Some More on World Mental Health Day

October 10th was World Mental Health Day.

Do you remember hearing about this day when you were younger? Because I sure don’t. That’s because World Mental Health Day has rapidly grown awareness through worldwide use of Instagram and Facebook. Granted, National Siblings Day, National Pizza Day, and National Dog Day have also risen in popularity, but I’ll take it considering that we finally have a greater awareness of health matters outside strictly physical issues. Mental health is now more of an open discussion, no longer something scorned and considered weakening. We as a society are now realizing that mental health is a spectrum that can shift at any time. I even think that a portion of World Mental Health Day is targeted towards some who are not necessarily in poor mental health – to keep up the needed conversation, raise awareness, and show the importance of empathy in case a loved one is suffering – because, chances are, you’ll know someone who is struggling with their mental health. Even healthcare insurance providers are beginning to expand their range by covering more psychologists and psychiatrists.

Yes, moods will (and should) sway up and down naturally on a daily to weekly basis, but certain moods that persist can begin to fester into something bigger. Depression is consistent feelings of sadness over a period of time, which can take away excitement in activities an individual has once enjoyed. Here are some events that are correlated to cause lower mood in some – which can then accumulate within some people for longer and eventually lead to depression:

These are just some. There are so many factors that affect mental health, so it’s crucial to understand remember that everything is according to the individual – how each person copes could be extremely different. A consistent feeling of sadness and general feeling of disinterest can carry with you, affecting your everyday functioning in various ways. One person may be unusually quiet, while another may be outwardly upset more days than not; another person may be unable to perform usual tasks, while another can still be high-functioning.

If you identify with any of the symptoms of depression or maybe just don’t feel good about your mental health, exploring your options can give you hope for a better quality of life. Depending on the needs of the patient, certain providers can offer better treatments for the individual, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist. If you’re unsure, you can consult your regular physician to get more personalized information. Both psychological providers can be extremely helpful, depending on your need at the time. If you’re still not sure of the difference:

  • Psychologists hold a Ph.D. or a Psy. D (doctorate degree, either clinical or researching/both, cannot prescribe medication but is permitted for therapy) 

  • Psychiatrists hold an M.D. (has gone to medical school, is licensed to prescribe medication such as antidepressants, ADHD meds, etc. and can also practice therapy) 

Sometimes it could be a good idea to check in with someone once every few weeks or even sporadically; however, most health insurances cover weekly visits for therapy. I recommend talking with your physician and looking at options that would best suit your needs. If you’re hesitant to share your life story with a complete stranger (I totally understand), talk to a close friend or a family member. This could be a good start to opening up, since they know you and can have empathy for your situation. Not to discount professionals, of course – they are trained to work with whatever you may bring into a therapy session, with tools to help your thinking and outlook. Talking with someone closer to you is an option for learning to open up or if you have just been bothered by something lately. My suggestion is to talk with this person close to you before your problem grows internally. Disappointment, anger, or sadness turned inwards without relief can potentially cause depression, and your dissatisfaction will come out somehow — translating into your life in ways you may not want it to (relationships, schoolwork performance, etc).

As always, take this with a grain of salt; I’m not trying to be Mayo Clinic. Even though you may identify with one or two sad feelings does not by any means make you depressed. And because depression is a spectrum, only a professional can most accurately diagnose mental illness. However, if you consistently feel sad with barely any positive thoughts, do not hesitate to reach out. In addition, remember that how you feel is not necessarily reflective of who you are or how others can see you. Just because you don’t feel well now doesn’t mean you will always feel this way going forward. Seeking help from a clinician, or even opening up to a loved one, is an excellent step towards helping you feel better.

You may have heard all of this before, but just because World Mental Health Day is over, we should not pause the conversation. Sometimes these things need to be reiterated.