Mental health, psychological wellbeing, life balance, resilience, mindfulness…..these, and others, are all terms used to describe a positive mental, psychological, and emotional state. Sadly, but truthfully, something like one in five of us will have some form of significant mental health problem, challenge, or illness, in our lives.  Mental illness is common but it is still associated with some stigma and some “mystery”. Today we’ll try to clarify how to seek help for mental health challenges…

The main treatment approaches to mental health conditions are:

  • Lifestyle – good healthy living is often helpful, with exercise especially important for mental health.
  • Medication – there are many proven medications including antidepressants, anxiety-treatments, anti-psychotic medications, etc. Most are safe, non-addictive and proven to be effective.
  • Counselling – professional counselling varies form short-term practical solutions-focussed sessions to longer-term analytic psychotherapy. All methods have been shown to be effective when used correctly and by qualified experienced professionals.
  • Specialized treatments – electric shock treatment and even some forms of brain surgery have been and are used, but this is quite rare and tends to be reserved for extreme and severe cases.
  • Hospital admission – severe cases (e.g. when the risk of self harm is high) may be admitted for in-patient supervision and care. This is usually voluntary of course, but in cases where self-harm or harm to others seems a real risk, admission can be mandatory if the professionals and the courts are agreed.

The healthcare professionals that are most-often involved are:

  • General practitioners (family doctors) – often the best place to start, your family doctor can give general advice, refer appropriately, and many will take on the treatment of milder cases (sometimes working together with others like psychologists).
  • Psychiatrists – medical doctors who have specialised in mental health, psychiatrists are best when medication or specialized treatment or hospital admission is considered.
  • Psychologists – specialists in psychoanalysis and other forms of counselling, psychologists are best when counselling (short term or longer term) is the main treatment used (which it often is).
  • Life coaches – life coaches vary in their qualifications and experience (life-coaching is not a regulated therapy) and so while some offer excellent support, others are less professional and less helpful.

Other sources of advice and support include religious persons (Priest, Rabbi, Imam, Minister, etc.), traditional healers, family members, close friends, work colleagues, etc. Nearly all of these are unregulated or loosely regulated (as regards any counselling or mental health matters). Most do not hold formal healthcare qualifications. So even though these are often people with good intentions and even though many do offer real help, we advise caution and we advise seeing qualified healthcare professionals wherever possible.

It’s common to see multi-disciplinary treatment of mental health problems, where several professionals work with one patient in a cooperative collaborative manner. This is especially valuable in more severe or complex cases and in hospital admissions.

Any and all of these options can be helpful. We think that seeing your family doctor or a psychologist or the company EAP (if there is one) would be optimal as a starting point in most cases, but in truth any form of seeking-help is a good idea when you feel anxious, sad, depressed, angry, burnt-out, suicidal, confused, etc. The big thing, the really big thing, is not to go-it-alone with the “big boys don’t cry” mindset so many of us (women and men) seem to have today We do truly, all, need help sometimes…..