Written by: Janesse Leung
You’ve run out of positive thinking and inspiring memes on Facebook just aren’t cutting it anymore. Maybe your habits are out of control and hurting your relationships, or you’re stuck in a pattern of behavior that hurts but you can’t seem to change it. Or, do these descriptions apply to a friend who’s asking you what to do next? If this sounds like you or someone you’d like to help, here’s how to help someone with mental health issues.
If you’re struggling with your mental health, you are far from alone. An estimated one in six people experience some kind of mental health problem. Acknowledging you may have a mental health problem and taking the first steps to get help can be difficult, but there are effective treatments for mental health problems.
Some Signs of Mental Health Issues
- Confusion or poor memory
- Long periods of sadness or irritability
- Extreme emotional highs and lows
- High levels of fear and worry
- Avoiding social contact
- Severe changes in eating or sleeping patterns
- Sudden rage
- Delusions or hallucinations
- Can’t cope with daily problems
- Suicide or self-harm
- Denying the obvious
- Unexplained physical problems
- Substance abuse
Teens & Young Adults
- Increased substance abuse
- Can’t cope with daily problems
- Large changes in eating of sleeping patterns
- Talks frequently about being hurt or sick
- Defies authority, skips school, steals/vandalizes
- Intense fear of weight gain
- Prolonged bad mood, often with low appetite or preoccupation with death
- Sudden rage
- Drop in school performance
- Poor grades despite strong efforts
- Excessive worry or anxiety (i.e. won’t go to bed or school)
- Frequent severe bad dreams
- Persistent disobedience or aggression
- Frequent temper tantrums
Where to Go for Help
Where you go for help will depend on whether an adult or a child has the problem, the nature of the problem and the resources available. A local community or mental health organization may be a good place to start. Your medical doctor is also a good person to talk to if you think you may need to see somebody about your mental health. He or she may direct you to a psychologist, psychiatrist or community mental health resource.
If you are a student, your school’s health centre or guidance and counselling office may be a good place to ask about help with mental health. If you work for a company with an employee assistance program (EAP) contact them and they can issue a referral to a provider. Your Human Resources office can get you more information about your company’s EAP. If you have health insurance, your provider may have a list of professionals who are recognized by your plan.
There are many types of professionals with experience and skills to help people, including:
- Psychiatrist: A medical doctor with special training in the diagnosis and treatment of mental and emotional illnesses. Like other doctors, psychiatrists are qualified to prescribe medication.
- Child/Adolescent Psychiatrist: A medical doctor specially trained in the diagnosis and treatment of emotional and behavioral problems in children.
- Psychologist: A professional with a doctoral degree in psychology, two years of supervised professional experience, including a year-long internship from an approved internship and is trained to make diagnoses and provide individual and group therapy.
- Clinical Social Worker: A counselor with a master’s degree in social work trained to provide individual and group counselling.
- Licensed Professional Counsellor: A counselor with a master’s degree in psychology, counselling or a related field, trained to provide individual and group counselling.
- Mental Health Counsellor: A counselor with a master’s degree and several years of supervised clinical work experience trained to provide individual and group counselling.
- Certified Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counsellor: A counselor with specific clinical training in alcohol and drug abuse trained to diagnose and provide individual and group counselling.
- Marital and Family Therapist: A professional with a master’s degree, with special education and training in marital and family therapy trained to provide individual, couple and family therapy.
What about Support Groups?
Peer support can be an important addition to the help you receive from professional mental health providers. Many people find groups a valuable source of information and emotional support. These groups, organized by professionals or volunteers, bring together people facing similar challenges. People with mental health conditions—sometimes known as survivors or mental health consumers—may have organized other supports such as including drop-in centers, seminars and mentorship programs. Check newsletter and newspapers, bulletin boards and online resources to find nearby opportunities.
You Called a Mental Health Professional…Now What?
Spend a few minutes talking with him or her on the phone; ask about their approach to working with patients, their philosophy, whether or not they have a specialty or concentration. If you can talk to the person and their services are accessible to you, the next step is to make an appointment.
During your first visit, the therapist or doctor will want to get to know you and learn more about the challenges you’re facing. The therapist will often ask you what you think the problem is and may have questions about your life, and what you do. You may also be asked to talk about your family and friends. The information you give will help a professional to assess your situation and develop a plan for treatment.
You may sometimes find therapy challenging, as you’re asked to think in new ways about life, or try new things. The process is sometimes called therapeutic “work” because it’s not easy. But as you continue, look for signs of progress in your mood and your reactions. Those signs of progress mean that your treatment is beginning to have results. Gradually, you will find yourself feeling more confident and able to meet life’s challenges with better mental health.
Edited by: Mayte Parada, PhD Psychology. Montreal Therapy Centre.