With the pandemic still raging and the restrictions tight again, its not hard to understand that mental health issues are on a rise. Isolation increases the chance of developing anxiety, depression, or other mental health concerns. Here are the most common questions that have been asked to us.
1. What is mental health?
Currently when people mention mental health it is from a negative perspective. Mental health encompasses your emotional, spiritual, and cognitive functioning. It is not negative or positive but a measurement. Generally, we understand physical health means our whole body, it is the same for mental health as it is a range of different elements and it is an indicator of how we cope with controlling our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. Having healthy mental health does not equate to being happy but simply being aware of and owning our own thoughts and feelings, which allows us to properly deal with negative emotions. Having the ability to do this does not necessarily come naturally, we often need to learn it, sometimes with the help of a mental health provider.
2. Can mental health improve?
Yes! There are times in our lives where we are going to naturally feel stronger and others when we are going to feel worse because of life situations. Sometimes, the feelings of worry, hopelessness, extreme fatigue, not wanting to do anything and lack of enjoyment in life persists and starts interrupting your life. If a symptom persists more than 2 weeks, then it is time to seek help. Working with a professional therapist will help you develop healthy coping skills to get you back on track.
3. What is depression?
Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Fortunately, it is also treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease your ability to function at work and at home. The great part about this is that although it feels hopeless and often people experience helplessness there are effective treatments available. Working with a psychotherapist will help you develop ways to combat your depression symptoms and start feeling like yourself again.
4. How do I know if my anxiety is unhealthy?
Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress and can be beneficial in some situations. An example is if someone cuts your off in traffic, you swerve or hit the breaks and prevent an accident. That anxiety saved your life. Another is when you are getting ready for a big presentation at work, the extra adrenaline causes you to perform better. These are examples of healthy anxiety doing its job.
Unhealthy anxiety is when it hinders your life. It is persistent, and recurrent which ranges from mild (occasional “butterflies,” jitteriness, accompanied by a sense of unease) to severe (frequent, disabling panic attacks). The great part is that there are ways to help you take control of your thoughts and reduce your anxiety, often developing healthy anxiety. This is done with the help of a registered psychotherapist.
5. What are the warning signs of a possible mental health issue?
Here is a list of the signs and symptoms to look out for. If several of the following are occurring, it may be useful to follow up with a mental health professional.
Sleep or appetite changes — Dramatic sleep and appetite changes or decline in personal care.
Mood changes — Rapid or dramatic shifts in emotions or depressed feelings.
Withdrawal — Recent social withdrawal and loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed.
Drop in functioning — An unusual drop in functioning, at school, work or social activities, such as quitting sports, failing in school or difficulty performing familiar tasks.
Problems thinking — Problems with concentration, memory or logical thought and speech that are hard to explain.
Increased sensitivity — Heightened sensitivity to sights, sounds, smells or touch; avoidance of over-stimulating situations.
Apathy — Loss of initiative or desire to participate in any activity.
Feeling disconnected — A vague feeling of being disconnected from oneself or one’s surroundings; a sense of unreality.
Illogical thinking — Unusual or exaggerated beliefs about personal powers to understand meanings or influence events; illogical or “magical” thinking typical of childhood in an adult.
Nervousness — Fear or suspiciousness of others or a strong nervous feeling.
Unusual behavior – Odd, uncharacteristic, peculiar behavior.
One or two of these symptoms alone can’t predict a mental illness but may indicate a need for further evaluation. If a person is experiencing several at one time and the symptoms are causing serious problems in the ability to study, work or relate to others, he/she should be seen by a physician or mental health professional. People with suicidal thoughts or intent, or thoughts of harming others, need immediate attention.
6. How do I help my loved one if I think they have a mental health issue?
The first part is knowing the warning signs that are listed above. Especially look for signs of withdrawal from social interaction, unusual problems functioning at school, work or social activities or dramatic changes in sleep and appetite. Someone exhibiting these signs or having these experiences does not necessarily mean the person has a mental health problem, the symptoms could also be related to other issues or problems. But following up with an evaluation from a medical professional could help address any problems and prevent more serious symptoms from developing.
The second part is having the courage to speak up. Talk to your friend, gently letting them know that you care, and you are concerned. That you think it would be good if they would seek help. Offer to support them by helping them find a therapist they are comfortable with and possibly driving them to the appointment. At the same time realise that it is their choice and often it takes more than one conversation before they are ready. In the meantime, as you are focused on taking care of your loved one, its important to take care of yourself- both emotionally and physically. Reach out for help if you need it while recognizing and acknowledging the limits of what you can give.
7. What happens in a therapy appointment?
Going to a therapist for the first time can be nerve racking as you are entering the unknown. Let’s help with those worries. The first appointment you are going to have some standard paperwork to fill out and then the therapist will be with you for about an hour. During this initial appointment, the therapist will ask questions to find out about you, what your life currently looks like, what supports you currently have and what is currently causing you problems. This is so the therapist can get an accurate picture of you and with that information, they then develop a treatment plan. This is a roadmap for how to help you become healthier and reach the goals you set for yourself. At our offices, we work very closely with you to individualize the plan and we check in along the way and adjust fit your needs because we want you to be healthy and happy. The appointments after the initial one, are focused on the treatment and often feel like a conversation.
I hope that this has helped answer some of your questions about mental health. If you have more, please feel free to contact us and ask our knowledgeable staff. If you are concerned about yourself, we are here to help. Please contact us today for your appointment.