Understanding the Signs of Depression and When to Seek Medical Attention

If you experience a mental health emergency, it’s critical to seek help right away. While an ER visit might seem daunting, it’s often the best way to keep you safe. An ER visit can connect you with the help and resources you need to overcome and manage these issues.

Mental health issues are very common. In fact, more than 264 million people worldwide suffer from depression. Between 2016 and 2018, there were 43.9 ER visits per 1,000 persons per year with a diagnosis of a mental health disorder.

However, there are effective treatments for moderate and severe depression.

Knowing the Signs of Depression

The first step in receiving effective treatment for a mental health crisis is knowing the signs of depression and the difference between depression and usual mood fluctuations. Mood fluctuations are short-term emotional responses to challenges in your daily life. 

Meanwhile, depression is a serious health condition and long-lasting with mild, moderate, or severe intensity. For the affected person, depression can result in a lack of motivation and loss of productivity at work, school, and in the family.

For tips on how to create a healthy work-life balance at work to improve your mental health, check out our blog, How to Create a Healthy Work-Life Balance.

Recurrent Depressive Disorder vs. Bipolar Affective Disorder

There are two common types of depression, recurrent depressive disorder and bipolar affective disorder. Recurrent depression involves repeated episodes during which the person experiences a loss of interest, depressed mood, and reduced energy for at least two weeks. Many people also suffer from the following symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Changes in Appetite
  • Disturbed Sleep
  • Strong Feelings of Guilt or Low Self-Worth
  • Poor Concentration
  • Unexplained Symptoms

During a severe depressive episode, the person is unlikely to be able to continue with work, social, or domestic activities.

Bipolar affective disorder, on the other hand, typically consists of manic and depressive episodes in between periods of a normal mood. Manic episodes involve an irritable or elevated mood, inflated self-esteem, disturbed sleep, and over-activity.

What to Expect From an ER Visit for a Mental Health Crisis

Emergency rooms are designed to address any kind of emergency, and your health is the medical team’s first priority. When you arrive, the medical team will likely ask you some questions; it’s important to answer as honestly as possible so you can get the proper help you need. 

The emergency room team will perform a detailed assessment and manage both medical and mental health issues. They can then help to set up outpatient therapy, or in more severe cases, arrange transfer to a facility that specializes in mental health emergencies or that is better suited to give you the help you need.

Involve Your Loved Ones for Mental Health and Physical Support

This is a good time to note the National Alliance of Mental Illness’s motto, “You are not alone.” 

In fact, nearly one in five U.S. adults experience mental health issues in their life and almost 50% seek treatment. It’s possible that some of your friends and family may be having a difficult time or experiencing issues with mental health as well. Confiding in and leaning on your loved ones for help is a critical step in getting treatment.

If possible, try to bring a trusted loved one with you to your ER visit. Having a trusted person with you can make it easier to get the conversation started when you arrive and are asked questions about why you are there and what your symptoms are. 

It is also a good idea to have an advocate for you who can speak for you or contact other family members and loved ones as necessary as well as to help you make arrangements for issues or tasks at home.

There are several things that your loved ones can do to help you through this time. Some examples include:

  • Bring food to your family
  • Feed and care for pets or plants at your home
  • Visit you
  • Facetime to check-in or just to play virtual games, etc.

For more ideas on how your loved ones can help you, or how you can help others who suffer from a mental health crisis, check out our blog, Mental Health Awareness: How to Take Care of Yourself and Support Others.

Try to Seek Help Before Your Mental Health Becomes a Crisis

While it may be difficult and takes a lot of courage, it’s important to think ahead and try to get help before your mental health reaches a breaking point. Knowing the signs and symptoms and leaning on your loved ones for support are two critical first steps in seeking the appropriate help that you will need.

However, one of the most important things you need to do is to speak with your primary care provider about how you are feeling. If you experience any signs or symptoms or question your mental health stability, your doctor can help you determine next steps — which may include medicinal intervention, referring you to a counselor, and follow-up visits.

By getting this conversation started with your primary care healthcare provider, you can work out steps to take if you feel like your mental health is moving into a state of emergency or to help you reduce its intensity.

How to Get Help in a Mental Health Emergency

If you or someone you know is thinking about hurting oneself or others, experiencing panic attacks, or considering drastic actions, dial 911.
You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 for 24/7 support.

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