Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I'm blogging for Mental Health...

Today the American Psychological Association is encouraging Mental Health professionals to write about an aspect of mental health that is important to them.  

Reducing the stigma associated with receiving mental health services is something I am passionate about.  According to the National Institutes on Mental Health,  1 in 4 Americans are suffering from some sort of mental health issue, those suffering should not have to worry about what others will think if they seek out help. 

There are many things that can be done to help reduces stigma and help someone that may greatly benefit from seeking services.  
  • Educate yourself about someones symptoms, illness, and potential side effects of treatment.  Local Mental Health America affiliates, Psychology Today, the library, and the internet can be excellent resources to health about mental illness, finding a therapist, and the vast treatment options available.
  • Receiving a diagnosis may cause your family member or friend to feel a wide range of emotions (shame, anger, fear, etc.), it is important to recognize these feelings.  A diagnosis can bring some relief, however, some may feel devastated by the diagnosis creating more intense feelings of stress.  
  • Listen carefully to your loved one and express your understanding of what they are going through back to them.  Never discount someones feelings.
  • Encourage your loved one to ask questions during their appointments with their treatment team and be an active member in their therapy.  The more knowledge they have about the treatment and services the greater potential for recovery.   
  • Though therapy can cause significant relief, in some cases, adding medication to the treatment plan is warranted.  Encourage your family member or friend to take time to find the proper medication and dose with their medical provider.  It can take 3 to 6 weeks before there is some symptom relief with certain types of medication.  It is important to support your loved one through those difficult side effects in order to identify whether the medication will be useful to their treatment. 
  • Medication is not a cure for mental illness.  Social support, increasing self esteem, and feeling confident that one is contributing to the well-being of society are essential to the recovery process. 
  • Be respectful of your loved one's need and right for privacy.  People struggling with mental illness should be treated with dignity and respect. (Adapted from information from Mental Health America)
The take home message of today is to support your loved ones if they are struggling with a mental health issue.  Support can come in many forms and having an open conversation with your family member or friend about what will be most supportive to them can make a huge difference.  There is nothing shameful about seeking help and services for mental health issues!  

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