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Mental Health: When and How to Reach Out

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The world’s a little crazy right now. We don’t know what we might be waking up to on a daily basis.

It’s normal to feel stressed or sad from time to time, especially in today’s uneasy climate.

But constant, unstable mental health affects a person’s thoughts, mood and behavior differently. Serious mental illnesses such as panic disorders, obsessive-compulsive behaviors and major depression can be frightening. But as scary as they are, mental health disorders are treatable, and people who seek help can live happy, rewarding lives.

Trying to tell the difference between what expected behaviors are and what might be a mental illness isn’t always easy. There’s no simple test to know if someone is suffering from mental health issues. Common signs in adults and adolescents can include social withdrawal from friends or family, difficulty functioning at school or work, or changes in sleeping, eating and hygiene habits. Problems with memory and thinking, alcohol or drug abuse or extreme mood changes are also symptoms to be mindful of in ourselves and others.

If someone you know is exhibiting these emotional and behavioral symptoms, consider the whole picture. Signs of mental illness can often intersect with life events and could be the result of traumatic experiences they are currently dealing with, such as a death in the family, being fired from a job or starting a new school.

Studies indicate that most people with mental health issues get better, and many completely recover with assistance designed to treat their specific problem. The first step is to reach out to someone who can help.

Loved ones are often the first to be aware when someone is suffering from mental health issues, especially in teens and adolescents. While some teens may reach out to their parents, others may become withdrawn or detached. They may also deny the way they are feeling or acting. Asking questions, listening and being supportive is key to helping those who might be suffering.

Dr. Sasha Hamdani, a psychiatrist who specializes in mood disorders and anxiety spectrum disorders, stresses to parents that getting a child or adolescent to open up about mental health issues is extremely important. “Suicidal thoughts and severe depression are considered a medical emergency and just as severe as breaking an arm or having appendicitis,” says Dr. Hamdani. “Explaining things in a rational and nonjudgmental way may open up a dialogue that can help kids understand this is something to be taken very seriously, but also something they don’t have to suffer with alone.”

Talking to your doctor can help alleviate or lesson the effects of mental health issues. A family doctor may be able to make a diagnosis, suggest treatment options or make a referral to one of these specialists.

Psychiatrists specialize in the treatment of emotional, mental and behavioral issues. A psychiatrist can prescribe medication and may conduct therapy sessions or collaborate with non-medical therapists to treat the patient.

Psychologists can counsel with psychological and emotional issues. They are not allowed to prescribe medication, but they can help patients through therapy, stress management and other counseling services.

Alternative or holistic doctors can offer complementary or alternative medicine treatments for mental health issues. Their approach may combine natural medicines with mental health therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy.

Insurance and Mental Health Care
Insurance may provide coverage for doctors, counselors, prescriptions and more. If you have been denied coverage, have a high deductible or have reached a limit with your plan, there are laws in place that may help.

Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Coverage Parity laws require most health plans to treat mental health benefits the same as medical and surgical benefits. Check with your insurance provider for more protections that may apply to you. Federal and state agencies can also provide assistance.

Clinical Trials
Mental health patients can opt to join clinical trials offered by medical organizations and doctors. While they may receive the latest treatment for their own conditions, they are also offering hope to others by helping researchers find better future treatments.

Help Is Available
Suffering from unstable mental health can be frightening for the person going through it, as well as for their family, friends and even their community. There is no shame in asking for help and receiving it from those around them. If you or a loved are in danger of harming themselves or others, call the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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