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Who can help?

Mental health is hard to talk about. If you've been through a serious physical health diagnosis, you probably get asked about your physical symptoms all the time. But what about your mental health?

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Nurses, doctors, friends and family are really good about checking in on pain, nausea and other physical symptoms. But when was the last time anyone asked you about your mental health...and then stuck around to listen to the real answer? Unfortunately, our society does a better job of caring for physical symptoms and has a harder time talking about mental and emotional wellbeing. So who can help when you just can't shake the feelings of anxiety, depression, loneliness or fear that persist long after treatment has ended? 

Who can help?

Social Workers

Social workers can be found in hospitals, clinics, schools, and in the community. They are licensed mental healthcare professionals with a variety of specializations. Talking to a social worker can be an important first step in getting help with your mental health. Chances are, you already have a social worker you know and trust. 

Some social workers are therapists who practice in the community, while other specialize on caring for people in hospitals and clinics, and some work with students in schools. But all social workers are trained in helping connect people with resources and treatment for mental health. 

Quite frankly, social workers are really good listeners. Even if you don't know what's bothering you or what you need, talking to a social worker may help. If your social worker isn't in a position to be your therapist, they can help you find someone who is a good fit. They can also help you navigate your health insurance to help you find someone in network. 

Integrative Health Practitioners

Many people turn to integrative health practitioners when their mental and emotional wellbeing is suffering. Some medical centers may offer consults with integrative nurses or doctors. In the community, you may find licensed acupuncturists, massage therapist, yoga therapists, and others who can help with mental and emotional wellbeing. Our bodies store trauma from physical illness and treatment. Integrative therapies, such as massage, yoga, acupressure and acupuncture, all help to process this trauma. Processing trauma can improve mental and emotional wellbeing. 

When your overall wellbeing is suffering, it can be difficult to put your finger on exactly what's bothering you. The truth is, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing are all connected. It is normal to go through phases of struggling and healing for many years after treatment. If you are living with chronic illness, you may notice that when you are feeling good physically, you are mentally in a better place, and the opposite may be true. This makes sense. But sometimes everything checks out in terms of your physical health, yet you are left with a sense of sadness or a funk you just can't shake. 

Talking to a mental health professional may be helpful in getting to the bottom of what is bothering you. Considering taking the wellbeing assessment to find out just what areas of your wellbeing could use some attention. 

Getting a Diagnosis

If your mental wellbeing is suffering more than half the days, if the lows feel really low, or if you are having a hard time functioning, you may have a diagnosable mental health issue. Diagnoses such as depression, anxiety, and trauma and stress-related disorders are very common in young adults who have a life-threatening or chronic health condition. In fact, one study* found that early survivors of cancer (two years or less from treatment), ages 15-39 experienced the following rates of mental health diagnoses:

  • 23% reported anxiety
  • 28% reported depression
  • 13% qualified for a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress
  • 46% reported post-traumatic stress symptoms

Proper diagnosis is key to feeling better. Sometimes your regular healthcare provider can diagnose you and make recommendations for treatment. But, if you haven't been able to get the help you need from your regular healthcare team, consider finding a mental healthcare professional. 

You may have been connected to a social worker during your treatment phase. Did you know that social workers are mental health providers? They can help by talking to you about the symptoms you are having and making recommendations for a treatment plan. 

Finding the right mental health provider can be hard. Follow these guideline from the National Alliance on Mental Illness for tips on how to find a mental health professional. 

*Marjerrison, S., & Barr, R. D. (2018). Unmet Survivorship Care Needs of Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Survivors. JAMA Network Open, 1(2). doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.0350

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