eople talk about the importance of caring for our physical health: watching for our nutrition, getting adequate rest, doing physical activity, avoiding the use or abuse of harmful substances, maintaining our hygiene, etc. But when it comes to mental health, it’s another story. When talking about preventive health, protecting our mental health is often ignored. Instead, the persisting notion is that only those facing an acute mental disorder should seek help.
The multiple roles we play in today’s society, the heightened exposition to technology, and the complexities of modern life mean that ongoing mental health care may be one of our most pressing needs. With that in mind, Dr. Vanessa Rivera, a clinical psychologist and interim director of the Albizu University Clinic answered some questions about the importance of overcoming taboos and regularly checking our mental health:
Why do we need therapy?
Daily life is full of situations that we can quickly solve. However, there may be some situations that may require a more significant effort to handle. When day-to-day worries, decision-making, interpersonal relationships, work, family, and even considering the possibility of taking time off cause us constant, overwhelming, or disabling concerns, we should consider supporting ourselves with psychological help or treatment. If what we could solve before almost without thinking about it begins to cause us difficulty, it may be time to seek help.
What are signs that professional mental health help is needed?
We should observe changes in behavior or in the way of reacting to certain situations to identify if it is advisable to seek mental health help. We must pay attention to signs of indifference from the person to those previously enjoyed activities. Also, changes in sleep patterns (ranging from sleeping longer than usual to difficulty or inability to achieve deep sleep) and changes in eating are other signs. You have to see if the person feels that their mood is compromised if they have trouble making decisions or lack of concentration. These are all indications to consider because they can be signs that the person needs mental health services.
There is a perception that needing psychological help implies a weak character, immaturity, or inability to deal with everyday situations. What can you tell those who think that way?
Rather than being a sign of weakness, seeking mental health support is a strength. It means that we value our emotional well-being as a priority in our lives. In addition, psychotherapy offers the opportunity for people to have strategies aimed at stress management and decision making. This contributes to emotional well-being and allows a better development of interpersonal relationships. Consequently, we can achieve a more valuable contribution to our society, to the extent that it makes possible a more effective interaction with the people around us. The decision to seek help is personal, but it shows a commitment to oneself and those around us, so it is far from a sign of weakness or inability. Recognizing that psychological support and help are needed demonstrates strength. It also shows that the person can commit to providing a space for their growth.
Why is it advisable to regularly check and take care of our mental health?
Mental health services use practices to improve and maintain our emotional well-being. But in the daily grind, these practices are sometimes neglected, abandoned, or not considered part of everyday life. Getting regular mental health services and interventions helps reinforce strategies that, when implemented consistently, promote our emotional well-being. Therapy offers the space to observe and deal with situations differently, helping to face and manage emotional discomfort.
How can psychological therapy help me manage everyday situations of stress and anxiety?
Psychological therapy offers the opportunity to be heard. In those spaces, there is no judgment for what you think, express, or the decision or decisions you have made. Therapy offers a safe space for developing a healthy life and learning and putting into practice skills to deal with emotions. Psychotherapy presents short-term and long-term approach models. These models are scientifically validated and establish goals to be achieved due to the interventions. Therefore, psychotherapy can help the person better understand daily life situations and conflicts and improve after traumatic events. Achieving therapy goals develops healthier behaviors and positive emotions.
What can be the consequences of not seeking mental health help?
Not seeking help or waiting too long to seek therapy commonly results in more severe symptoms. When there is a situation that worries to the extreme of affecting our functionality because it occupies too much time in our minds and interferes with daily commitments, it implies that our symptoms are significant. In evaluating our situation, seeking help means recognizing that we need support to prevent the condition from affecting us to the degree that our functioning is compromised.
Do I need to have a diagnosis of a mental condition to seek psychological help periodically?
A diagnosis offers guidance in therapeutic interventions; however, there are a series of symptoms that can be identified and addressed before reaching that point. Health professionals attend to situations that affect mental stability over a certain period. When a diagnosis is obtained, it implies that the person has been experiencing severe symptoms for a significant period, altering their ability to function. In light of this situation, the recommendation is to seek a psychotherapy program based on models whose effectiveness has been demonstrated with scientific evidence.