Your mental health is just as important as your physical health, so you need to take care of your mind just as much as your body if you want to be fully healthy. There are many preventive measures you can take to identify mental health issues and stop them from getting worse. The first step is to have mental health screenings that detect problems early on.
Mental health screenings differ from most physical screenings, as there are no blood tests or other laboratory tests to check for mental wellness. Mental health screenings typically include questionnaires or checklists about your current and previous behaviors, feelings and thoughts. In some cases, a mental health professional may ask about your family history. The information screened from these verbal or written tests allow the provider to make an assessment. However, medical professionals often evaluate your physical health as well.
The terms “mental health” and “behavioral health” are often interchangeable. Both are about a person’s emotional, psychological and social well-being. Mental and behavioral health affects how you feel and think. It also affects the actions you take and the choices you make. It is therefore important to take care of your mental health throughout your whole life. Thankfully, there are preventive screenings and treatments available for mental and behavioral health problems. Having regular tests can make all the difference to living healthily and happily.
What is preventive mental and behavioral health care?
Preventive mental and behavioral health care is about preventing mental illness before it happens or treating the problem early on. There are many different causes that can contribute to having mental and behavioral health problems. With some people, it is determined by biological factors to do with the genes or brain chemistry. Sometimes, it has more to do with traumatic and abusive life experiences. There are also many types of specific mental and behavioral health issues, ranging from avoidant personality disorder to psychosis.
With one in five adults in the United States experiencing a mental health issue every year, it is not unlikely you will have a mental health problem at some point. As with physical health, it is crucial to get yourself checked out regularly by a doctor. Preventive health care screenings help to identify and treat mental and behavioral problems early, and there are a variety of screenings available.
Preventive Mental and Behavioral Health Care Screenings
Targeting symptoms early can reduce long-term disability and prevent years of suffering. There is such a broad spectrum of individual mental and behavioral health problems that you should talk to your doctor about which screenings are recommended for you. The following are some common mental and behavioral disorders you can be screened for:
- Anxiety disorders
- Bipolar disorder
- Seasonal affective disorder
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
- Borderline personality disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Autism spectrum disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
One of the first steps you can take for mental health screening is to use patient health questionnaires. These questionnaires are not designed for self-diagnosis, but instead, they are more about a person self-assessing themselves to then take further action if necessary. Patient health questionnaires can ask about your outlook on life and your recent health habits. There are several patient health questionnaires that you can complete. These include forms for depression, anxiety, suicide risk, trauma and drug or alcohol use. If it is found you are likely to have a problem or disorder once you have taken the tests, then a recommended course of action can be taken, such as finding mental health help.
The questionnaires are simple to fill in. With each question, you simply have to choose the answer that applies to you. For instance, the patient health questionnaire for depression asks questions such as, “Have you been blaming yourself for things in the last two weeks?”
Once you have completed the form, simply work out your score to see how the questionnaire has classified your mental health and what the severity of any problem may be, such as “a major depressive disorder” or a “mood disorder.” All responses need to be verified by a clinician before a definite diagnosis can be made if you are not filling out the forms in the doctor’s office. Factors like how well you understood the questionnaire and other relevant medical information can make a difference to your final professional diagnosis.
People recently diagnosed with mild mental health concerns can also use patient health questionnaires to keep track of their condition and prevent it from getting worse. Filling in the questionnaire every two weeks and then taking it to the checkup with your doctor can monitor your mental health more easily.
Preventive Mental Health Care for Children
Taking care of mental health is important at all stages of life, but it is especially important for children to be regularly screened for mental and behavioral health issues. Psychological well-being for children and adolescents is vital for their emotional, social, physical, cognitive and educational development. Approximately 13 percent of children eight to 15 years of age in the U.S. are diagnosed with a severe mental disorder each year. That number rises to 21.4 percent for youths 13 to 18 years of age. It is vital you get your children medically checked a regular basis to prevent problems occurring or to deal with the problems quickly.
Preventive care for mental health problems begins before birth. The use of alcohol, tobacco and recreational drugs during pregnancy can have serious and lasting consequences for a child’s mental and behavioral health. Maternal trauma, such as stress, anxiety and depression, can cause children to develop psychiatric disorders too. By looking after your child from pregnancy, you will be preventing him or her from developing future mental health problems. Screenings during pregnancy are vital for your child’s mental health care.
Preventive care for mental health problems during infancy. Children are very vulnerable in their first years when their brains and bodies are developing rapidly. Young children should have regular screenings for disabilities like autism spectrum disorder, so treatment and help can be given as early as possible.
Preventive care for mental health problems from early childhood through to puberty. Nutrition during early childhood through to puberty is vital for daily functioning and brain development. Studies show that children who eat healthily are in better mental health than those who eat unhealthy foods. Eating unhealthy foods can lead to social withdrawal, anxiety and externalizing behavior, such as being aggressive or fighting. Screenings for young children are vital to prevent and identify mental health issues.
Preventive care for mental health problems from puberty to early adulthood. Mental illness in teenagers is very common. In fact, approximately eight percent of adolescents in the United States report having major depression each year. The phase from childhood to adulthood is fraught with difficulties, stresses and pressures which can lead to a variety of mental health issues like depression and general anxiety disorder. Being very sad, hopeless or worthless can be common feelings in teenagers but they could be warning signs of a mental health problem, so it is crucial that regular screenings are had to identify problems and prevent things getting worse.
By having regular medical checkups and screenings, from childhood and throughout adulthood, you can stay on top of your mental health. Remember preventive health care is about detecting problems before any symptoms have been noticed and investigating early symptoms that may lead to full-blown mental health issues. The earlier you have a screening and the more regularly you see your health care provider, the better your quality of life.