Are you wondering if you have a mental health issue that needs professional help? Mental health is an important aspect of overall health and well-being. Did you know that many people don’t know that, or if they do, really don’t take action on that truth?
Let me come out and say it very clearly, it's essential to seek help when you need it.
Many people struggle with accepting this idea and don’t know when it's time to seek professional help or other forms of support. Whether it's experiencing overwhelming emotions, feeling stuck, or having difficulty coping with life changes, there are many signs that indicate the need for mental health support.
Throughout this blog, we will explore important topics such as signs that may indicate the need for professional help, practical tips to help you know when to seek help, and other options such as support groups and “self help”. We hope this can provide you with the guidance necessary to know the signs and to overcome the stigma associated with seeking help.
Reasons You Might Be Afraid to Seek Help
First, let’s start with the many reasons that people might be afraid or hesitant to seek professional help for a mental health issue. A few of the most common are:
- Stigma: There is still a significant stigma surrounding mental illness and substance use disorders. Stigma means - “a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.” Many people fear being judged or misunderstood by others if they seek professional help.
- Cultural or religious beliefs: Some cultural or religious beliefs may discourage or stigmatize seeking mental health care, which can prevent people from seeking help. In the Christian tradition, there are often over-spiritualized or moralistic explanations for challenges that may be biological and psychological problems. If you have been raised with this kind of religious belief about mental health, it may be preventing you from seeking help.
- Lack of knowledge: A lack of scientifically-valid understanding of mental health and substance use disorders is often the product of cultural or religious beliefs. Some people may not realize that their symptoms are related to a mental health condition, or may not know where to go for help.
- Lack of access: Some people may not have access to mental health care due to financial, geographical, or other barriers. Many have a perceived lack of access because they do not know where to start looking. This can make it difficult for them to seek professional help even if they want to.
- Belief that the problem will go away on its own: Some people may believe that their mental health concerns will go away on their own or that substance use problems are just a response to stress or a “normal” thing. A person’s perception of their problem may be something that gets “normalized” in their family or peer group. This “belief” is often a reason people don’t seek help even when they need it.
It's important to note that seeking professional mental health care is a personal decision. You should take time to consider your options and be sure it’s something that feels right for you.
Reasons You Might Need Professional Help
So, let’s look at the many reasons why you might need a mental health professional or other forms of support. It can be difficult to know when it's time to seek help, but here are some signs that may help you understand when it’s time to do so.
- Feeling overwhelmed: If you feel like you can't handle your emotions or the challenges of daily life, it may be time to seek support. This is a very common reason people begin to question the need. Especially since the COVID19 pandemic, people have experienced a lot of overwhelming emotions and distress.
- Changes in behavior or mood: If you notice that your behavior or mood has changed significantly, it may be a sign that you need to talk with a professional. If feelings of sadness or hopelessness, irritability, anger, or difficulty concentrating start to be a regular experience for you, it may be time to seek help.
- Relationship problems: If you are having difficulties in your relationships with friends, family, spouse, or romantic partners, it may be helpful to seek the guidance of a mental health professional who specializes in family and relationship modalities. Issues that arise in the context of relationships are often among the easiest to treat if you can learn the tools and skills that make relationships more effective, satisfying and successful.
- Substance use: If you are using drugs or alcohol to cope with your emotions or problems, it may be time to seek help with someone experienced in this area. Substance use has dramatically increased since the COVID19 pandemic and while that was the norm, for many it has evolved into a serious problem. There are many ways to effectively address substance use problems.
- Trauma or abuse: If you have experienced trauma or abuse in your life, it can be difficult to cope on your own. Past trauma and abuse could cause many problems later in life from chronic medical conditions, to psychological reactions and relationship problems. Seeking support from a mental health professional or support group can be helpful in addressing trauma and or abuse.
- Physical symptoms: If you are experiencing physical symptoms like headaches, stomachaches, or other unexplained pain, it may be a sign that you are under stress and need support. Often we experience physical manifestations of underlying emotional issues. An expert who can tease out these causes can be immensely helpful.
