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Mental Health Awareness: When to Seek Professional Help

May 4, 2021
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Most people understand the impact of physical health on wellbeing, from our diet and activity levels to care from experienced physicians. Fewer people are aware of mental health’s critical role. Despite this, one in five Americans experiences mental health challenges each year. Among them, less than 45% will receive the help they need.

Mental Health America strives to close this gap by raising awareness, and promote better care. If you are concerned about your mental health or that of a loved one, the Center for Integrative Behavioral Medicine at Richmond University Medical Center offers an overview of symptoms that indicate it may be time to speak with a professional and receive the support you deserve.

What Does Mental Health Mean?

Simply stated, mental health refers to our feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. When these disrupt our ability to live happy, productive lives and/or distort our perceptions of reality, a mental health disorder may be the cause. In general, those affected by mental health disorders can experience:

  • Trouble maintaining family, friend, and romantic relationships
  • Problems with work and school
  • Difficulty with daily activities
  • Struggles with learning
  • Challenges with social interactions

Anyone experiencing these challenges should understand that mental health disorders are not personal failings or signs of weakness. Instead, they are health conditions with cognitive, emotional, and/or physical roots that can be improved through appropriate treatment.

When to See a Mental Health Professional

The need for professional support is not always obvious. Additionally, many people feel reluctant to seek help due to the stigma surrounding emotional and mental disorders. However, if you experience any of the following, you should schedule a consultation with a professional as soon as possible:

  • Significant personality changes
  • Unusual and/or unrealistic thought patterns
  • Extended periods of sadness or apathy
  • Changes in eating habits, such as under- or overeating
  • Sleeping noticeably more or less
  • Physical symptoms, such as headaches, digestive issues, racing heart, tightness in your chest, feeling faint or shaky, and more
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Fatigue that may or may not be related to sleep issues
  • Difficulty coping with everyday challenges
  • A feeling of disconnection or withdrawal
  • Anxiety that persists beyond moments of stress
  • Using alcohol, drugs, and other substances to cope
  • An unusual increase in the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Mood swings
  • Intense feelings of anger or hostility
  • Sensitivity to light, noise, and other environmental conditions
  • Frequent feelings of nervousness or paranoia
  • Thoughts of self-harm
  • Violent impulses toward others

If you experience thoughts of self-harm or harming others, do not wait to seek help – contact the Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program (CPEP) at 718-818-6300 or our Mobile Crisis Outreach Service at 718-818-6900 immediately or dial 9-1-1.

How a Professional Can Help

When you reach out to a mental health professional, you can count on supportive, nonjudgmental help. A counselor or other professional will ask you about your medical history, including any family history of mental illness, and conduct a physical exam to help rule out causes for your symptoms. They will ask questions, listen with care, and perform screenings to determine which disorder you may be dealing with and how they can help you begin to feel better.

If you have been hesitant to seek help for mental health symptoms, now is the perfect time to reach out to the Center for Integrative Behavioral Medicine at Richmond University Medical Center. To learn more about our behavioral health services in Staten Island, New York, call 718-818-6132 to speak with a member of our team today.