When and Where to Get Help for Mental Health Issues

Most of us, from time-to-time, have a bad day or two. It may be the result of a stressful situation occurring in our life, or it may be from the memory of a problem from the past, or perhaps a relationship issue - or, in some cases, for no reason at all. Usually these negative emotional states "lift" and moods return to normal. But sometimes the negative emotions remain and begin to cause changes in our day-to-day functioning. It is at this point that we need to decide "do I need to get some help for my mental state?" If the answer to the question is yes, then the next question is "what kind of help do I need?"

The questions are complicated by the fact that for most of us emotional problems are seen as loaded with stigma. We don't want to be mentally ill, and are often embarrassed by the fact that we even think of ourselves "that way." Even though we have, over the years, come a long way in recognizing that emotional and mental problems are not necessarily a sign of weakness or inadequacy, the stigma regarding mental illness is still present for many, often resulting in their denial of the existence of their symptoms.

So the first step in getting help is recognizing that something is wrong and admitting that you are having a tough time as a result of it. Next is to do some self-searching to see if you can figure out the cause and perhaps the solution. If you can't, then it is time to seek help. But where can you get that help?

The first place to look is in your own support network. It may be a family member or friend. Maybe people at work, at church, or those you associate with every day can help you better understand what is going on. The problem with your support network is that often, in an attempt not to hurt your feelings, they do not tell you the truth, but often a support group is just what you need to resolve your feeling problem.

Many clergy are trained to help with listening, advising and doing more professional counseling.

Sometimes a visit to your family physician can be a worthwhile starting place. They may often recommend a referral for therapy to a counselor, social worker or psychologist. Or they may suggest referral to a psychiatrist, a physician specializing in mental health care.

If you do go to a mental health professional, I implore you to be honest with them about your signs and symptoms. Don't hide feelings or thoughts because you are embarrassed. Often it is helpful to write down a history of your life and your symptoms in brief bullet-points. This exercise may do two things. First, in the preparation of the history you may gain insight into what is really happening, if it has happened before, and what usually occurs to make it go away. Second, when you do see the professional the list helps you become a better "historian" allowing you to get more information in early in treatment resulting in a more accurate assessment of your problem, and therefore more appropriate treatment of it.

Where to find such professional help is the subject of our HealthyPlace TV Show on Tuesday, March 24th, 2009 (watch the show by clicking the "on-demand" link on the player). I also recommend you search the HealthyPlace website for a list of psychiatric symptoms that may alert you to the need for mental health treatment, and what types of mental health treatments are available.

Most important of all -- DO NOT IGNORE your mental health symptoms, especially those causing ongoing distress or getting in the way of your day-to-day functioning.

(Ed. Note: Detailed overview of mental illness, psychological symptoms, and mental health treatments here.

Dr. Harry Croft is a Board-Certified Psychiatrist and Medical Director of Dr. Croft is also the co-host of the HealthyPlace TV Show.

nextPTSD: A Real Nightmare
~ other mental health articles by Dr. Croft

APA Reference
(2009, March 22). When and Where to Get Help for Mental Health Issues, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 16 from

Last Updated: July 14, 2016

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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