What is a mental health assessment?
A mental health assessment is a psychiatric assessment. It is part of the process of information being gathered with the purpose of making a diagnosis. Once you have been given a diagnosis a treatment plan will be put together.
Your doctor will refer you to a psychiatrist or a mental health team for a mental health assessment. There will be particular questions about whether you pose a risk to yourself or others. This assessment may include blood and urine tests to look for any particular physical or hormonal abnormalities.
A mental health assessment is part of the process of being given a diagnosis. Following this, a treatment plan will be put together.
Mental health assessments identify;
- mental health disorders
- developmental problems such as; learning disabilities and autism
- addiction issues
Self-destructive addictive behaviours often require some kind of intervention to help us see what we have become caught up in. This can be the start of taking back control.
The idea of a mental health assessment is to build up a picture of your needs and to put together a treatment plan.
Preparing for a mental health assessment
It will be helpful to try to prepare for your mental health assessment.
- Try to make some notes, perhaps keep a diary, build up your understanding of what is happening
- What happens to your mood?
- How long has it been going on?
- What kinds of treatments have you tried in the past?
Planning like this will help you feel more in control of what happens during your mental health assessment.
For some people there will be relief at getting a diagnosis. It may be the first time that you have the sense of knowing what’s wrong.
- It should be the beginning of a treatment plan
- Having your distress recognised
- It may lift some of the sense of blame and guilt that you feel
Mental health assessment – will treatment help? is your personality fixed, or can it change?
Although it may feel like our personalities have a fixed quality to them, in fact we are changing all the time in response to changes in our circumstances. Stressful events have an impact upon us. When we find ways to relieve the stress we start to feel better, though this may take time.
Whatever diagnosis you are given, remember that usually your condition will be treatable and will improve.
Talking about mental health
We may have become better at talking about the impact of bereavement, perhaps certain trauma (Prince William and Prince Harry’s interventions), but more broadly the subject of mental health continues to provoke complex reactions.
This should not come as a surprise, the history of psychiatry has always stirred up strong feelings of shame, fear and a desire to reject and have nothing to do with it. The history of asylums, institutions, involves cruel treatments involving ECT, lobotomy, incarceration.
This history has tended to create a division between our ideas of the sane and the insane. We don’t think of mental health in the way we think of physical health. We cannot see our own or other people’s mental health injuries in the way we can see a physical issue.
Does psychiatry confuse ordinary human suffering with medical models of illness?
One of the problems with a mental health assessment and with being given a diagnosis is that it may make your relationship with yourself and your problems worse.
Instead of considering that you are suffering as a reaction to something, you may feel you ‘have’ something wrong with you. This can make it harder to work with your experience.
It can make your experience seem more like an objective fact rather than part of something you are going through, or something you might be able to work with and improve. We speak of people having depression as though it is a constant. For most people these things can be worked with. We can improve and recover.
So a mental health assessment may change your relationship with yourself and what you suffer and experience, rather than you suffering distressing feelings which might be understood as the result of life experiences.
Mental Health Assessment can lead us down a psychiatric and medical pathway in which we are given diagnoses, possibly given medication for the diagnoses but this may not help us grasp the roots of our problems.
Why we might not want a mental health assessment
Ideas of a mental health assessment put our minds, psyches and souls, into a medical category in which we are measured against an illness model. Following this it is all too easy for us to be given a diagnosis of, for example, a personality disorder. I have always felt a reservation about thinking about our development and our emotional issues like this.
Whatever opinions we have about the validity or place of psychiatry; mental distress is a very real. People at times feel overwhelmed by complex and disturbing emotions, anger, shame.
Sometimes our experiences overwhelm us; bullying, abuse, violence, traumas, rape, complicated bereavement. These experiences produce feelings that can be too much for us to handle and process.
Your mental health has a context
In my experience we tend to develop feelings in reaction to events that we go through. Our emotional health just like our physical health has a context.
If you are suffering with stress, anxiety, depression, or if you have developed obsessional behaviours, these things will most likely relate to particular events and experiences. You may just need some help to remember or think through what those contexts and events are.
We can get drawn into considering a symptom, be that to do with obsessive or destructive behaviour, as though it has sprung from our heads with no backstory. Usually what we find when we are able to take time, is that our symptoms have developed. They are not random disruptive things, though they might feel like that now. Generally, our symptoms are a response to something.
Looking after your mental health
Sometimes, particularly in the heat of complex emotional events our feelings and moods run away from us. We find we develop more manic or more depressed behaviours, but these moods change. Our moods reflect things that happen to us.
At such times it can be helpful to work with a psychotherapist who can help you understand what has happened. Generally, as we piece our understanding of ourselves together, we feel calmer, better, and more in control. Then we can start to think about any adaptations we need to make to improve our mental health.
Whatever distress you are going though now or have been through in the past, the chances are that things can get better. You just need to find a way to give yourself the chance to break the cycle of reaction.
I have twenty years experience of helping people to think about and work with mental health assessments.
Giving yourself the chance to speak in a confidential setting may prove helpful, it may be the beginning of starting to develop insight into your situation. It may provide you with the chance to find a more constructive and less critical way of living.
Contact me to arrange a free telephone consultation to discuss how my work might help you.