When we know someone has cancer, heart disease, or diabetes, we don’t wait years to get treatment. We start before Stage 4—we begin with prevention. When people are in the first stages of those diseases, and they are beginning to show signs or symptoms like a persistent cough, high blood pressure, or high blood sugar, we generally don’t ignore them. In fact, we develop a plan of action to reverse and sometimes stop the progression of the disease. So why aren’t we doing the same for individuals who are dealing with potentially serious mental illness?
Often times, family and friends are the first to step in to support a person through these early stages. Experiencing symptoms such as loss of sleep, feeling tired for no reason, feeling low, feeling anxious, or hearing voices, shouldn’t be ignored or brushed aside in the hopes that they go away. Like other diseases, we need to address these symptoms early, identify the underlying disease, and plan an appropriate course of action on a path towards overall health. Mental health conditions should be addressed long before they reach the most critical points in the disease process—before Stage 4. If you notice that someone is struggling, it is important to reach out and provide support.
Many people do not seek treatment in the early stages of mental illnesses because they don’t recognize the symptoms, they are hoping it is temporary or they are fearful of being judged. Mental Health America’s screening tools can help. Taken online at www.mhascreening.org, the screening is an anonymous, free and private way to learn about your mental health and see if you are showing warning signs of a mental illness. A screening only takes a few minutes, and after you are finished you will be given information about the next steps you should take based on the results. A screening is not a diagnosis, but it can be a helpful tool for starting a conversation with your doctor or a loved one about your mental health.
This May is Mental Health Month; BRiDGES wants to raise awareness of the important role mental health plays in our lives. Mental illnesses are not only common, they are treatable. There is a wide variety of treatment options ranging from talk therapy to medication to peer support, and all are available in Madison County. It may take some time for a person to find the right treatment or combination of treatments that works best for them. But when they do, the results can be truly amazing and life changing.