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Mental Health

Seeking Help for Mental Illness

For many reasons, people may avoid seeking an evaluation for their mental health concerns. Unfortunately, such people continue to suffer without benefiting from the wide range of safe and effective treatments available.

An important first step in recovery is seeking professional evaluation and treatment. The following websites may be helpful in finding a qualified mental health professional:

Yet another option is to talk to your primary doctor. Roughly 60-65% of people with mental health problems are treated by primary care physicians, such as doctors practicing family, pediatrics, or internal medicine.

After the evaluation, your doctor may recommend medication to treat your condition. You may also receive a referral to another professional, such as a psychiatrist or a clinical psychologist. Clinical psychologists are trained to provide psychotherapy, also informally known as "talk therapy", to treat mental illness. Psychiatrists are physicians with specific training in mental health and the treatment of mental illness using medication.

You may also find the article Knowing When to Seek Treatment helpful.

Seeing a Professional for Evaluation and Treatment

It is important to remember that talking about your concerns with a professional does not mean you will be placed automatically into an asylum or long-term facility. Mental health professionals always try to choose the most independent form of treatment possible. Thus, outpatient care is favored over inpatient care, if it is clinically safe to do so.

It is also not true that mental health professionals try to radically change patients' beliefs on topics such as religion or culture. Indeed, religion or culture can contribute positively to the course of clinical improvement.

Causes of Mental Illness

If you have symptoms or a formal diagnosis of mental illness, remember that it is not your "fault." Mental illnesses are not the result of character weakness. True illness cannot be overcome by willpower alone or by ignoring the problem.

Instead, mental illnesses are thought to result from the following contributing factors:

Treatment for Mental Illness

Many safe and effective treatments exist. Depending on your symptoms and diagnosis, health care professionals will explain a course of treatment that best fits your needs. Some commonly used treatments include:

Psychotherapy and medication may also be used together or with other treatments.

Ways to Cope

In addition to taking the important step of seeing a professional for diagnosis and treatment, there are many other ways that may help you or a loved one cope with mental illness and stigma:

Additional ways to fight stigma are listed in Mental Health Overview. This article also includes facts on mental illness and further resources on the topic of stigma.

Other Sources

For first-hand accounts:

Read true first-hand accounts of mental illness posted on SAMSHA's web site.

Read books written about mental illness, including first-hand accounts from the Mental Illness Reading List

To find appropriate care:

SAMHSA's Mental Health Services Locator may help in finding a mental health professional in your area.

You may also find the NMHA article Mental Illness and the Family: Finding the Right Mental Health Care For You helpful.

This article was written by Jennifer Hoehn, Graduate Student, MPH Program, OSU College of Public Health.

For more information:

Go to the Mental Health health topic, where you can:

This article is a NetWellness exclusive.

Last Reviewed: Jul 21, 2009

Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University