How to Help a Friend’s Mental Health

Whether your friend is dealing with depression, anxiety, or bipolar symptoms, it’s common to often feel helpless in supporting them. When it comes to mental health struggles, it’s important to have someone there to understand and help through difficult times. As a friend, being a support system can often be difficult and overwhelming at times. Even though you want desperately to help, you don’t know how to. These are the best ways to help a friend struggling with mental health:

Identify When Something is Wrong

When it comes to mental health, there are highs and lows. Somedays a friend will seem fine and then the next their mood and behavior have completely changed. In order to be able to help them, it’s important to identify when something is wrong or they’re feeling more triggered than usual. Many ways to know is if they are being withdrawn or distant, not eating, conducting self-harm, displaying risky or endangering behavior, sudden overwhelming worries or fears, and intense mood swings. If your friend is displaying any of these signs, reach out and talk to them to let them know you are there for them.

Learn How to Talk About It

Although identifying their mental health issues is one obstacle, talking about it with them is a whole new challenge. When speaking with them about their mental health, it’s important to let them know they can trust you and that you will be there to comfort and listen to them. Let your friend know you have been worried about them and ask what you can do to help. It’s also important to encourage them to talk to their parents depending on their age or a professional. They must understand that although you are always going to be there for them, they must connect with people who can help.

Validate Their Emotions

As you’re listening to your friend’s struggles, thoughts, and emotions, remember to remain as understanding as possible. Even if their emotions are something you have never gone through, it’s important to let them know they’re thoughts and feelings are valid. This will help them to feel heard and less alone. This doesn’t mean pretending you feel the same way as them, but simply listening to what they have to say without judgment and offering helpful words such as, “That sounds hard.” Letting them know that what they are feeling is not an overreaction and completely valid will help them in so many ways.

The Mental Health Effects of Hurricanes on Survivors

Hurricane Dorian left destruction in its wake when it passed through the Bahamas. While recovery efforts have started in combing through the physical wreckage, it’s worth noting that Dorian left behind less visible damage, too: the mental health effects that hurricanes have on their survivors. As one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes in history, the terror of the storm lingers in the minds of many. 

According to the Associated Press, mental health counselors have been dispatched to the affected communities to help those traumatized by the storm. A local pastor Robert Lockhart in Grand Bahama encouraged his congregation at Calvary Temple to share their experiences. One community member, Carlos Evans, hoped that his story would bring encouragement to others. 

Dorian is not the first storm to highlight the mental health difficulties of survivors. Research has indicated that hurricanes and similar natural disasters can be detrimental to mental health. A recent study found that people living in England whose homes had been damaged by storms or floods had a 50% higher likelihood of poor mental health than those whose homes hadn’t been damaged. Studies on previous North American hurricanes showed results that were consistent with these findings. 

Of those affected by Hurricane Harvey, which struck Texas in August and September 2017, 48% of Harris County residents whose homes were severely damaged showed signs of serious psychological distress. Eoin Ryan, a mental health specialist, said that it will take weeks or even months to determine Dorian’s psychological toll. While many are still seeking resources like food, water, and shelter, the emotional impact may settle in once they are out of shock. 

The stress of coping after a natural disaster can be compounded, and current storms can trigger the emotional and physical sensations that people experienced when they survived previous hurricanes. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), common behaviors that exhibit around the time a hurricane strikes include persistent worry, anxiety, and sleep issues, as are intrusive memories, thoughts, and nightmares related to the storm. 

Excessive Gaming is Becoming a Mental Health Problem

In 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) added gaming disorder to the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). The ICD is used by medical practitioners to diagnose conditions and by researchers to categorize conditions. The inclusion of gaming disorder is remarkable in that the impact on both mental and physical health from excessive gaming has qualified as a medical disorder. 

People with gaming disorder have trouble controlling the amount of time they spend playing video games and prioritize gaming over other activities in their lives. Furthermore, their gaming behaviors can incur negative effects. While some experts have wondered if gaming addiction can develop as a coping mechanism from depression and anxiety, it has been observed that video game addiction actually increases levels of depression and anxiety in children. This is concerning, for we are now seeing mental disorders on the rise. When the addiction stops, depression and anxiety improve.  

There are other side effects to gaming disorder aside from ones directly related to mental health. The disorder has been associated with sleep disturbances, low fitness levels, and poor nutrition. These can impact physical health long-term but can also exacerbate pre-existing mental health concerns.

The key distinction here is that participation in video games has to be excessive and cause dysfunction in several areas of life, such as education and social life. Gaming disorder only affects a small population of people, however, people who partake in video games should be aware of the amount of time they spend on gaming and similar activities, especially when it comes at the expense of their other daily activities or their health. 

