Seeking Treatment for Mental Health

Sometimes mental health issues are more than we can handle on our own. If your symptoms are severe, or if they last for more than a few weeks, then it's important that you seek out professional help. If you are experiencing a number of common signs of mental health issues, especially if they are impacting your ability to function or people around you have expressed concern, it is time to seek treatment. This can be very scary, but your mental health is very important.

Dealing with Stigma

One of the biggest barriers to receiving treatment for many people is the stigma surrounding mental illness. Many people may hesitate to seek help because they are worried about how other people will react. You may think that asking for help means that you're weak, but this isn't the case. Most people can't deal with mental health problems on their own, and it is important that you reach out to professionals who can help you. In addition to helping you with your mental health issues, a counselor will be able to give you advice on how to handle your friends and coworkers. This advice might include:

  • Don't argue with others. When someone says something ignorant or offensive, it's natural to get upset. It's not your job, though, to educate others, and reacting defensively often has the opposite effect. Your number one priority is to take care of yourself, and getting in arguments is not the way to do that.
  • Surround yourself with positive people. Try to keep your distance from people who are giving you a hard time. Your goal is to stay positive and hopeful, so try to surround yourself with people who will help you achieve that goal.
  • Remember that you are not alone. It can be very frustrating to deal with mental health issues when your friends and family just don't understand. It can be helpful to remember that there are millions of people in the world who are going through the same things you are.

It can be helpful to also...

  • Join a support group. Chances are that there are several mental health support groups in your area; maybe even on your campus! These groups will be supportive of your situation and can be helpful in providing you with a community of people who understand what you're going through.
  • Get educated. Seek out as much information as you can about your condition. This will prepare you for what to expect, and will help you explain what you're going through to your friends and family. Knowledge is one of the best ways to combat stigma.
  • Stand your ground. Unfortunately, not everyone will be understanding about your struggles. When this happens, it's important to stand up for yourself. Explain your situation and your feelings to the people in your life, but if they are not understanding, don't let them hassle you. Again, your number one priority is your own wellbeing, not pleasing the other people in your life.
  • Remember that you aren't your condition. Sometimes it may seem like your condition is the only thing that defines you, but it isn't. You are still the same person you were before your diagnosis.
  • Don't give up. Regardless of your situation, never give up. Don't lose hope, even when it seems hopeless. It is important to believe that things will get better.

Where to Seek Mental Health Treatment

Because it's very common for students – especially international students – to need help adjusting when they arrive at college, there are a number of services available to you. In fact, most colleges in the US offer mental health services for their students to take advantage of. You can ask your advisor about these services even before you leave your home country. Where you go for treatment is going to depend on a number of factors.

For Ongoing Conditions

If you are dealing with a mental health condition before leaving for the US, be sure to find a doctor near you who can help manage your care within a few weeks following your arrival in the States. You'll want to make sure that you do not have a break in medications, and that you can continue to receive the same level of care that you received back home.

For Emergencies

If you are feeling suicidal or homicidal, go directly to a psychiatrist. If you need immediate help, there are 24-hour toll-free hotlines available to talk you through difficult times. If you have a physical ailment that needs immediate attention, such as a drug overdose, you should go directly to the Emergency Room. Call a friend or 911 for assistance.

For Non-Emergencies

If you are not experiencing an emergency, start with a visit to the student health center. Many colleges and universities offer free or low-cost counseling services. These services may be a part of the student health center, or they may be a separate counseling and wellness center on campus. Simply call them up and make an appointment; in some cases, you may even be able to walk in and be seen right away. Your student health center will be staffed with highly trained professionals who are ready to help. From here, your student health center may direct you to the appropriate place to seek treatment.

Remember: The student health center is the least costly option for most students to receive treatment, but it's important to be aware that some insurance plans will not cover treatment for mental health conditions received at the student health center, so be sure to check your insurance plan and find out the cost before seeking treatment.

Before seeking mental health care, it's a good idea to check the specifics of your insurance plan to find out what it covers in terms of mental health.

24-Hour Hotlines

Health Professionals

Return to our "Mental Health" section for more information and help