No one wants to think they or their family members might be struggling with mental health. Many Americans avoid talking about mental health issues, which can lead to the impression that they’re rare and only happen to other people. In reality, almost half of U.S. adults will experience a mental illness at some point during their lifetime.
If you think you or your loved one has a mental illness, the first thing to know is that you’re not alone. The second is how to recognize if you or someone close to you needs mental health care.
What is mental illness?
Mental illness includes a wide range of mental health conditions that can lower a person’s quality of life. These conditions include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and many others. Depending on the severity, mental illnesses can interfere with daily activities.
The most common family of mental illness is anxiety disorders. According to the National Institutes for Mental Health (NIMH), anxiety disorders affect nearly a fifth of the population. Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, but only a third of those suffering receive mental health care.
Some mental illness is associated with genetics. In other cases, mental illness is aggravated by life circumstances, environmental factors, or substance abuse. It can also be brought on by a traumatic event, such as a job loss or loved one’s death.
Mental illness is sometimes connected to behavioral health disorders, such as substance use disorder, eating disorders, or addictive gambling. A mental illness can bring on a behavioral health disorder, and a behavioral health disorder can lead to worsened mental health in a vicious cycle. However, not everyone with mental illness has a behavioral health disorder.
It’s important to remember that mental health issues are treatable, just like physical health issues. Mental health care helps many people recover and attain a more meaningful, enjoyable life.
How do I know if my loved one needs mental health care?
As with physical illness, mental illness symptoms vary depending on the person and the type of illness.
Anxiety disorders are characterized by excessive worry or stress, often about seemingly unimportant or unlikely things. Everyone experiences worry from time to time, so it can be difficult to identify when someone has a disorder. If severe anxiety is a constant feature of everyday life that interferes with work, relationships, and enjoyment, you should seek help.
Mood disorders like depression are typically characterized by pervasive negative emotions, such as sadness or irritability. There may be extreme emotional highs and lows, as in bipolar disorder, or the person may experience consistent negative emotions or numbness. You may also notice symptoms like social withdrawal, loss of interest in activities that were previously enjoyed, appetite changes, sleep changes, or slowed movements and speech.
If your loved one seems to be losing touch with reality, they may have a psychotic disorder like schizophrenia. Common symptoms include seeing or hearing things that aren’t there, delusions, and disorganized speech.
In general, any persistent thinking patterns or negative emotions that get in the way of functioning or enjoying life could be signs of mental illness. Mental health care can help your loved one achieve a better state of mind.
What should I do if I think my family member has a mental illness or needs mental health care?
If you or someone you know is in a mental health crisis, seek help immediately from Sunrise or another care provider. There’s no shame in asking for mental health help. In the case of emergency, call 911.
For less acute issues, the first thing you should do is make an appointment with a mental health professional. They can determine if you loved one truly have a mental illness, and if so, what it is. Diagnosis is the first step to addressing any mental health condition.
Once you or your loved one has received a diagnosis, you can seek treatment to help achieve a better quality of life. Individual and/or group counseling is a key component of mental health care. Medication may also be prescribed to help stabilize the condition, but this isn’t always necessary.
Behavioral health conditions are often treated together with mental illness. If substance use is present, treatment will typically involve a detox in addition to other forms of mental health care.
Sunrise Services offers comprehensive mental and behavioral health care to help individuals in the Puget Sound community attain a better quality of life. Our services include individual and group therapy, outpatient treatment, medication management, supported employment and education, jail transition services, and more. We also connect people with other community support to find lasting solutions for their unique situation.
We have nearly 40 years of experience providing compassionate, confidential support. Contact us today to start your journey to a fuller life.