Why Do I Need a Mental Health Checkup? - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

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Published on October 07, 2014

Why Do I Need a Mental Health Checkup?

Crozer-Keystone Health SystemMedia Contact:
Katrina Stier
(610) 447-6314

Why Do I Need a Mental Health Checkup?

Crozer Psychotherapy Services provides a
supportive style of care - quiet, nurturing
and completely confidential. For more
information, call 610-874-5257.

Our doctors are always stressing to us the importance of scheduling regular annual exams to ensure we’re healthy and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. But did you realize that reminder isn’t limited to being physically healthy?

An annual mental health check up is just as important as your yearly physical, eye exam and other regular doctor visits. Even when you feel physically well, you still make a visit to your doctor who checks your height, weight, blood pressure and more to help paint a picture of your overall health. This visit helps your doctor identify when something is wrong and catch it early, when it’s more treatable.

The same concept applies to your mental health, which is part of the reason that, in 1990, Congress established the first full week of October as Mental Illness Awareness Week.

“Getting a mental health checkup will help you identify very treatable conditions early. It is just as important as a physical checkup,” says Kevin Caputo, M.D., chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Crozer-Chester Medical Center. “Taking periodic stock of your emotional well-being can help identify warning signs of common mental health issues such as anxiety or depression.”

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about a quarter of American adults suffer from some kind of mental health issue each year and 6 percent suffer from severe problem like schizophrenia or major depression. When these mental illnesses are left untreated, they are more likely to lead to hospitalization.

“If you have a family history of mental illness then it is important to get a mental health checkup to prevent or treat the onset of potential mental illness in your own life early,” Dr. Caputo says. “Similar to other illnesses, depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses are highly treatable when they are found early.”

But just because you aren’t suffering with mental illness doesn’t mean you’re mentally healthy. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”

Think you haven’t had a mental health checkup before? You might be wrong. Oftentimes doctors will ask patients about their moods, lifestyle, eating and drinking habits as part of a regular wellness visit. This gauges if there is a presence of any mood or anxiety disorders, including substance abuse, depression, and post-traumatic stress.

If your regular doctor doesn’t ask you questions along these lines, you can be proactive and bring the subject up yourself. In addition to your primary care physician, you can have a psychiatrist, psychologist, or social worker perform a mental health assessment for you.

All of these health care professionals have the ability to pinpoint signs and symptoms of mental illnesses and then work with you to treat them or refer you to a specialist for a more in-depth evaluation.

Mental health checkups may not be as established as annual physicals due to the historical stigma associated with mental illness. However, many health care providers will tell you that recognizing that you need help and actually getting that help is actually a very sane thing to do and is a sign of strength.

According to the American Psychological Association, about 42 percent of adults report that their stress has increased. Nearly 44 percent say they aren’t doing enough to manage it.

Don’t let yourself be part of this statistic.

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