Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Mental Health Specialists and Support Workers

When someone suffers from a mental health problem whether it is depression or a more serious disorder such as schizophrenia, they are likely to come into contact with a number of professionals and support workers in the course of their treatment and recovery, so who are they?

For most people the first point of contact is usually their doctor who will be able to assess their symptoms, rule out anything else that may be causing them, and prescribe medication or refer you for some form of counselling or psychotherapy.

If the symptoms are severe or complex, or there are other problems, then your doctor may refer you to a psychiatrist for a more detailed assessment. A psychiatrist is a doctor who has undertaken further specialist study and therefore has in-depth knowledge of the brain and mental illness and will be in a better position to make an accurate diagnosis and to decide on the most appropriate treatment and medication.

However if your symptoms are more psychological or emotional in nature then you may be put in touch with a psychologist. Clinical Psychologists have studied the mind and how it can influence behaviour and are trained in various psychotherapy treatments. Psychologists will often specialise in a particular area of mental health and as such will be in the best position to advise you on what might be the most beneficial way forward for you. They cannot, however, prescribe drugs like a doctor or psychiatrist can.

People suffering with mental health problems will often come into contact with Community Psychiatric Nurses. CPNs work in the community and will therefore make home visits as well as see you in a clinic. They may specialise in a particular area of mental health and will play an important supportive role in helping people cope with their mental health problems by liaising with other specialists, by providing an understanding ear to talk to and by looking at ways of allaying any fears or worries you may have. They will also be able to offer advice on the side effects of any medication you are taking.

Occupational Therapists or OT's as they are often called, can help you find ways of overcoming practical problems and in doing so can help increase your confidence and your ability to cope on a day to day basis. Social workers on the other hand can help you with social issues. For example, they may assist you with your application for housing or state benefits, will help you sort out financial problems, childcare issues, or other challenges in your life that if are not dealt with may have a negative impact on your mental health.

Other professionals you may see include psychotherapists and counsellors. Psychotherapists specialise in the type of therapy they offer and counsellors listen and talk through problems with patients to help them find ways of overcoming them.

Although a visit to the doctor is the only action required for many people suffering with depression and anxiety or other mental health problems, being referred to someone else by your doctor doesn't necessarily mean you are more seriously ill. It's just that the most important thing for a speedy recovery is access to the right sort of treatment and help from the most appropriate person.