Written by Ade Holder
Never before has there been a time when mental health has been so openly discussed and treated without prejudice. While things are not perfect, we do finally live in a world where seeking help is not seen as a total weakness and telling someone you have mental health problems won’t lose you your job. That being said a lot of people still don’t get it, or like sufferers talking about it openly. There is also still a good number of members of the “cheer up” brigade that simply refuse to accept some people really do have a problem. But in amongst all of this media discussion and friends “coming out” on social media, how do any of us know when it is time to seek real help? How do you know when you need counselling?
Is there a threshold?
What is normal and what constitutes a mental health problem?
Mental Illness: The Stats
According to some data in 2017, 16 million people in the UK experience some kind of mental illness. This can range from depression and anxiety to alcohol issues and drug abuse so it’s a broad spectrum. Another stat suggests 755 of young people have an issue that is untreated…this is a very big number and certainly cause for more research but it is backed up by the horrible statistic that suicide is the biggest killer of 20-34 year old men and women! A lesson to parents of teens out there; stop worrying about drugs and drink and start keeping an eye out for mental health issues.
There is no doubt more and more people are seeking treatment from NHS and private sources.
“We are busier than ever before and the range of people coming to us is growing all the time and we are seeing more couples, families and individuals of all ages. The issues themselves are broad but there is certainly a big increase in depression and anxiety over the last few years”.
Mark Vahrmeyer of Brighton and Hove Psychotherapy
What About Us?
But what do these kind of stats really tell us about ourselves and the problems we may be facing? While they are shocking, they may not really help someone suffering at home and unsure as to whether or not help is needed or justified. There will undoubtably be a portion of people quoted in this data that are simply dealing with “normal” stresses and strains of daily life and there is a growing worry that real mental health problems are being swept up in a collective wave of giving a name to something pretty normal. But there is clearly a big issue with a lot of people who have real problems.
The key here is to actually step away from the big stats and think about yourself and how your issues are affecting your life in order to make a solid choice about seeking help or not.
How Bad is it?
This is a question most people will ask themselves at some point. Be it stress, depression, anxiety or a mix of things. It is a really big question too! It is important to remember that even mentally healthy people feel sad, feel stressed and feel downright terrified of things like speaking in public. Many people have a perfectly natural fear of travelling on the tube, for example. So these things do not necessarily constitute the need for counselling. Conversely having a low level of terror sitting at home watching the Great British Bake off is certainly not normal. Nor is being so detached and devoid of emotion about anything you simply can’t engage in a normal life situation.
Falling in Love?
For a lot of people knowing you have a mental health issue is something like knowing you have found “the one”. Everyone says you will know but you don’t think you ever will until you meet your future spouse and it all makes sense. Mental health can be very similar. People talk about it, people describe it but until it hits you it is all just subjective information. So choosing to seek help for some people is a no brainer…things are not right and help is needed!
It is not always as simple as all that though. So you have to ask the question “how is it affecting my life?” If the issues are stopping you working, socialising, loving your partner or finding a parter then they are serious. If they cause you to use avoidance behaviour to not be “triggered” then they are serious, and if they affect how you look after and bring up your kids then it is time to seek help.
The issue may simply be making you deeply miserable and causing a lot of frustration and that too is enough to seek help.
So to answer the question, “how do I know when I need counselling?” the answer comes from questioning how your issue impacts on your life. You may try to tell yourself it only impacts a little bit, but you have to be honest and it may take time. But once you have a true assessment of it then you will know what you need to do. You should then take the bull by the horns and see your GP as a starting point or visit www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mental-health-helplines/
You can get help and it will improve your life but you need to make sure you take the help on offer and dive right into it!
The Quiet Coach
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