Currently in the United States, more than one in five adults are struggling with mental health and behavioral issues. Reports have shown that COVID-19 has negatively impacted many individuals’ psychological well-being, but the prevalence of these challenges are not exclusive to the pandemic. Issues such as substance use, sleep disorders and depression affect millions of people each year which is why it is critical that individuals take care of their mental health.
There are countless mental health resources and support options available; however, it can be difficult for people to know where to start or know which options are right for them or their loved ones. To help provide clarity on potential support, we’ve answered common questions surrounding mental health and treatments to help you feel more in control of the issues that you or your loved ones might be facing.
Please note, if you or someone you know is affected by the drug-related issues raised in this article, help can be found at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Additionally, if you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.
What are common signs that someone needs mental health support?
Everyone can experience fatigue and stress at times, but if you notice that these feelings are frequent and impacting your daily mood and behavior, it may be time to seek professional support. Distress, overall unhappiness or feelings of lack of control over your emotions are other indicators that you might need help in coping with and managing your life experiences and feelings. Similarly, hopelessness and persistent anxiety may signal the need to meet with a professional mental health provider.
How to recognize signs that someone else needs mental health support
Knowing someone else’s emotional state can be difficult — especially if they aren’t open to sharing their feelings directly with you. If you are concerned about a family member, friend or co-worker, pay attention to warning signs that they may be showing. Irritability, loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy, the inability to complete routine tasks, changes in appetite, loss of memory and the inability to critically think are several symptoms among many that may indicate someone needs help. If a person shares that they feel hopeless, anxious and worried, that also may be an indicator to encourage them to get help.
Who can I go to for professional support?
There are a variety of types of professionals that can help provide support — from in-person services to digital and virtual care support options. Here is an overview of professionals, and a description of the roles and expertise:
- Psychologists and Psychiatrists. Both are practicing mental health professionals with advanced training to provide patients with mental health concerns. One key difference is that psychiatrists hold medical degrees and may prescribe medication. Although psychologists have less medical authority than psychiatrists, they still have earned a PhD or PsyD and often provide talk therapy to help those with mental and behavioral health issues.
- Counselors or Therapists. These clinicians earned master’s degrees in psychology or counseling, and are trained to help you alleviate symptoms and share techniques to bolster your mental health outside of counseling sessions.
- Clinical Mental Health Nurse Practitioners. Nurses with this title are equipped to prescribe medication and offer behavioral health services to those in need. They have earned a Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctoral of Nurse Practice (DNP).
What treatment options are available?
One of the most common forms of professional mental health support is outpatient therapy. Treatment options include:
- Talk Therapy. Meet directly with a licensed mental health professional who can offer support by sharing coping skills to regulate emotions, helping you to improve communication and offer suggestions to improve behavior that may be unhealthy. These visits can be done in-person or virtually.
- Group/Family Sessions. Similar to talk therapy, individuals can meet in a group setting led by a clinician. This can take the form of a family session or group sessions for people who experience substance abuse, eating disorders or other conditions. Licensed therapists may also help families work out conflicts and communicate more effectively.
- Medication. In some instances, medication can help reduce and treat symptoms associated with various behavioral health conditions and can be prescribed by qualified clinicians. Medication is sometimes necessary to help on a case-by-case basis due to circumstances out of a patient’s control, like chemical imbalances, which sometimes result in mood disorders such as depression.
High-risk individuals, who may endanger themselves or others, may require more personalized, one-on-one long-term support, known as inpatient therapy. Occurring in settings such as hospitals or other residential programs, inpatient therapy is typically appropriate for people with suicidal ideations or substance use disorders. Even after inpatient therapy is completed, know that help doesn’t need to end, and support to decrease the likelihood of readmission is always available.
For substance use issues specifically, you may work directly with a physician to receive non-opioid medication to alleviate symptoms. Coaches and therapists with a focus on treating opioid and other drug addictions are also on standby to help you and your loved one navigate the behavioral health-related challenges of substance abuse. For other substance use issues, a 24 hour treatment hotline can help guide you to the right option.
How can I support myself outside of professional resources?
Mental health goes beyond professional support, and how you treat yourself can make a difference to your overall well-being. While self-care may seem like a trend, it’s an important aspect of holistic care to manage and alleviate mental health challenges. Self-care comes in many forms depending on each person and which activities and routines provide a sense of fulfillment and reduce stress. Tending to your physical health with activities like jogging, yoga or taking time to play with your kids may serve you well. Similarly, making a point to attend educational community programs for preventative care and continuously learning about your mental health issues on an ongoing basis are other ways to perform self-care.
Additionally, if you’re looking to take more of a holistic and personalized approach to your well-being, a lifestyle management coach may be an option to consider. Lifestyle management coaches, which are free to Harvard Pilgrim Health Care members over the age of 18,can help educate and support your goals on a one-on-one level. These professionals take a more integral approach to your wellness by supporting you in healthy eating habits and physical activity, among other things.
What other self-support options are available?
Whether this is your first time seeking help or you’re in the process of receiving therapy or treatment, there are a variety of digital tools that can support you and or your loved ones’ journey to better mental health.
Some individuals choose self-supporting options in their mental health journey. Behavioral health tools such as the mobile application Sanvello provide clinical techniques to help you manage symptoms at your convenience. Similarly, Talkspace gives members virtual access to licensed therapists in your state via private messaging or live video. Another free or low-cost option to explore is Headspace, which provides meditation exercises to enhance mental well-being and sleep.
Harvard Pilgrim’s Living Well program is another resource that offers rewards for taking steps to improving your own health; this resource is available even to non-members. By enrolling, you will receive ideas for interactive activities centered around topics like stress management, financial wellness and healthy eating.
Stress, anxiety and relationship issues are only a few conditions that may be affecting your quality of life, as well as the people you care about the most. There should never be shame in seeking support for yourself or offering help to a loved one. Care for mental health is a lifelong journey. Committing to taking care of your well-being is one of the first steps you can make to bettering yourself and preparing for a healthy future. Similarly, making a point to recognize the symptoms of mental health issues in others and extending support can be the catalyst someone else needs to seek professional and individualized support.