For years and years, even in recent years, there has been a negative attitude towards mental health, and getting a mental health assessment. We are here to talk about why there should be no shame in receiving one, and how you should embrace the chance to evaluate and improve your mental health.
This is often a difficult and touchy subject to tackle, but it is an incredibly important discussion to have. If you are nervous about an upcoming mental health assessment, or unsure if you should get one, know that you have come to the right place.
What is a Mental Health Assessment?
First, we are going to talk about what a mental health assessment is, what it’s for, and what might take place during one. Knowing exactly what you are in store for should help with the shame you may feel for needing one.
A mental health assessment is when a professional check to see if you are suffering from a mental illness, and what treatment options that illness has. The professional may be a psychologist, psychiatrist, or even your family doctor.
Having a few rough days or going through a generally hard time does happen to everyone. However, if you are constantly feeling depressed, irritated, suicidal, angry, or delusional, and it’s getting in the way of your normal life, you may want to consider a mental health assessment.
There has been research done that shows that getting help for mental illness early can prevent symptoms from worsening and cause a better recovery.
Potential Steps in a Mental Health Assessment
The actual mental health assessment may consist of a few different parts. There may be questions to answer verbally, questionnaires to fill out, or even physical tests to take.
Your personal history may be brought up and questioned by your doctor. Questions like: what is the biggest source of stress in your life? have you ever been arrested? have you experienced trauma throughout your life? etc. You will want to be as honest and transparent as possible – just like any other medical situation, they will need all of the information they can gather to make a correct diagnosis.
Another part of the questioning you may experience is your mental health history. You will be asked about your symptoms, how long you have had them, your family’s history of mental health issues, and whether or not you have had any psychiatric treatment.
Your doctor may also run some lab tests on you. These typically consist of blood work, brain scans, urine tests, or other tests that can rule out a physical condition causing your symptoms. They may also question your use of any drugs or alcohol to rule those out as causes as well. Be patient with the multitude of questions, it will help them come to a clearer conclusion.
A physical exam may also be a part of your mental health assessment. Like we stated before, sometimes a physical illness causes symptoms that match those of a mental illness. Having a physical exam can assist finding something else like a neurological problem or thyroid disorder, which often shows those symptoms. Make sure to voice any prescription drugs, supplements, or over the counter medicines you are taking to your doctor.
The actual mental evaluation will consist of questions about your regular behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. You may also be asked about how your symptoms affect your everyday life, what causes them to become better or worse, and if and how you have attempted to manage those symptoms in the past. Your behaviors and appearance may also be observed as well – eye contact, mood swings, how you compare to others of the same age will most likely all be taken into account.
The last potential step is a cognitive evaluation. During this type of assessment, the doctor will be gauging your ability to recall information, use mental reasoning, and think clearly. There will probably be tests with basic tasks like remembering short lists of words, focusing your attention, recognizing shapes or objects, or solving math problems. You may also answer questions about how well you can handle daily tasks like going to work or caring for yourself;
Reasons You Feel This Way & Why You Shouldn’t
Let’s discuss some of the normal fears and stigmas that come along with the beginning of your mental health journey, and how they can be combated.
Being an Inconvenience
With suffering from any mental illness, comes the potential fear of inconveniencing everyone around you. This includes loved ones, coworkers, and anyone else you may interact with regularly.
Mental illness can show in a vast array of symptoms. Depression, anger, irritability, etc. Depending on what you are suffering from, it can alter the way you act, how you think, and even the way you interact with others. It can be an adjustment for the loved ones around you, which may lead you to think you’re an inconvenience.
An important thing to remember if you are feeling inconvenient, is that people who truly love you will support you no matter what you are going through. Be honest and open with those you live with and spend time with, and they will be understanding about the symptoms you experience and the issues you are going through.
Communication is key with something like this. Your loved ones should know what to look out for, that way they can acknowledge any strange behavior or issues that could arise.
Another common fear when it comes to mental illness and/or receiving a mental health assessment is being judged by others for it. People often judge what they can’t understand, so education is a great key to combat ignorance. Besides not knowing much about mental health, let’s discuss a few other reasons people feel the need to judge.
Fear is a huge reason people feel the need to judge mental illness. People like “predictable” social interactions, and individuals who have a mental illness can be perceived as “wild cards” because they have the potential to react differently than expected.
People may also see some of their own flaws and/or behaviors when they interact people with mental illness. Often times they don’t want to be reminded of their own issues, and so they would avoid those that remind them.
Like we stated before, education can be a huge tool when it comes to people judging you. If you come across someone who questions or judges you for the way that you are, and they are willing to listen, let them know what you have and what it means. Being knowledgeable about something takes a lot of the fear and uncertainty out of it, making it a lot more difficult to judge.
Another fairly common fear that comes along with getting a mental health assessment is the idea that you are alone. You may feel like no one else could possibly know how you feel, and haven’t ever experienced it themselves.
However, mental illness is extremely common. Millions of people suffer from depression, anxiety, and other illnesses all over the world. By being open, honest, and unafraid to speak about them, you are allowing others to do the exact same thing.
Finding a support group or asking your friends if any of them have experienced a mental health assessment opens up the conversation, which may help your fears of feeling alone with your mental illness.
There is also a stigma with mental illness that taking prescribed drugs for them, or dealing with them at all means that you are “weak.” This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Handling all of the stress of battling a mental illness day after day takes an incredible amount of endurance and work. Not to mention the incredible bravery it takes to admit that there may a problem that needs to be considered and fixed. You are incredibly strong, even if you do not think that you are.
Going in for a mental health assessment can be scary. You will be asked many personal questions, you will have to take a variety of tests but, in the end, they will be helping you greatly. You are doing something incredible brave for yourself, and your body and mind will be forever grateful for taking that intimidating step.