Commentary: When Is It Time to Get Help?

By Larry Moliterno

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – We’ve all heard the saying, “If you see something, say something” to protect the public’s safety. A similar sentiment applies to an individual’s mental health. This could include signs of anxiety, depression, stress, a big life change (wedding, divorce, loss of a loved one), PTSD, or other traumas. If you feel someone needs help, it’s the right time to reach out.

But, for some people, taking the initiative to start therapy isn’t that easy. When it comes to your loved ones – especially children – it can be difficult to recognize signs of needing to talk with a professional.

According to the CDC, more than 50% of Americans are diagnosed with a mental disorder at some point in their lifetime. Another statistic broke it down even further, saying one in five adults experiences mental illness each year. With numbers like that, there shouldn’t be a stigma around getting help.

How do you know what circumstances signal that your friend or family member may be struggling? A good indicator might be that you observe shifts in behavior or routine. The biggest reason for a change in mental health is change itself.

For starters, change causes a lot of stress. The problem is actually less about change and more about the transition it creates. If someone you know is going through a major life change – even a happy one – check in to see how he’s doing. Buying a house, getting married and graduating from school are all happy achievements, but they alter a person’s life at the same time.

In addition, change can create new behaviors. Has your friend suddenly started to withdraw from social gatherings? Has his attitude taken a turn? Is he quick to negatively react to things? Noticeable changes in behavior can be an indicator of a bigger issue. Take kids for example. If a student normally gets decent grades but then stops turning in homework, something else is likely at play.

The most important thing to remember when helping someone is to meet him where he’s at. If he doesn’t realize he has a problem (or isn’t ready to get help), you’ll be met with anger and defensiveness. Ask gentle questions to figure out where his mindset is and then support him when he’s ready for help.

It’s much easier to notice a problem in others than within yourself. If you begin to lose interest in your hobbies or stop wanting to be around your friends and family, that is a huge indicator of a problem. Some people also notice drastic changes in sleeping patterns, whether that means lying awake at night or not being able to get out of bed in the morning (or at all).

Patterns are important, too. Have you noticed common factors of anxiety or depression? Do you feel down on the same day of the week? Is there one activity that triggers your anxiety? If you can identify your triggers or patterns, you can avoid them or prevent them from impacting your emotional well-being.

So, let’s say you recognize that you have a problem and need help – now what? While self-care is helpful, there is no substitute for talking with a professional.

If you’re still hesitant to address mental health concerns, think of it in these terms: we go to our primary care doctors for regular checkups of our physical health. Therapy is a check-up for your mental health. While the unknown can be scary, rest assured that where your therapy session goes is entirely up to you. You can slowly enter the process by sharing what’s easy for you to talk about until you are comfortable going further into the self-discovery process.

A lot of people go to therapy when they feel out of control in their lives. Mental health counseling is a great way to get control back and it all starts with that first phone call. Every therapy session is a step in the right direction.

Larry Moliterno is CEO of Meridian Healthcare.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.