According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), one in five adults experience a mental health issue each year. Post-pandemic, that number is estimated to have increased to as high as one in three adults.
Unfortunately, many people don’t get the help they need. I tell people to follow this rule of thumb: if you’ve tried reducing stress levels, getting more sleep and increasing activity level but still don’t feel better, it’s time to seek help.
The following symptoms may also indicate a need for help. If you experience any of the following for more than two weeks, it’s a sign something isn’t right:
- Sleep changes – getting too much sleep, an inability to sleep or restless sleep
- Appetite changes – eating too much or loss of appetite
- Weight loss or gain
- Increased substance use
- Mood changes – increased irritability or snapping at people
- Personality changes
- Difficulty concentrating at work or at school
- Withdrawal – being less engaged in interactions with loved ones or cancelling social engagements
Pay special attention to red flag symptoms: thoughts of harming yourself, taking steps to harm yourself or losing touch with reality – such as hearing or seeing things that don’t exist.
If you need help managing a mental health issue, your primary care provider is a good starting point. He or she will be able to provide resources and point you in the right direction. Talking with a trusted family member or friend about the situation may also help you get a referral to a provider.
In the case of a mental health emergency, you need to seek urgent care. If you or a loved one has red flag symptoms, call 9-1-1 or go to your local emergency room. You might also try calling the National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988.
It’s important to seek help for mental health issues sooner rather than waiting. These conditions can significantly impact your life. Studies show that mental health illness can lead to compromised immunity, increased chronic pain and a higher risk of stroke, heart attack and obesity. You don’t have to suffer – and you don’t have to suffer alone.
If one of your loved ones is suffering from a mental health illness, here are some tips to provide support:
- Know the signs. Many mental health conditions – such as depression – may be mistaken for laziness or self-sabotage. Recognizing the signs of mental health conditions can help you better understand when a loved one needs help.
- Let them know you care. When dealing with a mental health condition, it’s easy to feel isolated and alone. It can make a world of a difference knowing someone cares and believes you can get better.
- Encourage them to seek help. There’s still stigma around talking to a therapist or seeking help for a mental health condition. Help remove the stigma and support your loved one in the decision to seek help.
- Help them find a provider and make an appointment.
- Offer to attend a support group with them.
- Make plans. Be an accountability partner by scheduling regular meet-ups. For example, go on walks or make meals together.
- Ask the tough questions. Don’t be afraid to ask your loved one if they’ve had thoughts of harming themselves. It’s important to know the degree of suffering to know how to best seek help.
- Take care of yourself. It’s easy to get burned out or feel angry or helpless when you have a loved one dealing with a mental health condition. As you support your person, make sure your needs are also being met.
Linden Oaks Behavioral Health is a great resource for those dealing with mental health conditions. We work with patients and families to tailor care and treatments to best meet their needs. We offer the full range of care with our multidisciplinary team. Our goal is to meet people where they are to help them successfully manage their conditions.