Answering Your Questions About Mental Health
By Sejal Sangani and Ryan Brady
ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH:
- What is mental health?
Mental health has many aspects, but is generally a person’s state, emotions or actions regarding their emotional, social, and psychological well-being.
- What are warning signs of a mental illness?
There’s a really wide range of mental illnesses so it’s hard to generalize, but extreme emotions such as anger or sadness, change in eating/sleeping habit, isolation, excessive fear/anxiety, panic attacks, delusions, and confusion are some characteristics. Our first article outlined this in more detail, it’s called “Inform Yourself About Mental Illness”, which will be helpful if you want to know more!
- What is the process to making a diagnosis?
This can vary, but usually a psychiatrist is the one who will diagnose you. The diagnosis process may include physical examination, lab testing, and an emotional/psychological evaluation. In many cases, a psychiatrist will ask you and your parents a lot about your emotions, mood, and actions, then talks to you alone before coming to a conclusion. This being said, it can vary.
- What affects mental health?
Mental illness can be hereditary or be an adverse reaction to a physical illness. It also manifests from stress and trauma. At the end of the day, mental illnesses are caused by chemical imbalance. Mental health is affected similarly, but leans more toward to the stress aspect of things.
- Can you give yourself a mental health checkup?
If you feel concerned about your mental health, we suggest reading this article. If you feel sad, lonely, distracted, confused, or anxious we recommend taking a look at this list to get some inspiration for small, relaxing, and simple actions to lighten your mood. If these options don’t provide the help you’re seeking, please talk to a wellness counselor or trusted friend/adult.
- How do you measure your mental health?
There are multiple different ways to do this, it just depends on what you prefer. Some people use a mood tracker to record how their feelings each day, which ultimately allows them to see patterns and variances over longer periods of time. There are also many online tests that can help you distinguish the state of your mental health, but is important to remember that these don’t equate to a professional evaluation and simply serve as a check-up which may not be entirely effective.
DEALING WITH MENTAL HEALTH:
- What resources does the school have for mental health?
HB has really good resources! Ms. Biggar and Ms. Lurie are the HB counselors, and they are both willing to help anyone through a struggle with mental health. Additionally, your mentor or other teachers are usually open to having a conversation about any difficulties you’re experiencing.
- How do you get through the school day when you’re feeling anxious and depressed?
It can be really hard, but remember that it’s okay to not be okay and that you don’t have to pretend like you’re fine. If it’s starting to affect workload significantly, talk to your teachers, who are often very understanding. Also, listening to music can help to calm down someone when they are feeling anxious. If you want to be distracted from something that’s bothering you, get your friends to send you memes/funny videos/have a lighthearted discussion. (we recommend vine compilations).
- Why are there such drastically different approaches to talking about your mental health/what might cause that, and how much SHOULD you talk about it?
Honestly, it depends on the person. Some people choose to be really open about their mental health, while others are more closed off; I think it’s a matter of personal preference and trust levels. There’s honestly not a set amount that someone should talk about it; while it’s healthy to engage in dialogue, it’s also understandable that others might want to keep these things private. Discussion of your mental health is a decision I’d encourage everyone to make for themselves as there’s no “right way” to do it.
- How do you make your friends feel better if they have a mental illness?
As much as we want to help our friends and make them feel better, sometimes it is best to leave a lot of that to professional who know how to deal with mental illness. That being said, this doesn’t mean you have to sit back and watch. Also, small things go a long way! A compliment, cute text, gif, or meme can help to temporarily relieve someone who’s having a bad day or struggling with their mental health, although that’s obviously not a cure. This article is really helpful: How to Help a Friend. Just being there to support them and care for them is one of the best things you can do. However, if you are talking to your friend, do not tell them to “calm down,” or “don’t worry”, or “snap out of it”. Although you may not know what else to say, comments like that make people feel as though their illness is discounted. Don’t hesitate to reach out to an adult or one of us if you need help figuring out what to say in these situations! Remember: many people with mental illnesses know what is happening. For example, somebody who is worried may know that it’s their anxiety, but they aren’t sure how to deal with it. Therefore, telling someone something like “it’s all in your head,” isn’t very helpful; they know that, but they do not know how to cope with the situation. Previously mentioned is this list, which can really help improve mood.
MISCONCEPTIONS AROUND MENTAL HEALTH:
- My parents think that anxiety disorder isn’t actually a real thing, just people being overdramatic. How do I explain to them that this is very real and valid?
You can tell them the symptoms of anxiety disorders and explain how those symptoms are not present in neurotypical people. There are also lots of videos online that talk about create visuals of what it’s like to have anxiety, which hopefully should help them realize that it is a real disorder and different from run-of-the-mill nerves. Here’s a few articles that you can read briefly and choose to show to your parents:
- How do you deal with people who misrepresent mental health?
The most important part of combating ignorance toward mental health is education. If they say something specific, tell them what about their comment was hurtful/misconceiving, and how they can respond better in the same situation next time. If they have made multiple comments in the past, I’d say it’s best to strike up a conversation with them, educate them about the stigma surrounding mental health, and why these struggles shouldn’t be discounted.
- How do you kindly correct a friend about use of word “triggered”?
This is a really important question! I’d tell them why it’s not okay to use “triggered” lightly (i.e. people struggling with mental health have real triggers that are much more serious than the situation they used it in), and then ask them not to use it like that again. Tell them it can make people struggling with their mental health feel very discounted, because their situation is real, and painful.