Many people, including children and adults across diversity backgrounds, can struggle with social, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral health. These challenges can be situational, present for a season of life, or be a struggle across a lifetime. The symptoms may also turn on and turn off, be persistent every day, or resolve just to pop back up again.
Even though having complications with mental or behavioral health is common, it does not necessarily mean a person is functioning at their best or the symptoms should be left unaddressed. Early intervention can be more effective, than the choice to put off addressing a mental health concern for another time.
Awareness of mental health signs and symptoms are important. The first step is recognizing when we need support. Let’s set aside labels such as depression, anxiety, addictive behaviors, and disorders for a moment. Instead, let’s consider observations. Below is a clustered list of commonly experienced struggles we can lookout for to monitor our mental health:
- Noticing a pattern of withdrawing or avoiding friends, family, or activities
- Having interpersonal conflicts with friends, family, colleagues, neighbors, or even strangers
- Having a difficult time understanding and/or relating to others or common life scenarios
- Feeling disconnected from others or struggling to get close to others
- Feeling lost about knowing who you are
- Experiencing sadness, despair, distress, prolonged sorrow
- You or others noticing changes in your mood from high to low
- Enduring excessive worry, fears, or discomfort with the unknown
- Experiencing extreme guilt, self-blame, or negative self-talk
- Having bouts with excessive or persistent anger
- Noticing thought patterns that are confused, conflicted, indecisive, repetitive, or forgetful
- Having a lowered ability begin or maintain focus
- You or others noticing a disconnect between your thoughts and the world around you
- Feeling fearful such as paranoia
- Having repeat unpleasant or worrisome thoughts or images
- Hearing, seeing, or feeling something that is not truly there
- Thoughts of hurting or killing yourself or someone else
- Having a reduced ability to cope or resolve daily living complications or stress
- Struggling with adjustment to life changes
- Experiencing problems related to alcohol, tobacco, and/or legal or illegal substances
- Noticing changes in eating habits such as too much, too little, overly focused on eating
- Observing patterns of overexercise
- Changes in sex drive
- Having episodes of violence towards others, yourself, animals, or objects
- Challenges with impulsive decisions or risk taking
- Seeing trends in energy level such as significant tiredness or grand amount of energy
- Struggles falling asleep, staying asleep, waking up, or low quality of sleep
- Having physical symptoms such as stomach pain, back pain, headaches, heart pounding, shortness of breath, or other unexplained physical symptoms
- Experiencing medical providers do not take your symptoms seriously enough
Experiencing one or a few of these symptoms at one time may be a part of life based on the amount of lemons life just handed you. However, there may be a mental health concern worth seeking proper care for if you experience one or more of these symptoms for a short or an extended period of time. Due note, some symptoms are more serious than others, such as harm to yourself or someone else, that should not be ignored and need care immediately.
Another element we can use to monitor our mental health is awareness of how our mental health symptoms interact with our daily lives. Sometimes mental health struggles can become disruptive to daily life such as negatively impacting relationships with others, how you think or feel internally about yourself, employment, housing, finances, and/or legal issues. Other symptoms are manageable and do not cause a large disruption; however, beware some symptoms can fly under the radar, but that does not necessarily indicate all is well.
If you are unsure if you are experiencing mental health concerns and would like a better understanding, then consider completing a screener. Mental Health America provides a free, quick, screening tool that provides mental health you can use to make decisions about next steps for care. The results can also be used to start the initial discussion with a mental health provider.
There is hope! In most circumstances, symptoms can be managed, reduced in intensity, and relief increased when working with a mental health provider. There are various forms of care, and you can find the right fit for you such as talk based therapy in-person or online, activity-based therapy, and collaboration with medical providers for mediation as needed.
If you are ready to take the next step, then there are multiple resources available to help you find the right provider. In emergency situations such as thoughts of harming yourself or someone else as well as severe mental illness, then calling 9-1-1, going to a local emergency room, or contacting the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or using live chat on Suicide Prevention Lifeline may be the best routes.
In non-emergency situations there are options such as contacting a primary care provider for a referral, reaching out to loved ones, connecting to your religious or spiritual community, or finding a professional provider. Below is a list of resources for locating a provider in your area:
- American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
- American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry
- Association of Black Psychologists
- Association of LBGTQ+ Psychiatrists
- Mental Health of America Advocate
- Psychology Today
- SAMHSA Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator
- World Federation for Mental Health
Mental health is just like it sounds….health. It can be scary or there can be a stigma to seek out care. However, removing the stigma, overcoming fear, seeking care, and taking steps to improving life takes courage. But you are worth it, and you deserve a better tomorrow.
Michelle Perepiczka, PhD, LPC (CO), LMHC (NY), RPT-S, NCC
University of Phoenix
College of Social and Behavioral Sciences