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Living Healthy

Make the Most of Mental Health Resources in Your Community

May 06, 2021
When you’re struggling with mental health issues, especially due to the global trauma of the COVID-19 pandemic, tap into local resources for help.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health issues have become much more prevalent and increased in severity. Around four in 10 adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression in 2020, according to the State of the Nation’s Mental Health report. This is an increase from one in 10 reporting symptoms in 2019. Yet treatment for mental health disorders has not increased at the same rate.

Historically, global traumatic events lead to long-lasting mental health struggles. This can lead to a variety of issues, because physical and mental health are linked. A lack in one area can lead to increased problems in the other. So, to be our healthiest, the two must be addressed together. It is vital to acknowledge and address the importance of mental health, destigmatize it, and know where to turn for assistance.

When to look for mental health resources

Mental health issues can grow slowly or come on suddenly. They can be tied to specific situations, such as the current pandemic, a death in the family, a natural disaster, or a job loss. Or they may build up over time, as small problems add stress until they become a larger problem.

The State of the Nation’s Mental Health report found that specific groups like children and older adults have experienced a unique isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing their vulnerability to mental struggles.  

How do you know if you are just having a bad day or if it is time to seek mental healthcare? It’s important to honestly assess yourself, as well as to keep an eye out for changes in those closest to you. Try talking to a loved one about how you can support one another by looking out for warning signs. And if you are a caretaker for others, be sure to pay attention to their mental health just as you would their physical health.

Here are some signs to look for:

  • Sleep or appetite changes
  • Mood changes
  • Difficulty with functioning in work, school, or social activities
  • Withdrawal from others or apathy
  • Problems with concentrating, memory, or logic
  • Increased sensitivity or irritation

If you or someone you care about is having more than two of these symptoms, talk to your doctor about them.

And if you are struggling more intensely, don’t put it off. If you are thinking about harming yourself, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or call 911.

How to access mental health resources

Many primary care doctors and their staff can point you to mental health resources nearby. You can also check with your local public health or community health department for information. Some programs and services may be available for free or at a low cost.

If your employer offers an Employee Assistance Program, the EAP team may be able to find a local counselor for you. Some visits may be covered by your EAP benefit. Your EAP provider may also be able to put together a list of groups that offer local mental health support.

There are several national organizations focused on helping people with mental health concerns. The National Alliance on Mental Illness, Mental Health America, and others have local chapters or affiliates that offer education, support groups, and events. 

If you live near a university or medical school, they may offer reduced-rate mental health services and research studies or clinical trials.

Types of mental health resources

You may be surprised by the number of resources available for local mental health support. Most communities have numerous licensed mental health professionals and a wide variety of support groups.

Take few minutes to think about your situation and preferences. This can help you narrow down the options to those that appeal to you.

If you prefer to talk with someone one-on-one, your primary care doctor may suggest a therapist or counselor. There are many types of professionals with training, advanced degrees, licenses, and certifications to help those with mental health concerns.

If you need medication to treat your mental health condition, you will need to see a psychiatrist, primary care physician, or nurse practitioner who can prescribe drugs.

Peer support groups can help you learn from and empathize with others who have similar situations and experiences. Many groups focus solely on one type of mental health issue. This may include depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, or substance abuse.

Other groups are specific to certain characteristics of the people who are part of the group. Some examples are:

  • Religion or faith-based
  • Profession – military, teachers, healthcare workers
  • Family situation – parent, divorced, single, caregiver, same-sex partner
  • Race and/or cultural background
  • Life situation – grief, relationship issues, trauma survivor, disaster-related distress
  • Medical condition – cancer, diabetes, disability, other chronic conditions

Consider what characteristics you identify with most. Think about what type of people may be able to provide you with relevant and useful support.

If you prefer to be part of an online group, you can use the same process to find one or more that suits you. Some have private chat and forum features for sharing your thoughts anytime, from anywhere. Check the group’s privacy and security policies.

Taking care of yourself mentally is key to your overall well-being. After all, mental health is health. Physical and mental health are linked and must be addressed equally and in tandem. And looking out for the mental health of those closest to you or those you take care of can help your whole community.

But remember that it may take some time and trying a few different providers or groups to find the right fit. Fortunately, mental health resources are more available than ever — don’t hesitate to seek them.