The importance of getting mental health support early on
When it comes to mental health symptoms, many people can goa long time between experiencing it and receiving appropriate professional support. According to the Mental Health Foundation, 50% of mental health conditions are established by age 14 and 75% by age 24 (source).
Just like a physical injury, if a mental health condition is left unmanaged, or the circumstances causing it are unchanged, it can make it even worse. Recovering from it could also take longer because our belief systems are more ingrained and harder to break free from.
Poor mental health can impact our quality of life and disrupt our routine. It can cause us to have negative thoughts about ourselves and knock our confidence, make it harder to focus on work or school, increase the risk of substance abuse and affect our relationships – whether that’s because we’re feeling less sociable, more agitated and so on.
Recognising a mental health issue early on and understanding why it might be happening means that we can put steps in place before it dramatically impacts your life. However, sometimes, taking action is easier said than done. There are lots of different reasons why people might find it difficult to reach out for mental health support, including:
Stigma associated with mental health
Although awareness of mental health issues is improving, people may still be worried to talk about their mental health condition due to the stigma associated with it. As documented in The Lancet’s commission on stigma and discrimination in mental health, this still forms a major barrier to healthcare across societies and cultures.
Not wanting to ‘waste’ resources
People may think that others are ‘worse off’ than them, and therefore they don’t want to take up valuable clinical resources for themselves. It’s important to remember that we all deserve to feel healthy and healthcare professionals will help you understand the level of support you need.
Feeling worried about therapy or treatment
People could be uncomfortable with the different kinds of treatments available for mental health conditions. For example, they may worry about taking medication, or feel reluctant to ‘open up’ during talking therapy.
Unable to access support
According the UN, globally, treatment and care remain scarce, inadequate, inaccessible or too expensive, and widespread stigma discourages people from seeking help. It is estimated that 1 in 4 people around the world suffer from a mental health condition, with a treatment gap of up to 90 per cent in some countries.
If you notice that your mental health is becoming harder to manage, having the right tools and support systems in place can help you to get back on track. And, the sooner you implement these, the quicker you can improve. Here are a few ways that you can take care of your mental health when problems emerge:
Stay in touch withyour emotions
It’s important to pay attention to your feelings and notice when negative emotions come up so that you can explore why they’re happening; has something triggered them, or have they appeared out of the blue?
Sometimes, we’re not sure why we’re feeling a certain way, and that’s okay. It can help to write our feelings down to make sense of them, or say them out loud, for example, “I am feeling sad but also irritable today.” Try to process your emotions without judgement or being hard on yourself to work out where they may be coming from.
Lastly, it can also help to reach out to someone who you trust to talk about your feelings, as this may help to validate your experience, while deepening and strengthening that person’s understanding of what you’re going through.
Stick to a routine
Getting into a good routine can help to reduce feelings of stress, especially if you’re going through a difficult time. Adding structure to your day can give you a sense of control and mean that you’re more productive with your time. Plus, by giving yourself things to focus on, you’re less likely to sit around and overthink.
Within your routine, try to implement healthy habits, like regular mealtimes, exercise and making time for self-care. One of the best things you can do for your mental health is to set yourself a regular bed and wake-up time to make sure that you’re getting enough sleep. Sleep helps you to process your emotions and calms your mind.
Acts of self-care
Self-care can mean different things to different people. However, the general idea is that you do something that makes you feel relaxed and good about yourself. You could spend some time gardening, reading, watching your favourite tv show, or going for a long walk. These small acts can have a big impact on your wellbeing.
Seek professional advice from a GP or doctor
If you’ve been experiencing poor mental health for two weeks or more, you may want to get in touch with your local GP, especially if this isa new problem. They can help you to figure out what’s going on, inform you about possible treatment options and help you to find the best way forward.
ieso offers free typed therapy sessions on behalf of the NHS using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). You can check if you're eligible on our website.
If you live in the US, you can access further support by contacting your Primary Care Physician or learn about alternate options here.
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