Getting Mental Health Help - Therapy How-To's

Article provided by the American Psychological Association

First Step, Reach Out to People You Trust

Sometimes people don't get the help they need because they don't know where to turn. When you're not feeling well, it can be a struggle to take the necessary steps to help yourself get better.

When dealing with mental health or emotional problems, it's important not to go at it alone. Healing is a combination of helping yourself and letting others help you. Comfort and support, information and advice, and professional treatment are all forms of help.

Think of all the people you can turn to for support. These are people who are concerned about you and can help comfort you, who will listen to you and encourage you, and who can help arrange for treatment. In other words, find the caring people in your life who can help you.

These people might include:

  • friends
  • parents and other family members
  • someone who seems "like a parent" to you
  • other adults whose advice you would value -- perhaps a favorite teacher or coach, a member of your church or other place of worship, or a good friend's parent.

Research shows that males are more reluctant to look for help and receive it than females are. While some people may have difficulty reaching out to others they trust, taking this first step in getting help is important for everyone to do.

Some families have health insurance that helps them get the services they need from mental health professionals. Insurance may cover some of the cost of these services. Many insurance companies provide a list of licensed mental health professionals in your area.

Team Mental Health

Health professionals who specialize in helping individuals and their families with mental health problems include psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, counselors, and psychiatric nurses. Psychotherapy, sometimes known as talk therapy, is often an important part of mental health treatment by qualified professionals. In some situations, physicians may recommend the use of medication for an individual with mental health problems. Health professionals often work together, for example, as members of a treatment team. Family members may also be asked to support an individual in his or her treatment.

Community resources can help provide services and support:

  • Schools play an important role in connecting students with mental health professionals. For example, school psychologists, counselors, and school nurses help students get services they need either at school or somewhere else in the community. University and college students may have access to health services through college counseling centers.
  • Families that are limited in their ability to pay often have access to community-based services such as community mental health centers. State departments of mental health and local community health centers can help direct families to community resources. Phone listings for state and local mental health departments often appear in the government section of telephone directory white pages.
  • There are free self-help and support groups in many communities for dealing with specific mental health problems such as coping with alcohol and drug abuse. Through sharing information and ideas with others, participants realize they are not alone with their problems.
  • Most major cities have at least one mental health crisis center which may be located through telephone directory assistance. The centers typically are staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and can refer a caller to local sources of health care and support.

Take Action

The more you know, the easier it is

Libraries are an excellent source of information about mental health. Bookstores often have "self-help" or "psychology" sections.

For those with Internet access, there are many Web sites related to health and mental health. Some are better in quality than others. It is important to know if the information on a site comes from sources you can trust. Use caution whenever you're sharing or exchanging information online: there's a chance that it will not be kept private.

Nothing is worse than nothing

The consequences of not getting help for mental health problems can be serious. Untreated problems often continue and become worse, and new problems may occur. For example, someone with panic attacks might begin drinking too much alcohol with the mistaken hope that it will help relieve his or her emotional pain.

One final word: to be a good friend, never keep talk of suicide a secret

Friends often confide in one another about their problems. But if a friend mentions suicide, take it seriously and seek help immediately from a trusted adult or health professional. Never keep talk of suicide a secret, even if a friend asks you to. It's better to risk losing a friendship than to risk losing a friend forever.

It's All In the Attitude

There are many reasons why people do not get help for mental health problems. Fear, shame, and embarrassment often prevent individuals and their families from doing anything.

Sometimes being able to get the help, support, and professional treatment you need is a matter of changing your mind about mental health and changing the way you react to mental health problems.

Here are some important reminders:

  • Mental health is as important as physical health. In fact, the two are closely linked.
  • Mental health problems are real, and they deserve to be treated.
  • It's not a person's fault if he or she has a mental health problem. No one is to blame.
  • Mental health problems are not a sign of weakness. They are not something you can "just snap out of" even if you try.
  • Whether you're male or female, it's OK to ask for help and get it.
  • There's hope. People improve and recover with the help of treatment, and they are able to enjoy happier and healthier lives.