For decades — perhaps centuries — mental illness has been ignored, denied or otherwise dusted under the rug. Sufferers of severe emotional and behavioral disorders were expected to find their own way to strength and success, or else they were allowed to fall through the cracks of society and lose access to essential support and resources for happiness and health.
Fortunately, this perspective on mental health is passing away. Research on mental health and activism by mental health sufferers and experts has awakened our culture to the impact of mental illness and the importance of treatment. Now, we are seeing the dawn of a new era of mental health, in which everyone from individuals to healthcare providers to employers to government agencies are looking to ensure effective access to proper mental healthcare.
So, how can you join in?
Launch Your Own Mental Health Journey
The most important first step in joining the mental healthcare revolution is investing in your own mental health. Before you can support someone else in their mental health journey, you need to be confident in your own mental and emotional stability, and a personal familiarity with the existing systems within the mental healthcare field will allow you to help others navigate to obtain the care and services they need.
There are several ways to find a mental health provider, to include asking friends and family, inquiring with your primary care physician, searching on your insurance provider’s website or even looking online for telehealth solutions. You should not be afraid of interviewing several different providers to find someone you connect with. Because you will be sharing intimate thoughts and emotions with this person, it is important that you like and trust them from the start.
You do not need to feel that you are suffering from any mental disorder to gain benefit from a mental health professional. Just as annual visits with a physician are associated with improved physical health, regular meetings with a licensed therapist, counselor or psychiatrist should help you keep your mental health in check. Depending on what you and your provider determine about your mental health, you might not need to schedule frequent appointments. A checkup every few months might be enough to provide you satisfaction over your thoughts, behaviors and emotions.
Become a Mental Healthcare Provider
Plenty of people who have experienced overwhelming benefit from their personal mental healthcare journeys become interested in paying the benefit forward and supporting others in the pursuit of mental health and wellbeing. Fortunately, there are several career paths into the mental healthcare field you might consider, to include:
- Academic psychologists. In academic settings, psychologists study aspects of the human mind, like emotions and behaviors, to better understand mental health disorders and develop effective treatments.
- Clinical or counseling psychologist. These psychologists work with clients, diagnosing and treating various types of mental disorders. Some psychologists specialize in a particular field, such as substance abuse or group therapy.
- Clinical social worker. Social workers tend to work with disadvantaged clients, helping their clients improve their quality of life in various ways. Clinical social workers have the same authority as clinical psychologists to diagnose and develop treatment plans for clients.
- Psychiatric registered nurse or nurse practitioner. One of the highest paid nursing fields, psychiatric nurses care for patients with mental disorders. Psychiatric NPs can assess and provide interventions for patients, as well.
- Psychiatrist. Though sometimes confused with psychologists, psychiatrists enter the field of mental healthcare through medical school. Thus, psychiatrists tend to have much more medical experience than other care providers.
Regardless of the career you find most interesting, you should recognize that every path into mental healthcare requires an abundance of education. At the very least, you will need an online master’s in psychology to qualify for certification that allows you to perform research and provide services to clients. Other paths, like academic psychology or psychiatric nursing, might demand a doctorate. Then, after you obtain any necessary degrees, you might need to become certified and licensed by your state or country. All this is to ensure that you have the knowledge and skill to help others achieve mental health.
Avoid the Pitfalls of the Mental Healthcare Revolution
Unfortunately, as more people become aware of the importance of mental health, more people are trying to take advantage of this trend. The result is the spread of mental health information across the web — which is not necessarily a good thing. Not everyone manifests mental illness in the same way, and self-diagnosis or the online diagnosis of strangers can be incorrect. What’s more, mental health treatment must be personalized to an individual’s experiences, worldview, emotional state and more, so treatment strategies shared amongst non-professionals might be damaging to an individual’s recovery.
The ongoing mental health revolution is undeniably a positive development for humankind. By investing in your own mental health and by devoting your career to caring for others’ mental health, you can do the revolution some good.