You wouldn’t expect a person with a broken leg or diabetes to just “snap out of it,” and in the same way you shouldn’t expect a person to think their way out of a mental illness.
“This misunderstanding is harmful because it creates unreasonable expectations and unnecessary suffering for people who have mental illness,” said Robin Henderson, PsyD, chief executive of behavioral health for Providence Medical Group in Oregon.
Many complex factors can contribute to mental illness, including genetics, hormonal changes during pregnancy, chronic physical illness and even traumatic experiences.
“We need to realize that as humans, our mind and body are connected by more than our neck,” Dr. Henderson said.
When to get help
Everyone experiences difficult times in life, and sadness can be a normal reaction, but it usually lessens with a little time or is manageable.
“When the feelings persist to the point that your quality of life and daily functioning are affected, you should reach out for help from a professional,” Dr. Henderson said. “Depression is a real illness, and we know that many people who get treatment, get better.”
About 16 million Americans have depression. If you have been experiencing any of the following symptoms for more than two weeks, you may be suffering from depression and should contact your primary care provider:
- Changes in sleep or appetite
- Difficulty concentrating
- Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
- Decreased energy
- Low self-esteem
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Physical aches and pains
Our commitment to mental health: Reduce suffering and social isolation
Many programs across the organization help identify people with mental health needs and connect them to care and services. From substance abuse centers, sexual assault clinics and nutritional counseling for eating disorders, we care for both emotional and physical needs. With the launch of the Providence St. Joseph Health Institute for Mental Health and Wellness, we will work to reduce suffering from depression, anxiety, and social isolation.
How to get help
With screenings, treatment and support systems, many people with mental illness recover and live well. If you, or someone you love, is looking for mental health help, an important first step is talking to your primary care provider. You can also ask your provider if there is a behavioral health specialist on site.
For more reading about mental health challenges, see our article on untreated depression, Instagram photos and depression, and probiotics and depression.
Looking for a health care provider near you? If so, find one here.
This article is the second in a series debunking myths about mental illness.
Sources: National Institute for Mental Health; National Alliance for Mental Illness