Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 9/26/2022
Is it time to seek help for your mental health?
Whether it’s been a rough semester, quarter, week or morning, there are plenty of days when we feel overwhelmed, exhausted, burnt out or unmotivated.
Our excitement over social activities can wane, our enthusiasm for our jobs or even our relationships can rise and fall.
But what’s the difference between a little normal fluctuation in our moods and feelings, and a legitimate problem?
If you’re asking yourself this question, it’s a good sign that you should be considering help for mental health issues — but it’s not necessarily a sign that help is necessary.
Understanding when you need to get some support is a crucial part of keeping your mind happy, so it’s good that you’re asking these questions.
To get to the answers, we need to first look at why your mental health is important — and what happens when it’s not taken care of.
Your mental health is important for your general function the same way your heart, lung and nervous health is important for general function — really, really important.
Mental health conditions are so dangerous because they can cause impairment of your thought processes.
The kind of impairment can vary greatly. Some people may lose motivation, others may experience anxiety, some may spend time in bed and others may struggle to have healthy habits.
While any mental illness can reduce your enjoyment, your productivity or your sense of connection in life, serious mental illness can have a far greater and more damaging impact, and can make things that you enjoyed in the past impossible to enjoy, things you did well in the past impossible to do and goals you’ve set impossible to achieve.
Scary as that may seem, the reality is that mental illness is also extremely common.
The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that nearly one in five adults in the U.S. have a mental illness — more than 50 million people.
Medical care for your mental health treatment may vary in scope, severity and symptoms, but they all have the common trait of making life a little less great and a little more difficult.
What that difficulty looks like varies by person and illness, but there are some common traits of mental illness that we should look at for a very brief overview.
Your mental health may be suffering due to a variety of issues including mood disorders, anxiety disorders, mental health disorders and other forms of mental illness. These are surprisingly common, as we mentioned, and the symptoms are common experiences.
A person with a mood disorder like depression, for instance, might experience:
Changes in appetite
Thoughts of suicide
These symptoms can be intense, mild or somewhere in between, but if you feel them somewhat regularly or if they impact your ability to function at work and enjoy relationships, it’s a sign that your mental health is suffering and it’s impacting the rest of your life.
Decades of mental health stigma are starting to turn the corner in many ways, and people are realizing that seeking help is no longer a “last choice” option.
It turns out, the moment you realize psychological distress is affecting your health and happiness, you should seek help.
Depression is not the only thing you should seek help for, though. Things like problematic drinking habits and alcohol dependence are mental health issues, too.
We all have down thoughts from time to time, but when they become severe or regular, it’s a sign of a problem.
Depression, for instance, is characterized by near-daily symptoms (like the ones we listed earlier) that last for at least two weeks.
Do you have to count for two weeks to get help? Of course not. If you find that you’re missing more deadlines, sleeping more or less or feeling tired or unmotivated, these are all signs that something like depression could be wrong.
You don’t need to wait to talk to a mental health professional — in fact, there are very few circumstances in which “waiting” is ever a good idea (we can’t think of any).
Okay, so it’s clear when and why you should seek help for your mental health, but how do you do it?
Well, it starts with a healthcare provider. Anyone will do at first, whether they’re a trusted family doctor or general practitioner, or an existing therapist.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a therapist at first. It’s important to feel comfortable being honest about your symptoms. Meanwhile, normal, non-specialized healthcare providers can always make referrals.
Mental health providers will be able to prescribe medication or refer you for therapy. They might also mention lifestyle changes that might help your mental health as well. A healthy lifestyle, diet, and exercise routine has been frequently shown to correlate with a healthy mind.
There are other ways to get a referral if you don’t have a primary provider. A community organization, trusted friend or family member or even a local health department may be a great place to ask for help finding help. Counseling services may also be available through academic institutions.
You can also contact a mental health professional online, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
For now, talking to someone is your first priority, even before you try to book your first therapy appointment.
If it’s not already clear, there is one thing all people seeking mental health support should do and do first: contact a mental health professional.
Whether you find treatment in therapy or medication, both or neither, that’s a conversation you need to have with the right therapist or another therapy professional. They can help you find the right path to your goals in a safe and supportive environment.
If you’re wondering where to start the search, Hers’ online therapy is a great, convenient telehealth option for people who might want remote support.
You can speak with someone today, so if you’re ready to take that step, we’re here.