Do I have mental health problems and should I get some help?

On Mental Health Day (10 October 2019), how can you recognise if a reaction to stress has developed into a mental health problem? Here’s a five point guide.

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Copyright of Sangoiri on Dreamstime.com.

1: Mental health stigma and its impact

Regrettably there is still a stigma associated with being diagnosed with a mental health condition. Understandably, given this stigma, people with mental health problems can worry that they will get judged and seen as weak, so many can end up keeping their experiences to themselves or denying that their problems exist. Fortunately, there is now greater protection against discrimination on the basis of mental ill-health, as a result of legislation like the 2010 Equality Act. This legal protection makes it easier for people to open up about their mental health problems, especially in the workplace. In addition to this legal advancement, large-scale public campaigns have sought to challenge mental health stigma, and increase awareness of its negative impact. For example “Time to Change” in England, which has sought to reduce mental health-related stigma and discrimination since 2009.

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Copyright: Time to Change via Pinterest

2: Problems in the mild to moderate range

Every individual is different, and it can be hard for us to recognise if what we are experiencing is ‘normal’ or not. As the saying goes, “normal is nothing more than a cycle on a washing machine” and the real norm is that most of us will experience a period of mental ill-health sometime in our lives. For the majority this will take the form of something in the ‘mild to moderate range’ of difficulties. For example, temporary periods of feeling low are common, and are often a normal reaction to the stressors we can experience.

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Copyright: Pinterest

3: When is it really bad?

It is important to be able to recognise when a mental health problem has progressed to becoming a major issue. Many people can struggle to notice in themselves when their mental health problems are more severe. This might seem surprising, but because a person can be suffering over a long period of time, their symptoms may not initially have a dramatic impact.

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By Kaihsu under Creative-Commons license.

4: Securing treatment

There are a range of supports and interventions available for people with mental health problems. But it can be hard to know what to look for when attempting to get help. It can be overwhelming and exhausting just finding the right type of support for you. Do you want a psychotherapist? A practitioner psychologist? A counsellor? Is medication an option? Is a combination of medication and face-to-face therapy the best interventions for you? What is funded and what do you need to pay for yourself? There are also the challenges associated with getting a session or appointment that is at a time and place that is convenient to you.

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5: A lack of hope

Hope is of fundamental importance to all humans, but when someone is struggling with mental health problems, this can be compromised. Sometimes people will not access help, even if they recognise that they have significant issues, in part because they feel so negatively about their future. A lack of hope in regard to one’s future is a sign that a person needs to seek help. It could be from a family member, your GP, the Samaritans , from the MIND infoline , or a trusted friend.

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Reference

Schaefer, J. D. et al. (2017). Enduring mental health: Prevalence and prediction. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 126(2), 212–224.

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