force someone to get help. Being patient, kind, and offering hope can go a long way in helping them bounce back.

5. Be a friend. Check in regularly to make sure they’re doing alright. Ask if there’s anything they need, or anything you can do to help make life easier until they’re feeling better. Educate yourself on what they’re going through to better understand how to help.

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For immediate access to resources, or to learn how you can get involved with breaking the stigma of mental health, visit:

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