By Dr. Joseph Vizzoni
In our society, there’s a huge stigma against discussing mental and behavioral health issues openly. There are widespread beliefs that all people with mental health issues are “crazy,” or that only other people have such problems, or that they’re a sign of weakness.
But in reality, mental health issues are very, very common. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI):
- 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experience mental illness.
- 1 percent of American adults live with anxiety disorders.
- 9 percent of American adults live with major depression.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) projects that more than 50 percent of Americans will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder within their lifetime.
Given all the stresses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, financial and food insecurity, global military conflicts, and the continuing escalation of gun violence across the United States, many of us are having a tough time right now. But, when does “having a tough time” amount to mental illness?
How to Tell If You May Have a Mental Health Problem
Mental and behavioral health issues can be hard to recognize. After all, there are many different types, including:
- Anxiety disorders
- Mood disorders, such as depression and bipolar disorder
- Psychotic disorders
- Eating disorders
- Impulse control and addiction disorders
- Personality disorders
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
And some people experience these disorders more acutely than others.
But mental and behavioral health issues are like any other kind of health concern: If you think you might have one, it’s worth getting it checked out. If other people are telling you that you may have one, it’s worth getting it checked out.
And if it’s causing you major distress, or affecting your quality of life, you should definitely get it checked out.
Where to Find Help
A great first place to turn is your family doctor. They’re trained to screen for mental and behavioral health issues and can recommend a specialist for you to see if appropriate, and write a referral if your AmeriHealth New Jersey (AHNJ) health plan requires it.
If your problem can be treated medically, such as with antidepressant or antianxiety medications, your family doctor may write you a prescription right then and there.
Or, you may prefer to speak to someone remotely using telemedicine. AHNJ members have 24/7 access to behavioral health specialists via online video, mobile app, or phone, through MDLIVE. AHNJ also offers members other resources to help with stress, anxiety, and depression.
Please understand that mental health issues are nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about, and they’re not your fault. But it is your responsibility to try to deal with them — for your own health and quality of life, and for the people you care about and who care about you.
And mental illness is treatable. With appropriate treatment, people can usually greatly improve their mental health and live healthy, productive lives. So don’t try to “tough it out” or pretend everything’s okay. Get help when you need it.
If You’re in Crisis
If you, or someone close to you, are feeling desperate or having suicidal thoughts — please get help immediately. Contact one of these resources right away:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline | 1-800-273-TALK
- National Youth Crisis Hotline | 1-800-442-4673
- Veterans Crisis Line | 1-800-273-8255
You may be feeling hopeless right now. But if you get help, you can get through this, and sunnier days lie ahead.
Dr. Joseph Vizzoni is a medical director for AmeriHealth New Jersey.