Mental health problems take a toll not only on those directly affected, but on friends and family members as well. The symptoms of mental illness are often misunderstood, and a significant amount of false information and stereotypes are perpetuated about people with mental illnesses. Education is the most important step to understanding mental health problems, and the best thing loved ones of a mentally ill person can do is to learn about the nature, symptoms and treatment options of the mental health problem in question.

Today we can consider some of the ways in which we can deal with mental health problems.

How are they diagnosed?

To diagnose a mental health problem, doctors will look at:

  • your experiences (groupings of certain feelings, behaviours and physical symptoms may suggest different diagnoses)
  • how long you’ve been experiencing these things
  • the impact it’s having on your life.

To do this they may ask you questions about your mood, thoughts and behaviours – sometimes by using questionnaires or forms. They will base your diagnosis on what you describe. For example, if you tell your doctor you’ve been experiencing low mood, low energy and a lack of interest in usual activities for more than two weeks, they may give you a diagnosis of depression .If your symptoms change, you might find that  you are given different diagnoses over time.

Having a diagnosis does not necessarily mean that you are unwell right now. You could have a diagnosis of a mental health problem but, at the moment, be able to manage it and function well at work and at home. Equally, you might not have a particular diagnosis, but still be finding things very difficult. Everyone’s experience is different and can change at different times.

Talking treatments

Talking treatments provide a regular time and space for you to talk about your thoughts and experiences and explore difficult feelings with a trained professional. This could help you to:

  • deal with a specific problem
  • cope with upsetting memories or experiences
  • improve your relationships
  • develop more helpful ways of living day-to-day.

You may hear various terms used to describe talking treatments, including counselling, psychotherapy, therapy, talking therapy or psychological therapy. These terms are all used to describe the same general style of treatment.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

CBT is a relatively short-term treatment which aims to identify connections between your thoughts, feelings and behaviours, and to help you develop practical skills to manage any negative patterns that may be causing you difficulties.

Evidence suggests that CBT can be an effective treatment for a range of mental health problems. However, although many people can benefit from CBT, not everyone finds it helpful. You might find that it just doesn’t suit you, or doesn’t meet your needs.


The most common type of treatment available is psychiatric medication. These drugs don’t cure mental health problems, but they can ease many symptoms. Which type of drug you are offered will depend on your diagnosis. For example: Antidepressants

These are mostly prescribed for people experiencing depression, though you might also be offered an antidepressant if you’re experiencing anxiety, OCD etc.

However, before you take any medication sure you have all the information you need to feel confident about your decision. For guidance on what you might want to ask your doctor about any drug before you take it, including your right to refuse medication.

Arts and creative therapies

Arts and creative therapies are a way of using the arts (music, painting, dance or drama) to express and understand yourself in a therapeutic environment, with a trained therapist. This can be especially helpful if you find it difficult to talk about your problems and how you are feeling.

Complementary and alternative therapies

Some people find complementary and alternative therapies helpful to manage stress and other common symptoms of mental health problems. These can include things like yoga, meditation, aromatherapy, hypnotherapy, and acupuncture.

The clinical evidence for these options is not as robust as it is for other treatments, but you may find they work for you.

This now marks the end of the mental health series. I hope you have learnt something.

Have a lovely weekend.
Let’s meet again on Tuesday.

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