It is common to question when to seek mental health support. Many mental health issues do not present with easily identifiable symptoms to act as a guide. To further confuse the issue, when struggling with a mental health issue, the illness itself can make it difficult to know that you need help. There is a natural tendency to deny how serious the struggle has become until it is impacting several areas of your life.
Please treat your mental health as you would any other aspect of your overall well-being. Most people would never hesitate to see a dentist for a toothache. They would see their family doctor for an infection or injury. Yet, these same people balk at the idea of seeking a professional consultation for problems with mental health. A study done by the World Health Organization (WHO) found that between 30-80% of those who have mental health issues do not seek treatment. Some are in denial about having a problem, and some fear the perceived stigma. Others do not know how to access resources.
If you are questioning if you may need to seek support, the following questions can serve as a guide. Everyone has periods of ups and downs, so the question becomes what is normal and what is not? To help determine if it is time to seek support or evaluation of your mental health, ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you experiencing trouble coping with day to day tasks?
- Are you experiencing extreme mood swings?
- Have you noticed marked changes in your eating or sleeping habits?
- Are you struggling with excessive anxiety?
- Are you using substances such as alcohol or drugs to cope with how you feel? Substance use and abuse is a red flag, and you should seek help immediately.
- Have you noticed changes in your thinking, or feel a change in your ability to think rationally?
- Do you notice yourself withdrawing and spending less time with people you care about?
- Have friends, family or coworkers expressed concern to you about your mental health? This question is important as it is sometimes difficult to notice changes in your own behavior. If friends and family have expressed concern or worry, please do not discount their feelings. Some mental health issues can also make it difficult to recognize that something is wrong. Feedback from those closest to you may be your red flag that something could be wrong.
- Do you feel disconnected or withdrawn from normal activities?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, then it is time to seek support. If you have a mental health provider, contact them, and make them aware of the changes you are experiencing. If you do not have a provider, talk to your doctor. This list is not comprehensive. If you are concerned with how you feel or changes in your behavior or thinking, then it is always a good idea to contact a provider. Some signs that you could benefit from mental health support are more subtle than those listed above. You may just feel off, or more down than is normal for you. You may be experiencing tension or deriving less joy from things you once loved.
You are the best source for determining if you need mental health support. If you are unsure, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional. They can help you determine if what you are experiencing is a mental health issue.
A delay in treatment can lead to a decline in social functioning, impact your physical well-being or have occupational consequences. As with any health issue, it is important to seek help promptly. Please do not continue to suffer silently in the hopes that it will get better. A mental health evaluation to determine if you need further treatment is a positive step toward self-care. If you find yourself having thoughts of self-harm or harming others, please seek emergency help right away.