If you’re going through a stage in life where you can’t function well or feel good, professional help can make a difference. Always know that you’re not alone when you’re facing difficulties or problems in life. Four out of ten Malaysians suffer from mental health issue in the course of their lives and psychologists believe that the number will continue to rise. Even if you’re not sure if you’d benefit from help, it won’t hurt to explore the possibility.
Here, we speak to Dr Khairi Rahman from Pantai Hospital on how one can seek help from a professional regarding mental health and what you can do to manage your mental health on a day-to-day basis.
1) What are the signs that a person needs the help of a mental health professional? After all, we all feel unhappy, anxious or depressed sometimes.
It is fairly normal for most of us to feel unhappy, anxious or depressed sometimes.
Nevertheless, much of those experiences should be temporary in nature and are often associated with certain causal or definitive factors. Once those causal factors have been identified and addressed appropriately, this temporary negative mental state of health would fade away.
However, this may not be the case with prolonged unhappiness or being in a depressed state where there are no apparent reasons or external factors causing one to be in such a state of mind.
Common signs and symptoms requiring the help of a mental health professional include heightened irrational behaviours (such as increased drinking or smoking or sleeping a lot more than the usual), inability to focus well at work or even carrying out simple tasks, crying episodes for no apparent reasons, prolonged loss of appetite, avoiding or shying away from friends and others, and very commonly, not having pleasure doing things that they used to love to do before.
2) If you determine that you need professional help – should you choose a counsellor, therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist?
Help can come from many different mental health professionals depending on the background of the case.
A psychiatrist would the most appropriate when the person requires medication or medical intervention. Most cases that falls under the scope of mental illness benefit from psychiatric intervention.
Majority of the other mental health cases may benefit with the help of psychologists, therapists, counsellors or even experienced pastors. Again, these are fairly dependent on the nature and background of the cases.
3) Are there affordable ways to help oneself manage your mental health without going to a professional, such as talking to good friends, reading self-help books, taking a break, travelling and going for meditation?
The affordable ways mentioned above (including regular workouts) are some of the recommended homework or assignments normally given by most mental health professionals. It is very important to note that it’s best to have your own therapist when you want to deal with something that’s temporarily in your way.
Dealing with critical situations which affects your mental health (stress and anxieties are of one the common ones) would need a lot of cognitive and behavioral changes and decision making. This is exactly where the challenge is for many of us out there, and your therapist should be able to help you rationalize matters and assist you with various therapy techniques and appropriate counseling interventions.
4) It is said that prevention is better than cure. When it comes to physical health, we have been advised to have adequate sleep, exercise regularly and eat healthfully. When it comes to our mental health, what can we do on a day-to-day basis then?
This remains very subjective as there are many levels of tolerance, stress and anxieties. For example, working and earning a decent income may be a normal and healthy life to some people but it may not be comparable to another person who’s thinking or working hard to provide food and shelter for his family on a daily basis.
Hence, taking control of situations would certainly make a person well and proven. Try to be in control and understand your strengths and weaknesses to know how it’s best to deal with situations. This may make you or even change you to be a different person in perspective.
Another way one can deal with situations is by being assertive. We have often heard of this word but many of us don’t realize it’s true meaning. There are some powerful words that comes along with the word “assertive”. For example, confident, positive, bold, decisive, strong-willed and determined. Pick up these behavioral traits, practice it often and it may change you cognitively as well as behaviorally. It’s proven to be a good mental exercise for many of us. However, there are still people who choose not to practice it and take a different path by being non-assertive, defensive or aggressive.
Lastly, one should be spiritually healthy, well and active.
Dr. Khairi Rahman