Every day you make choices that can either contribute to or detract from your long-term health. Choose wisely, seek help for mental illness, and know that good mental health is within your reach. When it comes to mental health, lifestyle, physical health and mental illness treatment—therapy and medications—can work together to treat an identified disorder, minimize recurrences, and make life more livable. Here are some key Habits to Have®:
Mental illnesses are still seen as different from other common health conditions like heart or kidney disease. Don’t let your own attitudes or society’s stigma get in the way of getting treatment for yourself or others.
If you don’t know what to look for, you could miss the signs of mental illness in yourself, your family or your friends. Go online and get smart – it’s not hard and it can make all the difference in preventing mental illness and dealing with it.
Unresolved issues, stress, and ignored behaviors can lead to unrecognized and untreated mental illness. Parents, kids, spouses, significant others and friends need to ask and talk about how they’re feeling. Mental health can be hard to talk about, but don’t hesitate to ask about a change in behavior you’ve noticed.
If you think there’s a problem, start with your doctor. They’ll help identify if there’s a potential mental health issue and determine if you should see a mental health professional. Because mental health is a highly specialized area of medicine, receiving a thorough evaluation and specific diagnosis from a mental health professional is important.
You should have a complete mental and physical health evaluation before taking medication or receiving therapy. Once you’re given a diagnosis, make sure you fully understand and agree with it prior to beginning treatment. If necessary, seek out and get a second opinion.
While insurance coverage for mental health issues may be more limited than many other health conditions, a number of advocacy organizations exist to help you find and get treatment through federal, state and local programs (learn more at nami.org).
Therapy and medication are highly effective treatments, with medication providing relief and control of symptoms while therapy addresses long-term cognitive change. Be sure to give medication regimens enough time to work. It often takes several weeks for medicines to work completely and may also involve trying several different drugs. Find a therapist you’re comfortable with and expect the process to take some time. As many therapists say, you’ll get out of it what you put into it.
Exercise and diet have been shown to have a positive effect on mental health. A healthy lifestyle is also crucial to maintaining mental health or overcoming mental illness. Evaluate your own lifestyle and identify the stressors in your life. Even if you can’t remove or control them, healthy living can help reduce their effect.
Most of us never consider checking up on our mental health, but we should. For parents, this means taking the time to sit down with your kids to explore what’s happening in their emotional lives. For spouses, it’s making sure you look for and address your stressors. For friends and family, it’s making sure you create an environment in which mental health issues are openly discussed and treatment is encouraged.