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By: Tiffany Mitchell

Over the last few months there have been several different movements speaking about mental health and mental illness. The most recent was mental health week in May. However, with conversations on mental health one question remains. What constitutes a deep enough concern to speak with a mental health professional? Simply, the answer is at anytime or with any concern. You will never be wrong to seek help. Two sessions to gain affirmation that you are doing well may be enough, you may need 20 or more sessions to feel better, or perhaps somewhere in between.

I often speak with people that tell me, "I do not feel I am crazy enough to warrant professional help” or “I really do not want to lie on a couch and talk about my childhood”. A diagnosis or medical referral is not necessary to see someone in the mental health field. A referral from your family physician may be required depending on your insurance. What is important in determining whether you need help is to ask yourself, “Am I happy with how I am handling and functioning in life?” or “Would I benefit from help?”. Everyone is different and can be affected by many things to varying degrees. One is not worse than another, rather it is individual dependent.

The second statement is often a misconception based on the early methods of psychology. As I like to say, “Yes I have a couch. No, you are not required to lie down”. Therapy has changed drastically over the years, with how mental health is practiced. Some professionals may focus on the present concern and specific strategies to relieve the problem. Others emphasize when and how the problem began, which often weaves into understanding the impact of the past. Both routes are beneficial for different individuals, there is no one size fits all.

Other than trying to understand how you are feeling, what other times should someone seek help? There are many different events in which people look for professional mental health support. Some examples are, but not limited to; after a motor vehicle accident, struggles within the couple relationship, work stress, behaviour and habit changes, grief, concerns about a child’s functioning, being sad or depressed, being anxious, general life and family stress, and intrusive thoughts. But the important piece is a focus of whether you want to change or want help on improving your emotional and physiological self.

Finally, something to remember when talking with a friend, yes it can be useful to say, “I’m here if you need to talk”. Often times it is more of a struggle to talk to a friend because they are invested in the problem, compared to talking to a professional, who is a stranger and outside of the concern. Sometimes people do not know where to turn. As a friend it can be helpful to suggest a professional rather than just a cup of coffee. The length of time spent in therapy is situation and individual specific. It can be from a few sessions to many, it all depends on what you feel you need. The final question becomes “How important is it for you to focus on your mental health?”.

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