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HomeHealth & FitnessThe month of May is Mental Health Awareness Month so LET’S TALK...

The month of May is Mental Health Awareness Month so LET’S TALK ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH

The most important step in treat­ing a mental health condition some­times feels like a challenging one: finding a mental health professional –a trustworthy and knowledgeable ally with whom you feel comfort­able. What follows are a number of steps in that process:

Step 1: People have many dif­ferent reasons to consult a mental health professional. Are you look­ing for someone who is licensed to prescribe medication? Or are you looking primarily for someone to talk to?

Most people treating a mental health condition have at least two separate professionals, one focusing on medication (the biological side) and the other on emotion­al or behavioral therapies (the mental side). Here are some things to think about:

  • If you haven’t talked to a physi­cian yet, you should see one for a physical exam. Many illnesses can cause symptoms similar to those of mental illness. Even if you don’t think your condition will require medical treatment, tell a doctor about your symptoms.
  • If you have a mental health condi­tion that may benefit from medica­tion, you should probably consult a mental health specialist, such as a psychiatrist. Primary care doc­tors are important allies in man­aging your “big picture” health, but a specialist has had more ex­perience treating conditions like yours.
  • If you’re seeking help with emo­tions, behaviors, and thinking patterns, you should locate a ther­apist or counselor. Like doctors, therapists and counselors have specialties, so you can find one who knows about your specific condition.
  • If you have to wait for an appoint­ment, you can start using other support resources in the mean­time. Peer support groups, such as G.L.A.D in Silver Bay, Water Front Center in Two Harbors, or those sponsored by NAMI, are available for free. You can contact Human Services in your area as they can help you connect with li­censed specialists.
  • If you need assistance with hous­ing and employment, or have multiple health challenges or difficulties affording treatment, HDC, Human Development Cen­ter (Lake View Hospital) can ben­efit you.

Step 2: If you have health insur­ance, call your insurer’s informa­tion number and ask for phone num­bers of professionals in your area who accept your insurance plan. This is also a good time to ask for clarification on your insurance ben­efits. Here are some questions you might ask:

  • Can you make a direct appoint­ment with a psychiatrist, or do you need to see a primary care doctor first for a referral?
  • How does your plan cover visits to therapists? Therapy coverage can vary greatly between insur­ance plans.
  • If you need help with a specific condition such as addiction or an eating disorder, ask for doctors with the subspecialty you need.

If you do not have health insur­ance, your first stop should be your community Human Service center.

Step 3: Make the call to set up an appointment. If you find you’re re­luctant to call, ask a friend or fam­ily member to call for you. If it’s your first time seeking a diagnosis, tell the person on the phone so that they can block out enough time for a good conversation.

If you’re told that new patients have to wait many months for an appointment, it would be wise to make an appointment anyway. In the meantime, try to set up an ap­pointment with a different profes­sional. You can always cancel your first appointment if you find some­one who can help you sooner.

If you feel you can’t wait weeks or months for help, see your prima­ry care doctor as soon as possible to get help and support. If you’re in an emergency situation, please go immediately to a hospital emergen­cy room or call the Regional Crisis Line: 844.772.4242.

Step 4: On your first visit with a doctor or therapist, it’s reasonable to ask questions. Be honest about the fact that you’re looking for some­one you can work with long-term. Think about or ask questions like:

  • Do you feel comfortable with this person? Do you feel you can work well together?
  • How much education and profes­sional experience does this person have?
  • Has this person worked with peo­ple similar to me? For how long?
  • How will you work together to establish goals and evaluate your progress?
  • How often will you meet and how hard will it be to get an appoint­ment? Can you call on the phone or email between appointments? What kind of improvements can you expect to see?
  • If you’re concerned about your ability to meet insurance co-pays or deductibles, bring it up now rather than later. Ask if you can pay on a sliding scale or at a discount. Doctors and therapists would like to know ahead of time if these problems might arise be­cause it’s important to continue treatment without interruption.

Sometimes it’s hard to know when you need extra help with your mental health. Check out the graphic from the National Institute of Mental Health by going to: https://www.nimh.nig.ov/health/publications/my-mental-heatlh-do-i-need-help. You may also go to the “Warm Line” support available by calling 877.404.3190 or texting “support” to 85511 for peer support. Know that you are not alone, help is available, and healing can happen.

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