How Do You Recognize When It is Time to Seek Mental Help, and What is the First Step?

Ayanna Brown Village Life Center

Stressful situations can easily become overwhelming and all-consuming if we allow them the chance. In our lives, we all experience disappointment, fear, anxiety, sadness, anger, and confusion. Whether someone close to us passes away, we lose a job unexpectedly, or we struggle with the relationships that we have with others, mental stressors will continually present themselves as we go about our daily business. Avoiding these situations may seem impossible, but controlling the way that we react to them is not.

Common Ways of Coping

Often, people have the instinctive reaction of denying their emotional struggles, and they will act as though they are doing just fine, even when they are not. These people will wear a metaphorical “mask” in public, displaying only a positive and upbeat personality to their family and friends. When this occurs, the person tends to stuff the negative feelings far into the back on their minds, with the result typically being a dangerous explosion of raw emotion when those stuffed feelings have been repressed for far too long. This display can be shocking to those who thought they knew the person, and now these people will now wonder what other traits the person has been holding dormant within themselves.

Another common reaction is for a person to turn to self-medicating to relieve themselves of the immense mental anguish that a traumatic life experience may have caused them. This is evidenced in the amount of drug and alcohol addicted people who later find that their decision to begin using was highly influenced by not addressing the real source of their depression or poor mental state of being. Many times, economic status and perceived stigmas that are attached to seeking professional help will dissuade these individuals from attending counseling or getting therapy. When someone feels that they don’t have the insurance, money, or means to see a doctor for their symptoms, or they think that beginning a program of therapy is looked down upon by society, they will tend to find temporary relief in its’ easiest form, which is, unfortunately, mind-altering substances.

How Do I Know if I Need Professional Help?

Signs that you may be experiencing mental distress that has become too powerful for you to deal with alone can come in a number of different forms.

Lack of concentration/motivation: If you are having a hard time performing tasks that were not a problem in the past, you may be demonstrating symptoms of being stressed or becoming depressed.

Fatigue and/or sleep issues: Not being able to fall asleep naturally (insomnia), or the constant feeling of being exhausted (fatigue), are two clear signs that you may have unresolved mental challenges that need to be worked out with a professional counselor or therapist.

  • Intense, frequent, and uncontrollable changes of emotion: One minute you feel content and happy with the world, and the next moment you are angry and frustrated to the point of being hostile and violent towards others – these are obvious red flags that something is amiss.
  • Losing the ability to function adequately: Experiencing high levels of emotional distress can be mentally exhausting. Attempting to deal with these emotions on your own may cause you to begin to function less successfully in other areas of your life. Your job performance may suffer, or you begin to isolate yourself from family and friends.
  • Having difficulty eating or eating in excess: The way we perceive food and its’ importance in our lives are very important when applied to coping with emotional stress. Not being able to eat out of anxiety or depression, or eating too much in an attempt to fill the internal void we may be feeling are both unhealthy means of using food to deal with our pain.
  • The First Step in Seeking Out Professional Mental Help
  • Once you have come to grips with the fact that you should not be going through this difficult time alone, you may wonder what is the next step? How do you find someone who will be able to help you get to a place where you can begin to address the issues that are causing you discomfort in your life? Will you be able to find the right therapist or counselor, and what are your choices?

1    If you have insurance, check with member services and inquire about mental health benefits. Typically, they will direct you to the correct department and refer you to doctors in your area that can help you with the specific issues that you may be dealing with at this time.

2    If you do not have health insurance, do an online search for mental health professionals in your area who offer complimentary services or cash payments on a sliding scale depending on your income.

3    Do not be afraid to tell someone about what you are going through! You cannot get help if no one knows that you are in need of it. Be willing to be open about what you are experiencing so that you can get the help that you need.

4    When you have found a health professional who is able to provide you with the help that you need, be open and honest with them. Do not try to sugarcoat or embellish your situation. In order to adequately treat your symptoms, your therapist will need to know exactly what you are thinking and feeling.

Deciding to work with a mental health professional is a great first step in healing. It is never too late to begin to address issues that may be negatively affecting your life. Take control of your own emotional and mental well-being, and make that important call today. You’ll be glad that you did, and your mind will thank you! It is not “crazy” to start seeing a therapist. In fact, it would be “crazy” not to do something that would improve and increase your quality of life. To read more about maintaining excellent mental health, visit our website at or like our Facebook page.