Mental health disorders affect nearly 44 million Americans each year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. You might have noticed a loved one showing signs of a mental health issue, and felt concerned about their wellbeing. Signs and symptoms of a mental health condition can include:
- Persistent sadness, hopelessness, or despair
- Sleep complications, such as insomnia, nightmares, or hypersomnia
- Changes in eating habits that may result in sudden weight changes
- Difficulty focusing or remembering things
- Angry or violent outbursts
- Excessive worrying
- Racing heart, sweating, shallow breathing, or chest pain when stressed
- Signs of psychosis, such as experiencing hallucinations or delusions
- Suicidal ideation
If a loved one is exhibiting signs of mental distress, it’s important that they visit their physician as soon as possible. Sometimes, a medical condition can cause mental health symptoms, so it’s important to rule out any other physical ailments. If the doctor doesn’t detect any physical health conditions, they will refer the patient to a mental health provider for further evaluation.
What are mental health disorders?
Mental health disorders, which can also be referred to as mental illness, involve a state of emotional or psychological distress that causes an adverse impact on thoughts, moods and behaviors. These disorders vary in severity, from mild to severe. Moderate to severe mental illness can cause impaired cognitive functions or even pose a danger to one’s self and others.
Some of the more common mental health disorders include:
Anxiety disorders: These impact approximately 40 million adults annually. There are several types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety, specific phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Depressive disorders: Depression is the second most common mental health disorder, affecting about 17 million people a year. The types of depression include major depressive disorder, postpartum depression, bipolar depression, seasonal affective disorder, and persistent depressive disorder.
Dual diagnosis: A significant number of people struggling with a mental health disorder also develop a comorbid substance use disorder. This is referred to as a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders.
Tips for having conversations on mental health
Approaching a friend or loved one about a possible mental illness can be a sensitive topic, due to the stigma that still surrounds them. Some may become defensive when asked, possibly believing mental health struggles to be a sign of weakness or defect.
There are, however, effective ways to gently approach the subject of mental health with a loved one. Consider these tips:
- Begin the conversation with something personal like: “I don’t know about you, but I’m really having a rough time managing stress lately. How are you dealing with all this mayhem around the pandemic?” This draws them into a casual chat that doesn’t single them out, but sets the stage for a healthy conversation about mental health.
- Ask them if they are okay. Mention that you sense they might be struggling with stress (depression, substance use) and ask if there is anything you can do to help. This shows them you care, while also providing some practical assistance.
- If your friend or relative admits they are struggling, offer to be their support. You might accompany them to their first mental health consultation, help them find an in-network mental health provider, or offer to babysit their children while they attend therapy sessions.
When you recognize that a loved one is exhibiting some signs of mental illness, resist the urge to ignore it. The sooner you can encourage your friend, colleague, or family member to seek professional help, the better their clinical outcome will be.
Ashley Addiction Treatment, formerly Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders. Our programs are accredited by The Joint Commission, and result in frequent publications of ongoing research into effective treatment methodologies. We offer holistic care that encompasses the mind, body and spirit through inpatient and outpatient treatment, provide drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s unique needs. Our driving principle — “everything for recovery” — reinforces our mission to transform and save lives through the science of medicine, the art of therapy and the compassion of spirituality, and is complemented by our philosophy of healing with respect and dignity. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call (866) 313-6307.