- Difficulty functioning: If you are having difficulty completing daily tasks or meeting responsibilities, don’t wait to seek support. Mental health and substance use issues are progressive, and the issues will get worse over time. Seeking help when emotional issues are interfering with your ability to function is critical.
Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. If you are experiencing any of these signs, it may be helpful to talk to a mental health professional.
Is It Time to Seek Professional Help?
Sometimes it helps to have a little more information. A little knowledge can help a lot in determining if it is time for you to seek professional help. Here is some additional information that might help you decide if it is time to seek the help of a professional.
- Frequency and duration: Pay attention to how frequently and how long you have been experiencing symptoms or issues. If you have been experiencing them for a prolonged period of time, or they are interfering with your daily life, it may be time to seek help.
- Self-care not working: If you have tried self-care techniques such as exercise, meditation, or talking to friends or family, and your symptoms or issues are not improving, it may be a sign that you need more help.
- Family history: If mental health issues run in your family, you may be at a higher risk of experiencing them yourself. Pay attention to any signs that you may be experiencing similar issues and seek help if needed.
- Life changes: Major life changes such as the loss of a loved one, divorce, or job loss can be difficult to cope with on your own. If you are struggling to cope with a life change, seeking professional help can be beneficial.
- Thoughts of self-harm or suicide: If you are having thoughts of self-harm or suicide, it is important to seek help immediately. Call a crisis helpline, go to the emergency room, or talk to a mental health professional.
Text HOME to 741741 to reach a volunteer Crisis Counselor or go here.
It is important to remember that everyone's mental health journey is unique and seeking help is a personal decision. If you are unsure whether you need professional mental health help, it may be helpful to talk to a mental health professional or a trusted healthcare provider. They can help you determine the best course of action based on your individual situation and your unique needs.
Where to Start?
If you are looking into reaching out for professional help, a great place to start is your primary physician. Your doctor can often refer you to a professional who specializes in mental health and/or substance use problems—such as psychiatrists, psychologists or professional counselors—who can then recommend a course of action that is targeted to your specific struggles. This may include therapy, lifestyle changes, medication or a combination of treatments.
But remember, what works for one person may not work for another, so it’s important to find what works best for you.
A second place is therapy, as many people dealing with mental health conditions benefit from attending therapy. A professional counselor may speak to you about your personal goals and often provide strategies to cope with your symptoms. Many therapists accept health insurance plans or offer payment plan options. To help you get the help you need, here are additional resources on mental health and substance abuse.
Other Support Resources
If you are still hesitant to seek professional help, that's okay. There are still many other options available, such as self-help resources, support groups, or talking to a trusted friend or family member. Some other things you may consider include:
- Self-help resources: There are many self-help resources available that can be used to improve mental health such as books, online courses, and mobile apps. These resources can teach coping skills, mindfulness techniques, and other strategies for managing mental health concerns. Check your app store or search online for mental health support resources.
- Support groups: Joining a support group can be a good option for those who do not want to seek professional help. Support groups provide a safe and supportive environment for individuals to share their experiences and connect with others who are going through similar challenges. You can find support groups for mental health and for addiction recovery.
- Talk to a trusted friend or family member: Sometimes talking to someone you trust can be helpful. Not only will talking about it help you sort through the issues, but you may find you are not alone in the struggle. Sharing your thoughts and feelings with someone who cares about you can provide a sense of relief, support, guidance and direction.
- Try lifestyle changes: Exercise, healthy eating, and getting enough sleep all have a positive impact on mental health. Making small changes to your daily routine can help to manage symptoms and improve overall well-being. Try improving your lifestyle to see if that in turn improves your mental and emotional life. We all optimize wellbeing in many dimensions. Try this resource.
It is important to note that seeking professional mental health help is often the best course of action for individuals experiencing mental health concerns. However, if you are hesitant to seek professional help, trying one of these alternative options may still provide some relief and support.
So after taking in this information, we hope you have become a little more aware, knowledgeable, and hopeful about seeking help. Seeking professional help is a big step and reading this is a great step forward. We are rooting for you!