Most of us have participated in annual physical checkups, allowing our doctors to check on various aspects of our health, like our blood pressure or weight. Mental health is as important as physical health, but much more often ignored. Make a change — learn the mental health screening tools you need to stay mentally healthy.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness has found that the average delay between when mental illness symptoms first appear and intervention is a staggering 8-10 years. We would never ignore a broken bone for 8 years. Why should we do the same for symptoms of mental illness?
Instead of ignoring our mental health, we should actively screen it in order to ensure that we are as healthy mentally as we are physically.
The Best Mental Health Screening Tools: Early and Regular Checkups
Your doctor should be your partner in checking in on and maintaining all aspects of your health. Work closely with your doctor to monitor your metal health. Here’s what that partnership should look like:
First, Screen Early
Many mental illnesses are highly treatable in their early stages. With regular mental health screenings, individuals showing symptoms can quickly begin treatment and save themselves from the distress that is associated with further advanced stages of mental illness.
Dr. Nizar El-Khalili, medical director of Alpine Clinic in Lafayette, Indiana, explained to USA Today that “Common mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety and substance abuse in their early stages are often highly treatable through basic coping methods.”
These coping methods may include talk therapy and medication. Your doctor can share more about your options if their screening indicates that you could benefit from mental health treatment.
Use Your Annual Check-Up as a Mental Health Screening
It’s easy to put off making an appointment for a mental health screening, especially if it requires seeing a new doctor. But what if you didn’t need to make a separate appointment for your mental health checkup?
Luckily, most physicians are able to include a mental health screening during your annual physical exam. You should expect to be asked questions about your lifestyle, eating and drinking habits and overall mental wellness. When included as part of your regular annual physical, the mental health screening is simply another set of data for your doctor to collect.
Use Your Screenings to Establish a Baseline
Without any data about your past mental health, it can be difficult to determine when something isn’t quite right. Accurately articulating the changes in how you feel can be difficult, especially if symptoms are no longer new.
By regularly checking on your mental health, you’ll be able to determine a baseline level of mental well-being. Your doctor can compare data from future check-ins against this baseline. This will help make it more evident when you are showing new symptoms or regressing in mental health.
Do you want even more mental health screening tools? Take a look at our blog post, “5 Smart Ways to Take Care of Your Mental Health as You Age.”