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Mental health treatments have come a long way since its origin. In the west, it was only post the second world war that considerable funding was made available for research and treatment of mental health disorders. This was the time when Freud’s psychoanalysis was still prevalent. Earlier treatment approaches were brutal and extremely poor in addressing the concerns of those struggling with mental health conditions.
Several mental health activists and awareness movements have helped change how we look at and approach psychological concerns. As a result, present day mental health treatments involve a more careful, moral, ethical and knowledgeable handling of mental health disorders. With the advent of social media, there have been more and more conversations around mental health.
Mental health treatment : An Overview to what it looks like today
As of today, vast amount of reviewed literature exists on evidence based Mental Health Treatments. Healthcare providers use many different approaches in the treatment of mental health disorders. Research on evidence-based treatment methods, helps professionals choose from a wide range of options to cater to the needs of their clients. Some professionals identify with a specific therapeutic modality such as humanistic, cognitive behavioural or mindfulness-based approach in treatment of mental health disorders; while most other mental health professionals are more integrative in their approach.
They use eclectic mental health treatments, which became popular since the 1960s, which involves drawing from multiple paradigms or approaches in psychology. Several studies have shown that despite the techniques in mental health treatments, therapeutic relationship is a key predictor of therapeutic effectiveness. There are also several other factors that determine outcomes such as readiness to change, relationships and support available outside of therapy etc. However, what determines the extent of treatment effectiveness is the nature of the working relationship between the clinician and the client.
What is Mental Health and What Causes Mental Health Concerns?
Mental health is much more than the absence of illness. It involves psychological, social and emotional wellness and is of importance across stages of our life. It is a significant part of health and wellbeing. Mental Health impacts our relationship with ourselves and those around us. Mental health can impact how we handle stressful life situations, our ability to build relationships and the kind of decisions and choices we make. For a community to develop positively, the mental health of its individuals is crucial.
What Causes Mental Health Disorders?
There are a number of causes to mental health disorders and it is often the coming together of multiple factors that leads to mental health conditions than a single one.
Following are some of the factors that increases an individual’s risk or likelihood to develop psychological disturbances-
- Biological and genetic factors
- Experience of stress for a prolonged period of time
- Poverty and homelessness
- Experiencing discrimination- gender, racial or on other accounts
- Family history of psychological disturbances
- Loneliness and isolation
- Traumatic experiences
- Childhood abuse and neglect
- Domestic abuse and intimate partner violence
- Increased substance usage
Mental Health in the Indian Context
If we were to speak of mental health in the Indian context, then in India, psychiatric facilities are for the most part only available in cities. However, technological advancements, pandemic and increase in conversations around mental health has improved the picture.
New age apps and start-ups are however significantly changing the shape of mental health care and what it looks like in India. Some of these platforms are offering support groups and workshops targeting specific concerns. Since the pandemic, more and more users are resorting to teleconsultations, online therapy etc making it more accessible from the comfort of their homes. It was now possible for professionals to connect with individuals pan India, as opposed to only taking on clients locally or their particular area.
What are the Different Types of Mental Health Professionals?
People seeking help for the first time, may be posed with questions of which professional they should speak with- a psychologist or a psychiatrist? One may not even be aware of the differences between these professionals or the different types of mental health professionals in the field.
There are different types of mental health professionals. In this article, we would be focusing on the differences between psychiatrists and psychologists. While both professionals focus on helping clients deal with mental health concerns, and work towards their wellness – there are significant differences in the treatment approaches and hence they are trained in different treatment modalities.
Psychiatrists are medical practitioners or doctors who specialize in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of mental health disorders. Psychiatry is a branch of medicine, that they specialize in post medical school. Psychiatry being a vast subject, psychiatrists sometimes train further to specialize in specific areas of psychiatry such as child and adolescent conditions, substance use and addiction, geriatric psychiatry and so on.
Psychology, on the other hand is a scientific discipline that studies the mind, thought processes, perception, memory, emotions, intelligence, behaviours, personality and so on. It is a broad field that is not only applicable to mental health care, but several other areas and environments like corporate environments, industries, schools, media, forensics, sports psychology and so on. In the field of mental health care, psychologists conduct interviews and psychological tests for in-depth understanding of the individual’s nature of concerns before intervening.
What is the Difference Between a Psychiatrist and Psychologist?
One of the key differences between psychiatrists and psychologists is linked with psychopharmacology. Psychiatrists are licensed to write prescriptions for clients with mental health disorders. So, Psychiatrists can prescribe medications and hence their approach to treatment would also involve the usage of medicines depending on the need.
- Psychiatrists tend to treat people with more complex psychiatric concerns like schizophrenia, severe depressive and mood disorders.
- When there is no insight into the condition, psychiatric treatment may take a front seat as the client may not be amenable to therapy.
- Individuals with high suicidality would also be referred to a psychiatrist on an emergency basis.
- Psychopharmacology looks into symptom relief, as opposed to addressing the underlying issues and root causes that may have led to the development of the said concerns.
- Psychologists use psychological treatments like cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), trauma focused therapies, dialectical behaviour therapy, mindfulness-based approaches and so on, to address concerns like depression, anxiety, behavioural and emotional concerns, learning difficulties and so on.