For a person to be diagnosed with gaming disorder, their life has to be significantly impaired by their gaming behaviors for at least 12 months. Characteristics of gaming disorder include lacking control over gaming habits and continuing to partake in the behavior despite its negative consequences.  While the disorder can affect individuals of all ages, most of the research was conducted on adolescents, teenagers, and young adults. According to a different study, gaming disorder is more likely to affect boys and young men than it is to affect girls and women. 

 

What is Bipolar with Mood-Incongruent Psychosis?

Psychosis is at its core being unable to recognize what parts of the world around you are real and what is fake. Generally, psychosis is characterized by a gradual but eventual break from reality. While most commonly associated with schizophrenia, this type of behavior can also be found in people who struggle with bipolar disorder. Those with bipolar may suffer from the hallucinations or delusions that come from psychosis during either their manic or depressive phases, although it is more common during the manic stage.

It is not 100% known why those with bipolar disorder may have psychosis as well, but it could be related to a genetic trait, brain structure or a chemical imbalance. The symptoms of the psychosis can start with things like diminished performance in school or work, building lack of personal hygiene, more and more difficulty communicating or concentrating.

These symptoms can build into more serious ones such as limiting social contact, constant suspicion of those around them, lack of emotion, and anxiety. These symptoms all cumulate into hallucinations, delusions, incoherent thoughts or speech and a general lack of awareness. You may notice that this person uses rapid speech and often has unconnected and irrational thoughts. They lose track of their thoughts quickly and often will abruptly change subjects without notice.

Hallucinations are at their core, things that someone experience through any or all of their senses but is wholly unnoticeable by those around them. A delusion, however, is an unshakeable belief that they will hold about something that is untrue. These can be positive and great things they believe about themselves, such as they have these fantastic superpowers, or they can be more paranoid delusions such as someone is always following them or out to get them.

Mood-incongruent psychosis is when the hallucinations or delusions that a person is experiencing are not related to their current feelings or beliefs. These behaviors will seem entirely out of place and tend to be more severe than the ones that come along with mood-congruent psychosis.

Those suffering from bipolar with mood-incongruent psychosis will often be prescribed different types of medications such as antidepressants, antipsychotics or mood stabilizers. Therapy will often consist of psychotherapy or electroconvulsive therapy.

Herrick Lipton is the CEO of New Horizon Counseling Center in New York and is also an advocate for mental health. For more information about Herrick or to get in touch with New Horizon Counseling Center for resources, please visit nhcc.us or call 718-845-2620.

 

Startups that Transform Behavioral Health

StartupHealth technology has become an exceedingly lucrative niche as of late. More and more technology companies are inventing ways to make healthcare easier and more accessible. This influx of startup companies focused on health technology, however, has recently shifted focus. Instead of starting businesses based on general physical health, there is now a large number of companies making technology focused on behavioral health. Unfortunately, Behavioral Healthcare in the United States has suffered as of late. It faces several internal and external issues that prevent behavioral health from becoming a medical priority. New startup companies are hoping to help. Below are two that look quite promising.

Quartet Health

A persistent issue in behavioral health today is the low level of access that behavioral health patients have to trained professionals. Quarter Health has created a comprehensive platform that includes patients, doctors, and insurers. Primary Care Physicians are able to refer patients to behavioral health professionals that work with the patient’s insurance through this platform, as well as to be updated on the progress of each patient. Behavioral Health professionals are able to communicate with the PCPs of their patients, as well as to accept or deny patient referrals with no risk. Additionally, they can use the platform’s billing and scheduling tools for their practice.

This platform is also used by insurers and employers in a number of ways. For one, it has tools that help determine whether or not someone is suffering from an undiagnosed behavioral health disorder. It also can help spread understanding of such disorders and the effects they have on behavior and performance. Patients are also given perks in this platform. They can take part in online treatment programs, communicate with health providers on a secure connection, and even talk to others suffering from the same conditions.

Akili Interactive

Akili is a different type of digital health company in that it works to build quality platforms with video-game-like qualities that can be remotely used by patients and physicians alike. These platforms will be used in a variety of ways, including to assess neural functioning in patients, as well as provide an interactive situation in which interventions can be put in place.

The platforms that Akili is developing fall into certain categories. The first is the group meant to improve neural functioning and cognitive systems. Another is cognitive measurement, which includes products that frequently assess the neural functioning of each patient.

For more information and behavioral health news, visit the New Horizon Counseling Center website.