Recognizing Mental Health Awareness Month

May 1, 2017

Life can be hard, and sometimes, you will need a little help. Do you know when to seek it?

You, or a loved one, should seek help with mental health problems when significant changes in mood, thoughts and behaviors interfere with everyday life, creating problems in different areas of life like relationships, work and school. This is about more than just reacting to a stressful event, says Terri DiPietro, director of Middlesex Hospital’s Center for Behavioral Health Outpatient Services. Often the symptoms last longer and using usual coping skills don’t help, she says.

There are many factors that contribute to mental health problems. Biology can be a factor. It’s possible to have a genetic predisposition or chronic health conditions that attribute to mental health problems. Your environment also plays a role, and this can include any family problems, history of trauma or stressful life events. Psychological issues, such as low self-esteem, can also lead to mental health problems. DiPietro says problems arise due to a complex interaction of all these factors.

When people think they need help, they often start with their primary care physician, and many of primary care physicians now have a behavioral health professional on staff. Other options include asking for help at the Hospital or a community mental health center or from a youth and family service agency. Many companies also offer employee assistance programs for this reason.

There are several professionals who can help you with your mental health problems. Psychiatrists, or psychiatric advanced practice registered nurses, can prescribe medication as part of their treatment. Psychologists can provide psychotherapy, as well as different types of psychological testing that may help arrive at a diagnosis and with treatment planning. Social workers, licensed professional counselors, marriage and family therapists and licensed alcohol and drug counselors can also help.

What can you do?
In addition to seeking the help of a medical professional as needed, be sure to take care of yourself both physically and emotionally. DiPietro says to eat healthy, make time to exercise and relax and identify ways to manage stress. Also, know the symptoms of common mental health problems and your own risk factors, confide in someone you trust and seek help early before symptoms worsen and become more difficult to treat.

If you are helping a loved one, support them, listen without judgment and offer compassion and understanding. Make sure you also have the support you need. Helping someone with a mental health problem can be challenging, but DiPietro says it is fulfilling as you see your loved one improve and recover.

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