- Sessions with psychologists tend to be longer, typically 50 mins to an hour.
- Psychologists can also help you address relational difficulties, marital concerns or if you want to address any relationship focused concerns.
Whom should I Consult – Psychiatrist or Psychologist?
Whether one should be consulting a psychiatrist, psychologist or both depends on the nature of concerns, symptoms and treatment goals. It is also important to keep in mind that we don’t always have to know the exact type of professional to consult. If despite some research, things seem confusing it might be best to start by reaching out to a professional you seem comfortable with, such as a general practitioner or any mental health professional. They could in turn help you figure out a meaningful course of action after having understood the nature of your concerns and evaluating the same.
When Should you Visit a Mental Health Professional?
The following are some of the signs that one may benefit from talking to a mental health professional and seeking help –
- Rapid changes in mood, excessive worry
- Heightened emotions/difficulty managing emotions – while it is entirely normal to experience difficult emotions from time to time, if you notice it is significantly interfering with your quality of life or there is difficulty in managing them, it might be good to reach out.
- If there is significant level of distress and everyday functioning is impacted.
- Facing Difficulty concentrating on tasks.
- Difficulty sleeping or changes in sleep patterns may also signify need for help.
- Social withdrawal
- Substance usage- using substances to cope or distract oneself from dealing with problems, dependence on substances or inability to abstain from usage are all signs that one may need to seek help.
- Unexplained physical concerns such as headaches, wherein the medical causes have been ruled out.
While these are some of the signs, it is also important to note that mental health exists on a continuum and that one doesn’t have to be in distress in order to seek help. People also seek therapy, in order to improve their wellness and overall quality of life.
Mental Health Diagnosis: What is it?
It is not always clear at what point concerns with mood, emotions or thought become more serious mental health disorders. For example, depressive symptoms may be normal in the context of grief and loss. However, if these symptoms persist for a longer time, then it may be best to seek treatment.
How is a Mental Health Diagnosis Made?
In order to make a diagnosis, clinicians would try to have a detailed look at the concerns, nature of these concerns, for how long you have been experiencing these concerns and understand the extent to which it may be interfering with your life. They would try to understand the kind of thoughts, emotions one may be experiencing and understand how these impacts behaviours of the individual through interviews as well as through formal assessments and questionnaires.
Sometimes, it may also involve talking to family members and gathering data. Family and friends may be able to notice behaviours uncharacteristic of the individual, which they may have not been able to notice or identify. Diagnosis may even change over time as more data and insight is gathered into what one may be experiencing.
Receiving a diagnosis: Different people feel differently about diagnosis. Some people tend to experience a sense of relief and are able to make sense of their concerns a lot better in the context of the diagnosis. While several others may not be comfortable with labels and find it unhelpful or not fitting with their experience of the situation. For some, it may even feel like several systemic and contextual issues are getting neglected and overlooked in the form of receiving this diagnosis.
Importance of Seeking Help: Why is it Important to Seek help?
Experiencing mental health concerns can be challenging and stressful, however not seeking help can make things more difficult. Everyday can look different; on some days one may feel hopeful, while on other days one may feel extremely overwhelmed. Mental health concerns are common. Most people experience periods of mental health difficulties during their lifetime and with the right kind of support and effective tools in place, they are able to recover soon.
Many people go long without receiving adequate help, support and mental health treatments. Studies have shown that people experiencing anxiety have gone for over 10 years and more without receiving any kind of mental health treatments. Not seeking help can be due to the stigma that has been associated with mental health over the years. Lack of awareness could be another major contributing factor to delays in seeking help. Research has demonstrated that with early intervention of several mental health disorders, total recovery may be possible. It can significantly reduce the burden the individual and their loved ones may be going through.
What are the Ways in which Seeking Treatment can Help?
Not seeking help can often lead to intensifying of our problems. Talking to someone can help us make sense of what may be going on for us and approach it in a strategic way.
Following are some ways in which seeking treatment may be helpful-
- Talking to your doctor and taking necessary medication, can help regulate brain chemicals which helps in management of thoughts and emotions. It can help with minimizing suffering.
- By talking to a mental health professional, they can help devise a plan in managing symptoms effectively so as to improve functioning.
- It can help in identifying triggers, thoughts and emotions linked with the problems.
- It can also help with identification of strengths and how these can be used to help with recovery.
- Mental health professionals can also help you with learning problem solving skills and other important skills that help promote mental health and wellbeing.
- Counselling can help build awareness around our thought patterns and emotional processes and identify how it contributing to our mental health
Deciding on which professional to speak with and making that first appointment can sometimes be difficult. However, it is important to keep in the mind that irrespective of which professional you reach out to, intervening at an early stage is important. Early intervention in mental health treatments leads to more positive outcomes. It involves recognizing the signs, symptoms and mental health challenges the individual may be experiencing and taking the necessary steps so that things don’t get worse.
It is important to keep in mind that delaying treatments have adverse consequences on the path to recovery and increases the risk. Mental Health also impacts other significant areas in our lives – like occupational functioning, social functioning, relationships with loved ones and so on.
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