manwalking_debracollinsWhen we experience a persistent cough, high blood pressure or high blood sugar, our medical providers try immediately to reverse these symptoms. They don’t ignore them.When we think about heart disease, asthma or diabetes, our doctor doesn’t wait years before recommending treatment.

In fact, they may develop a treatment plan to reverse and sometimes stop the progression of the disease.

So why wouldn’t we do the same for individuals who are dealing with potentially serious mental illness?

When you or someone close to you starts to experience the early warning signs of mental illness, knowing what the risk factors and symptoms are can help reduce delays in getting help.

Often times, family and friends are the first to step in to support a person through these early stages because they may notice changes in behavior before the affected individual does.



• Persistent feelings of sadness.
• Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate.
• Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt.
• Feeling irritable and anxious or jumpy and easily startled.
• Extreme mood changes of highs and lows.
• Withdrawal from friends and activities.
• Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping.
• Detachment from reality (delusions), paranoia or hallucinations.
• Inability to cope with daily problems or stress.
• Trouble understanding and relating to situations and to people.
• Alcohol or drug abuse.
• Major changes in eating habits.
• Sex drive changes.
• Excessive anger, hostility or violence.
• Suicidal thinking.

Sometimes symptoms of a mental health disorder appear as chronic physical problems, such as stomach pain, back pain, headache or other unexplained aches and pains.

When any of these symptoms are combined with challenging environmental stressors (personal losses, bullying, etc.) and/or actions towards self-harm, or hearing voices, this should not be ignored or brushed aside in the hopes that it will just go away.

Like other diseases, we need to address these symptoms early, identify the underlying cause, and plan an appropriate course of action towards overall health.

Mental health conditions should be addressed long before they reach the most critical points in the disease process. Many people do not seek treatment in the early stages because either they don’t recognize their symptoms or they minimize their impact.

Our mental health is not separate from us.

Please join me as part of May’s Mental Health Awareness Month in reducing our isolation and moving towards a better understanding of our needs.

We have an opportunity to get assistance for our loved ones and ourselves through counseling. Marin County is fortunate to have a network of mental health resources.

Debra Collins, LMFT Consultant, Trainer, Writer, Therapist and Coach Debra Collins is a licensed therapist who provides solid support and guidance in expanding her clients understanding of their strengths and their motivation to change. Through the use of Motivational Interviewing, Debra partners with her clients to explore their ambivalence and build their confidence to create change in their lives. Debra adopts a strength based client centered approach whether she is working with individuals, offering consultation to organizations, or providing training to institutions and businesses.

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