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Frequently Asked Questions

What is mental health?

Mental health is not about the absence of mental illness. When we take the time to ask ourselves and others about our mental states, we can potentially make some crucial steps toward wellbeing.

How do I know if I should see a mental health provider?

Ask yourself these questions which may help prompt the need to receive mental health services:

  1. Have my sleeping habits changed? Do I wake up and fall asleep at regular times? When I sleep, how would I describe the quality of my rest?
  2. How has my appetite increased or decreased recently?
  3. Am I having trouble focusing at work or school? Can I concentrate on the things I want to do? Do I find pleasure in things that usually make me happy?
  4. Am I socializing with my friends as much as I usually do? How about spending time with my family? Am I withdrawing or pulling away from those around me who matter?
  5. Do I feel like I’m maintaining a healthy balance between leisure, myself, my career, physical activity, and those I care about? How about other things that matter to me?
  6. How relaxed do I feel most of the time, out of 10? Is this the same, more, or less than usual?
  7. How do I feel most of the time? Happy? Anxious? Satisfied? Sad?
  8. What are my energy levels like when I finish my day? Are there any significant changes in my tiredness?
  9. Am I having any extreme emotions or mood swings? Any suicidal thoughts, breakdowns, or panic attacks?

Will I require to take medications for the rest of my life for a mental health condition?

It depends on the patients circumstance. Some patients require life long therapy and some may require short, intermittent treatment.

What is a mental illness?

Mental illness refers to a wide range of mental health conditions or disorders that affect a person’s mood, thinking and behavior.

What causes mental illness?

It is becoming clear through research that many of these conditions are caused by a combination of biological, psychological, and environmental factors.

What Biological Factors Are Involved in Mental Illness?

    Some biological factors that may be involved in the development of mental illness include:

  • Neurochemical Causes: Some mental illnesses have been linked to an abnormal balance of special chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters help nerve cells in the brain communicate with each other. If these chemicals are out of balance or are not working properly, messages may not make it through the brain correctly, leading to symptoms of mental illness. In addition, defects in or injury to certain areas of the brain have also been linked to some mental conditions.

  • Genetics (heredity): Many mental illnesses run in families, suggesting that people who have a family member with a mental illness are more susceptible (have a greater likelihood of being affected) to developing a mental illness.

  • Infections: Certain infections have been linked to brain damage and the development of mental illness or the worsening of its symptoms.

  • Structural Causes: This involves possible problems in the "wiring" of different parts of the brain. This includes possible consequences from brain trauma.

What Psychological Factors Contribute to Mental Illness?

Psychological factors that may contribute to mental illness include specific vulnerabilities such as personality traits, particular extremes in temperament features, specific sensitivities to negative emotions, cognitive susceptibility, dysfunctional attitudes, hopelessness, negative distortions.

What Environmental Factors Contribute to Mental Illness?

Certain triggering factors could be significant stressors precipitating a mental illness such as:
• Losses experiences (physical loss after a trauma, loss of significant others, separation, etc…
• Chronic threats
• Long-term exposure to traumatic conditions
• Harmful family dynamic
• Living in extreme deprivation and poverty
• Alcohol and substance misuse
• Severe neglect
• War, natural disasters, accidents, etc…
• Chronic pain and incapacitating chronic illness
• Social discrimination for example towards minorities

Can mental illness be prevented?

Most mental illnesses are caused by a combination of factors. However, some preventive measures can decrease the likelihood of developing mental illnesses. The concept of attributable risk has gained ground in mental health research and factors that are related to those can be potentially reduced to somehow prevent mental illnesses: prevent neglect and abuse in childhood , prevent substance abuse , prevent exposure to war , increase social support , decrease burden of other health disorders , train in management of stress etc...

Once someone has had a mental illness can they ever get better again?

According to the disorder, treatment can help the client in getting better and in some cases, full recovery can be achieved through adequate treatment.

What are some of the warning signs of mental illness?

Symptoms of mental disorders vary depending on the type and severity of the condition. Some general symptoms that may suggest a mental illness include:

    Problems in concentration
    Long-lasting sadness or irritability
    Recurrent changes in energy
    Extremely high and low moods
    Excessive fear, worry, or anxiety
    Social withdrawal
    Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits
    Strong feelings of anger
    Delusions or hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not really there)
    Increasing inability to cope with daily problems and activities
    Suicidal thoughts
    Many unexplained physical problems
    Confused thinking
    Abuse of drugs and/or alcohol

What should I do if I know someone who appears to have all of the symptoms of a serious mental disorder?

If you know someone who is having symptoms of a mental disorder, do not just think that they will snap out of it. Notify a family member, a mental health professional, a counselor if you think a friend or family member has symptoms of a mental disorder.

What is the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist?

While both psychiatrists and psychologists are mental health professionals, the big difference is that psychiatrists are medical providers while psychologists are not. Because they are licensed providers, psychiatrists can prescribe drugs. Psychologists are not allowed to do that. Psychologists on the other hand, use psychotherapy as a treatment method.

What treatment options are available?

Treatment options include psychotherapy, pharmacotherapy, a combination of both as well as electroconvulsive therapy. Treatments can be administered in inpatient and outpatient settings.

