Skip to main content

Article

Mental Health Matters

Published May 26th, 2022

Our mental health impacts every aspect of our lives, from our physical health to our relationships to our productivity and general sense of wellbeing. Mental health concerns exist along a spectrum and vary widely in cause, symptoms, and severity. More than 1 in 5 adults will experience at least one mental health condition every year.¹

Health issues can range from common concerns like stress and anxiety to more complex diagnosable disorders like bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Concerns at any level, regardless of official diagnoses, can negatively impact our lives and are worthy of support.

Understanding the Types of Services Available

The most common services include:

Therapy – Therapy involves speaking with a trained professional to better understand and change your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

Medication – Medication can be used to adjust the levels of your brain’s chemical messengers, known as neurotransmitters and reduce symptoms of mental health conditions.

Combination treatment – The combination of therapy and medication can help address neurochemical imbalances while exploring how past experiences have contributed to present distress and providing patients with new coping skills.

Evidence-based treatments – Evidence-based treatments (EBTs) have been tested and shown to be effective in randomized clinical trials. They typically have a specific focus (e.g., depression), treatment model, and a well-defined protocol. Therapists and psychologists often pull techniques from multiple EBTs and tailor treatment strategies to meet the needs of the patient.

Mental health crisis – If you or someone in your family is having a mental health crisis and need immediate support, call 911 or go to your nearest hospital emergency room. If you are not in imminent danger but need crisis support, call the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-8255 to connect with a trained counselor near you.

Selecting and Finding a Mental Health Provider

There are important distinctions between the types of mental health professionals available, including education and the ability to prescribe medication.

Therapist – Holds a master’s degree in mental health-related fields; can provide diagnosis and treatment for a variety of conditions. Consider seeing a therapist for milder symptoms brought on by situational factors, stressors, or life transitions.

Psychologist – Holds a doctoral degree in clinical or counseling psychology; provides diagnosis, treatment, and testing for various conditions; has extensive experience with evidence-based treatments. Consider seeing a psychologist if you have more severe symptoms.

Psychiatrist or Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner – Medical providers who prescribe medication to treat symptoms of mental illness. Psychiatrists have a medical degree and have completed a specialized residency in psychiatry. Consider seeing a psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse practitioner if you have a diagnosed mental health disorder.

Finding Support

Given the increase in mental health needs over the past few years, there is currently a shortage of providers however, the following resources can help you find professionals in your community.

Insurance In-Network Provider List: You can begin by searching your insurance network’s list of in-network providers.

Employee Assistance Program: Check to see whether your company’s employee assistance program offers mental health services or referral recommendations. 

Online Find-A-Therapist Directories: There are several online directories (i.e., Psychology Today and Anxiety & Depression Association of America) to help you find health care professionals by location and specialty.  

Digital Mental Health Platforms: There are several digital mental health companies that offer therapy and medication management services completely online.

Note: Telehealth laws vary by state so you will need to be sure these platforms are licensed to provide services in your state.

Mental Health Hygiene

Research supports that healthy lifestyle practices can impact your mental health – improving symptoms and contributing to a general sense of well-being, such as:

Exercise – Regular exercise can improve moods and reduce stress²

Nutrition – Advances in nutrition, neuroscience, and the mind-gut connection have shown that what we eat directly impacts our mental health.³

Sleep – Establishing good sleep practices and prioritizing sleep quality can lead to immediate improvement in some mental health symptoms. 4

Mindfulness – Mindfulness and meditation practices have been shown to help decrease stress, anxiety, and depression. 5

If you or someone you care about is struggling with mental health, please seek support from a qualified provider or call 911 if there is immediate risk to personal safety.

References

  1. (NIHM), N. I. o. M. H. Mental Illness, (2022). https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/mental-illness#part_2555
  2. Choi, K. W. et al. Assessment of Bidirectional Relationships Between Physical Activity and Depression Among Adults. JAMA Psychiatry 76, 399, doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2018.4175 (2019).
  3. Clapp, M. et al. Gut Microbiota’s Effect on Mental Health: The Gut-Brain Axis. Clinics and Practice 7, 987, doi:10.4081/cp.2017.987 (2017).
  4. Health, H. Sleep and Mental Health, (2022). https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/sleep-and-mental-health#:~:text=Chronic%20sleep%20problems%20affect%2050,deficit%20hyperactivity%disorder%20(ADHD).%3E
  5. Publishing, H. H. How Meditation Helps with Depression, (2021). https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/how-meditation-helps-with-depression

About the Author

Monica Separazadah, MPAS, PA-C

Senior Clinical Director | Physician Assistant

Monica Separzadeh provides comprehensive clinical care and case management and is a board-certified Physician Assistant.