Sun Sentinel Broward Edition

Men­tal health needs to be ad­dressed be­fore Stage 4

- By Paul Jaquith

Think for a mo­ment about can­cer, heart dis­ease or di­a­betes and how they are treated. Would it make sense to wait to treat those ill­nesses un­til they reach stage 4 of the ill­ness?

When peo­ple begin to show ini­tial symptoms of those ill­nesses, such as a per­sis­tent cough, high blood pres­sure or high blood sugar, we im­me­di­ately try to re­verse those symptoms. We don’t ig­nore them. In fact, we de­velop a plan of ac­tion to re­verse and at­tempt to stop the pro­gres­sion of the dis­ease.

Why are we not do­ing the same thing for in­di­vid­u­als deal­ing with po­ten­tially se­ri­ous men­tal ill­ness?

When you or some­one close to you starts to ex­pe­ri­ence the early warn­ing signs of men­tal ill­ness, know­ing the risk fac­tors and symptoms will help to catch them early. Of­ten­times, fam­ily and friends are the first to step in to sup­port a per­son through th­ese early stages.

Symptoms such as loss of sleep, feel­ing tired for no rea­son, feel­ing anx­ious or hear­ing voices shouldn’t be ig­nored or brushed aside in hopes that the symptoms will sim­ply go away. Like other dis­eases, we need to ad­dress th­ese symptoms early, iden­tify the un­der­ly­ing dis­ease and plan an ap­pro­pri­ate course of ac­tion on a path to­ward over­all health. Men­tal health con­di­tions should be ad­dressed long be­fore they reach the most crit­i­cal points in the dis­ease process — be­fore Stage 4.

There is a free no-obli­ga­tion screen­ing tool avail­able at Men­tal Health Amer­ica’s mhascreen­ing.org. It is an anony­mous, free and pri­vate way to learn about your own men­tal health and see if you are show­ing signs of a men­tal ill­ness.

May is Men­tal Health Month and the Men­tal Health As­so­ci­a­tion of Southeast Florida is rais­ing aware­ness of the im­por­tant role men­tal health plays in our lives and is en­cour­ag­ing mem­bers of the com­mu­nity to learn more about their own men­tal health and to take ac­tion im­me­di­ately if they are experienci­ng symptoms of a men­tal ill­ness.

Men­tal ill­ness is a highly treat­able ill­ness, and the ear­lier it is iden­ti­fied the bet­ter the out­come. Don’t let stigma and shame stop you from get­ting the help you need for your­self or a loved one. Act to­day, ev­ery­one de­serves the op­por­tu­nity to be happy and healthy. Talk to your health care pro­fes­sional B4S­tage4.

Men­tal ill­ness is a highly treat­able ill­ness, and the ear­lier it is iden­ti­fied the bet­ter the out­come. ... Act to­day.

Paul Jaquith is the pres­i­dent and CEO of the Men­tal Health As­so­ci­a­tion of Southeast Florida. mhasefl.org.

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