When to Seek Help About a Mental Health Condition

March 2, 2023 - Dr. Stephanie McIver, SHAC Interim Exec. Dir.

Dr. Stephanie McIver poses in front of an adobe wall.As human beings it is common and expected for us all to experience a whole range of emotions and intensities just as a function of being alive. Our moods shift daily, depending upon our experiences and informed by our histories and our perspectives about life.Our normal moods may even be intense, result in visceral discomfort, tears…even sobbing…or withdrawal and fatigue (some moods are tiring!). It is natural for us to experience states of depressed mood, nervousness, grief, elation, confusion, fear, among many other moods. So how do we know when to be concerned and when to seek help?

Intense moods are not in and of themselves crises. They may be unfamiliar and aversive to us, but intense moods do not themselves result in undesirable outcomes. Exhaustion maybe, but not danger or harm. If the mood state is intense and aversive but does not pose a risk of harm, we do not consider this a crisis.  Important, and perhaps in need of care and attention, but not urgent or emergent. Mood states typically wax and wane. Negative moods lessen after a short period of time and can be mediated by attention, compassion, care and self-care, distraction, social connection, hugs, relief of hunger, rest, laughter, exercise, sunlight, etc.

However, if any symptom or mood escalates to a level or an intensity from which a highly undesirable outcome is likely, we refer to this as a crisis. A mood state that escalates to disrupting the activities of your everyday life, and if accompanied by thoughts about harm to self or others, or persists to the extent that one’s academic life, work life, and relationship life are now jeopardized…undesirable outcomes…then we have a crisis. Crises require intervention to prevent undesirable outcomes from occurring. These interventions may begin with a call to a crisis line or walking into health services for urgent or emergent care. Interventions may include hospitalization as it would for any other medical condition that has intensified and now poses a risk.

Regardless of where you stand, know that we are here to help you! Look at what our Health Promotion Team has to offer you when it comes to building coping and resiliency skills through stress management or the variety of workshops that our counselors host to better help you and your mental health. If you are in crisis, don’t hesitate to reach out. #ProtectThePack