How are mental health conditions diagnosed?
Different people may have different feelings about being diagnosed. For some people diagnosing a mental health problem can be a positive thing. They may feel that they now have a way of talking and learning about something that they have been experiencing for a while. Other people might feel that a diagnosis is too simple and can't properly explain what they experience. They might worry about being defined by a condition. It's ok to have different feelings about being diagnosed. A diagnosis should be there to help you get the right care and not to try and define you as a person.
Mental health conditions can only be diagnosed by a trained professional. They will need to understand what you are experiencing, so might ask you:
a) How you are feeling?
b) What effects these feelings have on you? Do they change what you do or how you behave?
c) How long they have lasted for?
Depending on what you tell them, they will offer you different levels of care and support. It's ok to raise any concerns that you have with them. They should answer any questions you have.
What is mental health stigma? What can we do about it?
Like many other health conditions, mental illness can have a stigma attached to it. Remember that stigma comes from poor information and misunderstanding. The things that you hear about mental ill-health are often not true and can make life a lot harder for people who experience mental illness.
In the case of mental health, a lot of the stigma that surrounds it is a result of the fact that unlike many physical health problems, mental health ones don't have any physical symptoms, meaning that they are less visible. The fact that mental health problems are more difficult to see can lead to people wrongly believing that they are:
b) not real or easy to overcome
c) less serious than physical illnesses.
The truth is that mental health problems are very common. According to the statistics, in any year one in four adults experience a mental health problem. They can have a big effect on people's lives, in a similar way to how poor physical health can affect people. However, with the right care, many people recover or learn to live with and manage their mental health in a way that works for them.
To address mental health stigma, there needs to be better education on mental wellbeing, and better health services available to those who need them.
How can you help someone who is struggling with poor mental health?
It can be difficult to see someone you care about become unwell, and you might be unsure of what you can do to help, but know that small things - just being there and listening - can often make a big difference. Poor mental health affects people in different ways and different people will appreciate different types of support.
Often just knowing that you have someone to talk to can be the most important thing. It might be hard for someone who's struggling to start the conversation, so check in with them and ask them how they are. Let them know that you're there if they want to talk, but don't pressure them if they're not ready. Be aware that what they tell you may be information that they don't want you to share with anyone else.
Try not to make assumptions about how they're feeling, and avoid saying things that might suggest that you think the problem is easy to deal with. Being encouraged to act like everything is normal can make people feel guilty for feeling the way they do. It's important to realise that mental health problems are real and that living with them can be hard work. Listen to how they feel without judgement.
You can always ask them how they would like to be supported. Different people will want different things. Some people might want to talk, while others might prefer practical support for example with childcare or medical appointments. In general, being calm and trying to keep things normal can help. Being able to talk about things other than mental health is important.
Remember that you can't do everything. Supporting someone else can be hard work. Look after yourself and take breaks if you need. If a situation becomes more than you can handle by yourself, look for how you can get support in a way that they are comfortable with.