Most individuals are fairly good about seeing their physician or dentist for routine health care or when they experience an injury or illness. Unfortunately, it can be much more challenging to have the courage to seek mental health treatment due to the stigma surrounding mental illness. Individuals often worry about being judged by family or friends. There may be comorbid mental health issues or a comorbid substance abuse issue that makes seeking treatment more difficult.
Below we have listed some common concerns we hear and some additional information to consider when you are deciding if seeking mental health care is the right step for you:
1. There is something wrong with me if I need mental health treatment. Actually, seeking mental health treatment shows strength, not weakness. It demonstrates that you are aware that you are suffering and are proactive to get the help you need.
2. Most people don’t need mental health care. Mental health disorders are very common. Many people around you have a mental health disorder, but you are just not aware of it. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports on their website that in the United States, 1 in 5 adults will face a mental illness each year, and 1 in 20 adults will face a serious mental illness each year.
3. I am afraid of being judged by family or friends for having a mental illness. It is always your decision if you wish to share this information with others. It is recommended to be selective in who you tell. Always choose individuals who have an understanding of mental illness and can be supportive of you.
4. I am afraid if I start a psychotropic medication that I will be on it for a very long time. A good and responsible practitioner will have you on medication only as long as absolutely necessary. The goal of medication management is to relieve symptoms and to wean off the medication as soon as possible. There are instances when it may be advisable to be on medication long term, but for many people, medication is only necessary for a short time. Medication management is usually most effective when it is combined with psychotherapy. Once you have learned effective coping skills and strategies in therapy for your illness, many times the medication is no longer necessary.
5. I am worried about withdrawal effects coming off a medication. This is a very valid concern. Typically, as long as you are weaned slowly off a medication, any minimal withdrawal effects are minimal. If you do experience any withdrawal effects, it is always advisable to talk to your prescribing provider right away. That individual may decide to wean you off the medication even slower to minimize these effects.
6. I am afraid that I will become addicted to the psychotropic medication prescribed. Some psychotropic medications require closer monitoring due to their more addictive nature, but many of the medications used are not addictive at all. A wise practitioner will only use a medication such as a benzodiazepine or hypnotic in the short term and at the lowest dose possible. If you have concerns in this area, it is best to talk to a psychiatrist, psychiatric certified nurse specialist, or nurse practitioner who can address your concerns and explain the risks/benefits of a proposed medication. If you are uncomfortable with a proposed medication, remember that the decision of whether to take a medication is up to you. Let your practitioner know your concerns so he/she can look at an alternative form of treatment for you.
7. I have more than one diagnosed mental illness, and I am concerned about my provider’s ability to be able to treat me. Most mental health clinics are experienced helping people who struggle with various mental health illnesses – comorbid conditions are very common. If you are struggling with a substance abuse issue and a mental illness, you will want to look for a clinic that specializes in the treatment of both.
Choosing whether or not to proceed with mental health treatment can seem like a daunting proposition. If you are struggling, a good first step is to have an evaluation by a mental health professional who can listen to your concerns, evaluate your condition and make a recommendation regarding treatment. The decision whether or not to proceed with treatment is always up to you. We are always happy to do an evaluation and answer any questions/concerns you may have. If we can be of assistance, please contact us at Water’s Edge Counseling & Healing Center at 1-952-898-5020.
– Pam Brown, APRN, PMHNP-BC, MPA, Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner