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Mental Health Crisis: What can You Do?

Tens of millions of people around the world are struggling to cope with emotional and psychological challenges caused by mental health disorders.

Navigation: The Mental Health Crisis: What’s Going on and What Can We Do, What Can We Do About the Mental Health Crisis?, What is a Mental Health Crisis?, Signs and Symptoms of a Mental Health Crisis, How to Help Someone Going Through a Mental Health Crisis, What is Dual Diagnosis Treatment and How Does it Work?, Rehab Is Your Best Chance


Between 2007 and 2019, the number of adolescents reporting a major depressive episode increased by 60 percent. Within that same time frame, the rate of suicide deaths among those who are aged 10 to 24 years old increased 56 percent.

However, this problem is not limited to the younger generation. Anxiety and depression increased by 25 percent globally in 2020. Tens of millions of people around the world are struggling to cope with emotional and psychological challenges caused by mental health disorders. By the end of 2021, the US Surgeon General declared a “devastating” national mental health crisis because of the significant increase in depression and anxiety rates.

The problem is so common that either you have experienced a mental health problem yourself or you know someone who does. Here we will discuss the mental health crisis situation and what we can do to help address it.


The Mental Health Crisis: What’s Going on and What Can We Do

The simplest possible explanation for the sudden boom in mental health problems across the globe is the COVID-19 pandemic, which is a historic global situation. Similar to a massive earthquake, it came unexpectedly and had devastating effects, including aftershocks.

As a direct result of the pandemic, many people suffered from mental health conditions. The uncertainty of the situation, plus the spread of disease that led to millions of deaths, caused worry, stress, anxiety, depression, and a wide range of mental illnesses all over the world. Aside from the virus itself, these mental health effects were exacerbated by the fact that people lost access to many places like restaurants, churches, offices, and other public spaces. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted that people suffered from “feelings of loneliness or isolation” due to mental illness.

One poll from July 2020 revealed that a lot of adults experienced difficulty sleeping or eating, worsening chronic conditions, increases in substance abuse, and other negative effects on their mental health because of the coronavirus.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic was not the underlying cause of this emotional crisis. It simply intensified and escalated it. The mental health crisis, according to the New York Times, predated the pandemic.

For example, the COVID-19 revealed certain problems within family units that may have been easier to ignore if people spent a significant amount of time away from home. The underlying problems in the family system emerged because people were forced to stay and spend every minute of the day in the same house due to the lockdowns.

And so the term “mental health crisis” is a complex issue that is characterized by several characteristics, mainly the prevalence of mental health disorders.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), approximately one in five adults experiences a mental illness in a given year. This high prevalence means that millions of Americans are affected by mental health issues.

The COVID-19 pandemic was only one factor that influenced this mental health crisis through economic hardships, fear of the virus, and social isolation. But other factors such as stigma, limited access to healthcare, and co-occurring disorders also contribute to it.

There is still a significant stigma surrounding mental health in the U.S. This stigma can prevent people from seeking help, leading to untreated mental health issues and potentially worsening conditions. People are afraid to seek help because they don’t want to be judged by others. Unfortunately, mental health conditions still don’t receive the same level of importance as physical health problems.

Even when individuals do seek help, there can be gaps in the quality and availability of treatment. Evidence-based treatments are not always accessible, leading to variations in the quality of care. For example, there is a shortage of mental health professionals, particularly in rural areas. Certain populations, such as veterans, LGBTQ+ individuals, and people of color, face unique mental health challenges and disparities in access to care.

Therefore access to mental healthcare services remains a major concern. Many individuals, particularly those without insurance or in underserved communities, struggle to access affordable and timely mental health treatment.

Health insurance coverage for mental health services can be limited or have high out-of-pocket costs. The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) aims to address this by requiring insurers to provide equal coverage for mental health and physical health services, but disparities still exist.

These limitations in mental health treatments cause many people with mental health problems to end up in the criminal justice system rather than receiving appropriate mental healthcare. The lack of mental health crisis intervention resources and training for law enforcement can exacerbate the crisis.