If a medication is prescribed to me and I begin to feel better after taking it, is it okay to stop taking it?

It is common for people to stop taking their medication when they feel their symptoms have become controlled. Others may choose to stop their medication because of side effects. Another problem with stopping medication, especially if you stop it abruptly, is that you may develop withdrawal symptoms that can be very unpleasant. If you doctor feel you need to stop your medication, it is necessary to discuss it with your provider as he might be able to suggest another type of medication or adjust the dose of your medication.

Is psychotherapy a substitute for medication?

Psychotherapy in some cases can be sufficient for the treatment of certain mental conditions. However, it may be needed in conjunction with medication. This is why in several cases, it is not considered as a substitute for medication.

When to Seek Help for Your Child?

Parents are usually the first to recognize that their child has a problem with emotions or behavior. Still, the decision to seek professional help can be difficult and painful for a parent. The first step is to gently try to talk to the child. An honest open talk about feelings can often help. Parents may choose to consult with the child's providers, teachers, members of the clergy, or other adults who know the child well. These steps may resolve the problems for the child and family. Following are a few signs which may indicate that a child and adolescent psychiatric evaluation will be useful.


  • Marked fall in school performance

  • Poor grades in school despite trying very hard

  • Severe worry or anxiety, as shown by regular refusal to go to school, go to sleep or take part in activities that are normal for the child's age

  • Frequent physical complaints

  • Hyperactivity; fidgeting; constant movement beyond regular playing with or without difficulty paying attention

  • Persistent nightmares

  • Persistent disobedience or aggression (longer than 6 months) and provocative opposition to authority figures

  • Frequent, unexplainable temper tantrums

  • Threatens to harm or kill oneself


  • Marked decline in school performance

  • Inability to cope with problems and daily activities

  • Marked changes in sleeping and/or eating habits

  • Extreme difficulties in concentrating that get in the way at school or at home

  • Sexual acting out

  • Depression shown by sustained, prolonged negative mood and attitude, often accompanied by poor appetite, difficulty sleeping or thoughts of death

  • Severe mood swings

  • Strong worries or anxieties that get in the way of daily life, such as at school or socializing

  • Repeated use of alcohol and/or drugs

What is a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist?

The child and adolescent mental health provider is a provider who specializes in the diagnosis and the treatment of disorders of thinking, feeling and/or behavior affecting children, adolescents, and their families. A child and adolescent psychiatrist offers families the advantages of a medical education, the medical traditions of professional ethics, and medical responsibility for providing comprehensive care.

The child and adolescent mental health provider uses a knowledge of biological, psychological, and social factors in working with clients. Initially, a comprehensive diagnostic examination is performed to evaluate the current problem with attention to its physical, genetic, developmental, emotional, cognitive, educational, family, peer, and social components. The child and adolescent mental health provider arrives at a diagnosis and diagnostic formulation which are shared with the client and family. The child and adolescent mental health provider then designs a treatment plan which considers all the components and discusses these recommendations with the child or adolescent and family.

An integrated approach may involve individual, group or family psychotherapy; medication; and/or consultation with other providers or professionals from schools, juvenile courts, social agencies or other community organizations. In addition, the child psychiatrist is prepared and expected to act as an advocate for the best interests of children and adolescents. Child and adolescent mental health provider perform consultations in a variety of settings (schools, juvenile courts, social agencies).

What about Psychiatric Medication for Children and Adolescents?

Medication can be an effective part of the treatment for several psychiatric disorders of childhood and adolescence. A provider's recommendation to use medication often raises many concerns and questions in both the parents and the youngster. The provider who recommends medication should be experienced in treating psychiatric illnesses in children and adolescents. He or she should fully explain the reasons for medication use, what benefits the medication should provide, as well as possible risks and side effects and other treatment alternatives.

What is Psychotherapy for Children and Adolescents?

Psychotherapy refers to a variety of techniques and methods used to help children and adolescents who are experiencing difficulties with their emotions or behavior. Although there are different types of psychotherapy, each relies on communications as the basic tool for bringing about change in a person's feelings and behaviors.

Psychotherapy may involve an individual child, a group of children, a family, or multiple families. In children and adolescents, playing, drawing, building, and pretending, as well as talking, are important ways of sharing feelings and resolving problems.

As part of the initial assessment, a qualified mental health professional or child and adolescent psychiatrist will determine the need for psychotherapy. This decision will be based on such things as the child's current problems, history, level of development, ability to cooperate with treatment, and what interventions are most likely to help with the presenting concerns. Psychotherapy is often used in combination with other treatments (medication, behavior management, or work with the school). The relationship that develops between the therapist and the client is very important. The child or adolescent must feel comfortable, safe and understood. This type of trusting environment makes it much easier for the child to express his/her thoughts and feelings and to use the therapy in a helpful way.

Psychotherapy helps children and adolescents in a variety of ways. They receive emotional support, resolve conflicts with people, understand feelings and problems, and try out new solutions to old problems. Goals for therapy may be specific (change in behavior, improved relations with friends or family), or more general (less anxiety, better self-esteem). The length of psychotherapy depends on the complexity and severity of problems.

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