May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time for people to learn more about mental health conditions and seek out help for them.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, mental health concerns affect 1 in 10 Americans today, but fewer than 25 percent of people with a diagnosable mental disorder seek treatment. Mental Health Awareness Month hopes to help increase the number of people who will talk to their doctor or a mental health professional about their concern.
Mental illness is a real and treatable set of conditions that includes major depression, bipolar disorder, panic attacks, generalized anxiety disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and schizophrenia, among dozens of others. These disorders are serious enough to significantly impact a person’s daily life functioning, whether at school, work or in their relationships with others.
Although mental illness is currently thought to be caused by a complex set of factors that includes genetics, neurochemistry, psychological and social characteristics, there are a number of effective treatments for virtually all mental health concerns. A combination of psychotherapy and medication is most often prescribed for most people’s treatment. People who take advantage of both types of treatment tend to feel better faster than those who take only medications.
Most people who have a mental health concern will talk to their family doctor or general practitioner first. If they meet the criteria for diagnosis, the doctor will then refer them to a mental health professional for a reliable diagnosis and to discuss treatment options.
Psychotherapy is generally time-limited and focused on solving specific goals in a person’s life. Most psychotherapy is completed within 6 to 12 months of starting, and most people who are treated by psychotherapy say they feel better when it is completed.
There are a wide range of psychiatric medications that are prescribed to treat mental illness. Most often these include antidepressants and a class of medications called atypical antipsychotics. Although doctors have no way of knowing which specific medication in a particular class is going to be the most effective for you with the least amount of side effects, they will help you find a medication that treats your symptoms through a process of careful trial-and-error.
Despite the strides made in our understanding and treatment of mental illness in the past two decades, many mental health concerns are still misunderstood and stigmatized. People with a mental health concern, however, can’t just “snap out of it,” and most cannot successfully treat themselves on their own. Mental illness is a serious condition and, if left untreated, results in longer periods of dysfunction in the person’s life as well as the painful feelings associated with the particular condition.
There are a myriad of resources available to help a person who wants to gain treatment for a mental health concern. Since 1995, Psych Central has offered information on mental health concerns, interactive quizzes to help assess a mental health concern and a robust, safe self-help support group community online.
The good news is that mental illness can be successfully treated in most people who seek out treatment. If you have a mental health concern, take one of our interactive quizzes today, and then find a mental health professional to help.