On top of these existing problems, there is also the fact that mental health disorders often co-occur with substance use disorders (SUDs) like drug abuse and alcohol abuse. Mental health treatments and health care providers need to keep this in mind when treating those who have mental health issues. Many people require dual diagnosis treatment for their co-occurring disorders.

Addressing the mental health crisis in the U.S. requires a multifaceted approach that includes addressing all these factors. Reducing stigma, improving access to care, expanding insurance coverage, increasing the mental health workforce, integrating mental health into primary care, and providing crisis intervention services are all necessary to get the crisis under control.

Everyone from your primary care provider to your local policymakers can play a role in tackling this complex issue.


What Can We Do About the Mental Health Crisis?

Just like with any other disaster, dealing with the aftermath can be difficult, but it is possible through certain strategies. It is also important to prepare for future disasters in order to improve resiliency while addressing the current mental health crisis.

The CDC recently published a guide on how to cope with stress, which included suggestions like living an active lifestyle or taking a break from the news. These are examples of self-regulation, which can help improve mental health on a personal level.

Communities can work to encourage individuals to prioritize self-care practices like exercise, mindfulness, and stress management. However, dealing with the mental health crisis is not just all up to the individual.

Bigger efforts may be needed to address the mental health crisis on a larger scale. Institutions, organizations, and policymakers can do their part to structurally and financially support mental health treatment efforts.

Investing in prevention programs targeting at-risk populations, such as children and adolescents may help prevent the problem from escalating. Early intervention services are especially important for those who are showing signs of mental health problems. By preventing their conditions from worsening, it can help ease the burden on mental health care providers.

Since the mental health crisis in the US is a complex issue, it is going to take a multifaceted approach to fix it. This requires a combination of policy changes, increased awareness, and community support.

There needs to be improved access to mental health care. This can be achieved by increasing the funding for mental health services, particularly in underserved communities. Insurance coverage for mental health treatment can also be expanded to make it more affordable and accessible.

Efforts to address stigma by normalizing mental health and treatment programs should also be supported. Mental health care has to be integrated into primary care settings. Not only will this streamline access but also reduce stigma surrounding mental disorders. It is important to address this problem so that those who do have them can be encouraged to get the treatment that they need from a trained crisis counselor, therapist, or mental health care provider.

Stigma can also be addressed through proper mental health education and awareness campaigns. Public awareness campaigns reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness, eliminating one of the barriers towards treatment. Mental health education can even be incorporated into school curricula as a form of early intervention through increased awareness.

Communities may also support, develop, and expand crisis helplines, mobile crisis response teams, and other services that support mental health.

Funding for training programs to produce more mental health professionals, including psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and counselors could also be increased. There are many community-based initiatives that can address the mental health crisis.

As an extension of those efforts, addressing substance abuse issues can also be beneficial as addiction often co-occurs with mental health problems.

Addressing is a long-term effort that will require clear and abrupt change, as well as the collaboration among government agencies, healthcare providers, educators, employers, community organizations, and individuals. It should focus on prevention, early intervention, and ensuring that people who develop these problems can receive the care and support they need.

What is a Mental Health Crisis?

Here we are going to talk about the type of mental health crisis that affects people on an individual level.

On an individual level, a mental health crisis refers to a period of intense emotional or psychological distress that may lead to a person feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope with their thoughts, emotions, or behaviors.

Mental health crises can vary widely in their nature and severity, but they typically involve a significant disruption in a person’s ability to function in their daily life. This can manifest as intense sadness, anxiety, anger, or confusion that is difficult to manage. It may also be accompanied by feelings of hopelessness or despair.

A person going through a mental health crisis may pose a risk to themselves or others. They may have suicidal thoughts or even the desire to act on it. Others exhibit aggression towards other people. Alternatively, people in crisis may isolate themselves from friends and family or withdraw from social interactions.

This is because during a crisis, a person’s thinking may become disorganized, irrational, or delusional. They may have difficulty making decisions or maintaining logical thought processes.

Daily functioning may be severely impaired due to the state of their mental health. They may become unable to perform basic self-care tasks, attend work or school, maintain relationships, or carry out their usual responsibilities.

Some individuals may turn to substance abuse as a way to cope with their mental state, which can exacerbate the situation.

Signs and Symptoms of a Mental Health Crisis

A mental health crisis can manifest in various ways, and the signs can vary depending on the individual and the specific mental health condition. Therefore the symptoms may vary from person to person, and not everyone will experience all these symptoms. That said, here are some common signs of a mental health crisis to watch out for:

Drastic Changes in Behavior: Sudden and significant changes in behavior, such as extreme withdrawal from social activities, increased irritability, agitation, or impulsivity, can be indicative of a mental health crisis.

Severe Mood Swings: Rapid and intense shifts in mood, from extreme sadness to excessive euphoria or irritability, may signal a crisis.

Difficulty Concentrating: A person experiencing a mental health crisis may have trouble focusing, making decisions, or thinking clearly.

Excessive Worry or Anxiety: Persistent and overwhelming anxiety, panic attacks, or excessive worry that interfere with daily life can be a sign of a crisis.

Feelings of Hopelessness or Despair: Expressions of hopelessness, helplessness, or thoughts of suicide are serious indicators of a mental health crisis. If someone talks about suicide or self-harm, take it seriously and seek immediate help.

Changes in Sleep Patterns: Severe insomnia or excessive sleeping can be signs of a mental health crisis.

Changes in Appetite or Weight: Drastic changes in eating habits, leading to significant weight gain or loss, may be related to a mental health crisis.

Increased Substance Use: A sudden escalation in the use of drugs or alcohol can indicate underlying mental health issues and contribute to a crisis.

Social Isolation: Avoiding friends, family, and social activities, especially when it’s out of character for the person, can be a sign of distress.

Physical Symptoms: Physical complaints like unexplained aches and pains, headaches, or digestive issues can sometimes be linked to mental health struggles.

Hallucinations or Delusions: Experiencing hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t there) or delusions (holding false beliefs) can be a symptom of severe mental distress.

Self-Harm or Suicidal Thoughts: Any indication of self-harm or suicidal thoughts should be taken extremely seriously. Seek immediate help in such cases.

Neglecting Self-Care: A significant decline in personal hygiene, neglect of responsibilities, or inability to perform daily tasks may be signs of a mental health crisis.

Disconnection from Reality: Feeling disconnected from reality, one’s surroundings, or oneself may be a symptom of a crisis.

Expressions of Desperation: Verbal expressions of feeling trapped, overwhelmed, or desperate for help should not be ignored.

If you do encounter someone with these symptoms, it’s essential to approach them with empathy and understanding. Seek professional help when necessary.

Additionally, a mental health crisis can be triggered by various factors, including a worsening of an underlying mental health condition, traumatic events, extreme stress, substance abuse, or a combination of these factors.

If you or someone you know is exhibiting these signs, it’s crucial to seek help immediately. You can contact a mental health professional, a crisis hotline, or a trusted friend or family member. In emergencies, do not hesitate to call emergency services or go to the nearest hospital.

Mental health crises are treatable, and timely intervention can save lives and promote recovery.

How to Help Someone Going Through a Mental Health Crisis

Supporting someone going through a mental health crisis requires patience, empathy, and understanding. Start by educating yourself about different mental health conditions, their effects, and treatment options. Understanding their condition will help you provide more effective support. It will also eliminate any personal biases you may have that can keep you from giving proper emotional support.

Encourage them to talk about their feelings and thoughts without judgment. Be a good listener, offering your full attention and empathy. Sometimes, just having someone to vent to can make a big difference.

Ask open-ended questions to help them express their feelings and experiences. Avoid asking “why” questions, as they can feel accusatory.

If possible, focus on how you feel about their situation rather than pointing fingers and blaming them for their mental illness. Avoid making judgmental statements or offering unsolicited advice. Mental health crises are complex, and it’s crucial not to blame or shame the person for their feelings or actions.

Let them know that you care about them and that you are there to support them. Offer reassurance that they are not alone in their struggle. It’s important to remain calm and composed during a mental health crisis. Your calm demeanor can help the person feel more secure and less anxious.

If the person needs space or time alone, respect their wishes. Everyone copes differently, and sometimes solitude can be beneficial.

Take this opportunity to suggest that they reach out to a mental health professional or therapist. You can even offer to help them find resources, make appointments, or even accompany them if they are comfortable with it.

If you believe the person is in immediate danger of harming themselves or others, don’t hesitate to call emergency services or a crisis hotline. Their safety should be the top priority.

When they do begin receiving treatment, make sure you continue to check in on them regularly, even if they seem to be doing better. Mental health can be an ongoing struggle, and knowing that someone cares can be very comforting.

Finally, you need to remember to take care of yourself. Supporting someone through a mental health crisis can be emotionally draining. Make sure you are eating right, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly. You can’t pour from an empty cup, and supporting your loved one without taking care of your own needs will only lead to resentment, impatience, and anger.

Remember that every person and situation is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. The key is to be compassionate, patient, and understanding, and to encourage professional help when necessary. Your support can make a significant difference in someone’s journey to recovery.

What is Dual Diagnosis Treatment and How Does it Work?

Dealing with a mental health crisis is difficult. But having one while also struggling with substance abuse and addiction is even more challenging.

Dual diagnosis treatment is a specialized approach to mental health and addiction treatment that is designed for those who are dealing with both a substance use disorder and a co-occurring mental health disorder. It recognizes that these two conditions often intersect and influence each other, making it necessary to address both simultaneously for effective recovery.

Dual diagnosis treatment emphasizes the integration of mental health and addiction services. This means that treatment is not fragmented, and patients receive care for both disorders simultaneously. The treatment modalities may include therapy, medication, counseling, and support groups.

The first step in dual diagnosis treatment is a comprehensive assessment to identify both the substance use disorder and the co-occurring mental health disorder(s). This assessment may involve a physical examination, psychological evaluations, interviews, and standardized assessments.

Based on the assessment findings, a treatment team consisting of mental health professionals, addiction specialists, and medical personnel creates an individualized treatment plan tailored to the unique needs of the person. This plan considers the severity of both conditions and any other factors that may affect treatment.

For some people, medication may be a crucial part of their treatment. Medications can help manage symptoms of mental health disorders and reduce cravings or withdrawal symptoms associated with substance use.

Psychotherapy is another core component of dual diagnosis treatment. Different therapeutic approaches may be used, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical-behavior therapy (DBT), and motivational interviewing. These therapies aim to address both the underlying causes of substance use and the mental health issues.

Support groups, such as 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, can be beneficial in dual diagnosis treatment. These groups provide a sense of community and understanding among individuals who share similar struggles.

Dual diagnosis treatment acknowledges that addressing both mental health and substance use disorders simultaneously is essential for achieving lasting recovery. If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health condition or drug addiction, it is important to seek treatment immediately. Look for a rehab near you today and get them started on the road to recovery.

Rehab is Your Best Chance

Treatment is an addicted individualʼs best option if they want to recover. Beating an addiction not only requires eliminating the physical dependence, but also addressing the behavioral factors that prevent them from wanting to get better. Simply quitting may not change the psychological aspect of addiction. Some people quit for a while, and then take drugs or alcohol again, only to overdose because they did not detox properly. Recovery involves changing the way the patient feels, thinks, and behaves.



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Fel Clinical Director of Content
Felisa Laboro has been working with addiction and substance abuse businesses since early 2014. She has authored and published over 1,000 articles in the space. As a result of her work, over 1,500 people have been able to find treatment. She is passionate about helping people break free from alcohol or drug addiction and living a healthy life.

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