Mental Health Basics for Children, Adults, Veterans, and Seniors

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Mental Health

In the past half-century, mental health has become a hotbed for scientific research and practice. Myths have been debunked, stigmas diminished, and knowledge continues to pour forth at an astonishing rate. Consider the Internet a mental health fitness center and this guide as your personal trainer. We'll explore a range of subjects including mental illness, finding treatment, support networks, and a whole lot more.

Mental Health Basics for Children, Adults, Veterans, and Seniors

If you have some basic questions about mental health but don't know where to start, the Internet can provide a comprehensive introduction. Whether you're a mental health patient, family member, friend, or healthcare provider, the following sites have got you covered. You'll find definitions of terms, treatment information, support services, quizzes for self-diagnosis, and links for further research.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • When dealing with such an important issue as your mental health, you'll want to make sure that the information you receive is accurate, unbiased, and up to date. If you want to search for Web sites beyond those mentioned in this guide, take a look at the findingDulcinea Health Web Guide for help evaluating the credibility of health sites.
  • Although the Internet is an excellent source for information, it's never a substitute for a doctor's care. If you suspect you may have a mental illness, you can find help in the "Locating a Mental Health Counselor or Treatment Facility" section of this guide.
  • Mental illness can strike anybody but, for many reasons, it is more prevalent in certain demographics, such as war veterans. For example, this article from the Guardian reports on the psychological impact of the war in Iraq on military service personnel.

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Mental Illnesses and Mental Health Disorders

Scientific knowledge of the causes, composition, and treatments of mental illness has grown in leaps and bounds. If you or a loved one has been touched by a mental illness, take comfort in knowing that there are myriad resources available to you on the Web. Below you'll find overviews of the causes, types, and treatments of several disorders.

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  • Many illnesses are believed to be biologically based; if you're trying to understand mental illness, consider first learning about how the brain works. One of the chapters in the NIH's teacher's guide to mental illness covers the basics on brain function and anatomy.
  • Anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder are three of the most prevalent mental health conditions affecting Americans. Though you'll be able to find answers to most of your questions in the overview sites below, we have also included resources specifically covering each of these three disorders.

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Treatment Options for Mental Illnesses

A variety of mental illness treatments are available, and the appropriate therapy is based on the condition's severity, duration, origin, and the person's individual characteristics. Use the Web sites in this section to research types of medications and risks, learn what you ought to know before starting therapy, distinguish among the psychotherapy orientations and providers and determine if hospitalization is a viable option.

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  • Hospitalization is a treatment measure usually reserved for individuals with brief and severe bouts of psychiatric illness or for those with chronic and severe mental illnesses. Below you'll find information on hospital rankings and how to decide if hospitalization is right for you or a loved one.
  • If you are looking for help locating a doctor, therapist, or hospital, skip forward to the "Locating a Mental Health Counselor or Treatment Facility" section of this guide.

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Locating a Mental Health Counselor or Treatment Facility

The process of finding treatment shouldn't be complicated or stressful. However, because there are so many different kinds of providers with such varied credentials and specialties, the task might feel daunting. Fortunately, the Web is host to countless sites that will help you connect with a counselor or treatment facility that fits your needs.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • More important than simply getting help is getting the right kind of help. This includes finding a provider that is nearby, affordable, and has the specialties to meet your needs. This article by the Mayo Clinic offers advice on what issues to consider when choosing a mental health provider.
  • Your general practitioner may be able to recommend a therapist or treatment facility in your area that is suited to your needs.
  • For many, high costs can be a major deterrent to seeking treatment-it is seldom free and insurance plans often limit which providers and what forms of treatment they will cover. Therefore, if insurance coverage is possible, you might consider first searching for a treatment provider on your insurance company's Web site. Check out this guide by SAMHSA to learn more about getting coverage through your insurance plan.

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Advice and Support for Mental Illnesses

Sometimes the most effective support comes from others who understand exactly what you're going through. The Internet makes sharing your story and learning the stories of others enjoyable and uncomplicated. Use this section to learn about the various online social networks available. On the following sites you'll find disorder-specific discussion boards, chat rooms, online support groups, diaries and journals, and community outreach materials.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • Online social outlets such as discussion threads, public journals/diaries, and chat rooms can be both informative and therapeutic. Many of the following sites provide these resources for people with mental illnesses and for friends and family. A caveat: many forums go unregulated, and not everyone posting is sincere or good-intentioned.
  • A good many of the following sites offer free newsletters containing articles, tidbits, and recommendations on all things mental health-if you are impressed by the site, consider subscribing.
  • Remember that anyone can read the things you post on the Internet. Be sure to leave out any personal information that you don't want becoming public knowledge.

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Mental Health Research

\Around the world at hospitals, universities, and institutes, researchers are making profound discoveries and continually adding to the catalog of human knowledge in mental health. Fortunately, much of this research is available to us online. Whether you are a student, researcher, consumer, or otherwise curious creature, take a look at some of the following mental health research resources.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • Finding full-text journal articles online that are both reputable and free can be tricky. Most journals require paid subscriptions to access articles online, but some make older articles available free of charge. And even some of the most restrictive sites let you read abstracts for free, which are no substitute for a full article but can provide useful summaries of research.
  • Because most journals are scholarly, articles can be technical and dense. Check out abstracts and samples to determine if a journal's level of "readability" is right for you.

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Alternative and Drug-Free Approaches to Mental Healthcare

A growing body of scientific evidence suggests alternative or complementary health care can significantly help people with mental illnesses. In this section learn some of the best Web sites to find information on exercise, expressive therapy, yoga, and meditation. While most of these sites admit that these activities won't always prevent mental illness, many can help boost mental health or complement existing treatment regiments.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • Approaches to mental healthcare such as exercise, yoga, and meditation are not only beneficial to people with mental illness. Such activities have been shown to decrease stress, increase energy levels, and improve mood in those who are otherwise mentally healthy.
  • Be sure to discuss any alternative methods you're using with your healthcare professional.

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