Mental Health Awareness Month: Yes, Mental Health Treatment Works
Many times we tend to focus on the devastating impacts of mental illness — one in five U.S. citizens lives with a mental illness but more than 55 percent don't receive treatment in any given year. Often this focus helps expand on the breadth of the issue and initiates momentum to urge public officials to take action and to help organizations hone their services accordingly. But as we close Mental Health Awareness Month this May, it's also important to remember there's hope.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 70 to 90 percent of those who have a mental illness experience improvement with treatment, including a reduction in symptoms and a better quality of life. This improvement can be accomplished through psychotherapy, medications or a combination of the two.
However, before a course of treatment can be successful, the first step is to know when to reach out for help.
As cited by the American Psychiatric Association, potential symptoms that could indicate someone is experiencing mental illness include withdrawal and isolation, having trouble at school or work, issues with concentration, a sense of having a "short fuse," apathy, feeling disconnected, persistent anxiety, unusual changes in behavior, mood or even habits such as sleeping and eating. Also be on the lookout for signs of an emergency, such as suicidal ideation, which requires immediate intervention.
"Sometimes the signs are obvious but at other times, something may feel slightly off and you can't figure out what it is," wrote psychologist David Sack in Psychology Today. "Contrary to popular misconception, you don't have to be 'crazy,' desperate or on the brink of a meltdown to go to therapy."
As Sack alludes to, the time to get help may be, perhaps surprisingly, before there is even anything noticeably wrong — preventative mental health care, if you will.
"I know this sounds strange, but I believe the best time to consider treatment is when things are going well," advises counselor Al Andrews, founder and executive director of Porter's Call. "Ninety-nine percent of the individuals who come into my office, arrive because they have a problem. … The Titanic has hit the iceberg and the ship is taking on water. ... What if people sought treatment when they heard there might be icebergs in the water ahead? The sooner that can be explored, the better that individual has to live a healthier life."
If you're ready to seek out mental health resources, there are several places you can start. Try therapist directories such as the one at Psychology Today or through your insurance provider. Mental health helplines can also be a great source of local mental health information for all income levels. Reach out to friends for possible referrals, or if you're a musician or music industry professional, call MusiCares to talk about what resources may be available.
Regardless, never be afraid to reach out for support, whether you're not feeling like yourself or you want to make sure your mind stays in tip-top shape. Treatment for mental health is available, and when people stick with it, it's effective. There's hope for everyone struggling with their mental health, including you.
"I was struggling with anxiety that I never had before following the passing of my father and a recent breakup. I couldn't get on a flight, barely get on stage and my life felt like it was crumbling apart," said a MusiCares client. "My manager called MusiCares and they helped me with a psych evaluation, medication and psychotherapy. I'm beginning to feel better and know it's a long road but finally have hope when I didn't before."