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  • Writer's pictureSarah Santiago

Mental Health 101: Answers To Commonly Asked Mental Health Questions

May is mental health awareness month, a topic that I am deeply passionate about as a Licensed Professional Counselor. Working as a therapist means that I usually get asked mental health questions whenever someone learns that I'm a therapist. I am always happy to discuss mental health and enjoy answering mental health related questions, so today I'm going to answer some of the most common questions that I am asked:

Q: What is mental health? What do we mean when we say “mental health”?

A: Our mental health consists of our emotional, psychological, and social-wellbeing. Sometimes people are surprised when I mention that social wellbeing is part of mental health. Humans are social creatures and even the most introverted of us still need some level of social connection. Our mental health can affect how we think, feel, and behave and is just as important as our physical health to our overall wellbeing and quality of life.

Q: What are signs that someone could benefit from mental health support?

A: There are many signs and symptoms that I could list, however my simple answer is always that if you find yourself wondering if therapy may be helpful for you- that's a good sign that you have some stuff that therapy can help you with. I'm a firm believer in therapy being preventative; you don’t have to be in crisis to seek therapy. It's common for people to seek therapy during times of life transitions (break ups, the death of a loved one, moving away to college, becoming a parent, change in seasons, etc.). Therapy is a helpful tool that can be beneficial while adjusting to change. Therapy is also intended to help you explore and adopt new skills such as anxiety skills, communication skills, mindfulness skills, confidence skills, body neutrality skills, boundary setting skills, conflict resolution skills, self-care skills, etc. Certainly, if you're in a crisis or dealing with a mental health disorder therapy is an excellent resource, but you don't have to be at "rock bottom" to seek therapy. I personally believe that there is no issue too small for therapy.

Q: What is the best way to find a therapist?

A: It’s always a great idea to start with your doctor to rule out medical issues. Your doctor will typically want to know what mental health symptoms you're experiencing and they may want to do some simple tests to rule out any potential medical reasons for your symptoms. Your doctor is likely to be familiar with local therapists and can help give you some referrals who may be a good fit.

For people who wish to use their insurance, they can call the number on their insurance card and ask for a list of in network mental health providers.

People can also use directories such as to explore therapists who are experienced in their specific concerns.

In my opinion, fit is one of the most important aspects of a successful therapy experience. Ask yourself what you're looking for in a therapist; are there certain identities you want your therapist to have? What personality or approach do you want your therapist to possess? Make sure you know your goals for therapy and try to find a therapist experienced in helping people like you with similar goals. Read their websites and online information to feel them out and see who stands out to you.

Q: How can I help someone else who is struggling with their mental health?

A: The answer to this question is simple: listen. Many of us struggle with seeing people we care about in pain and so most of us listen with the intent to respond- we're not fully listening and instead are scanning our minds for solutions we can offer in an effort to help. While well intended, this can leave our loved ones feeling unheard, misunderstood, and alone in their feelings. Listening without trying to fix or respond can be deeply supportive. It's okay to not know what to say and to sit in silence; your presence alone can feel helpful to someone struggling with their mental health. If you feel pressured to say something it's okay to keep it simple and say "I'm so happy you shared that with me, can you tell me more" or even "I don't even know what to say right now but I am here with you and want to know more about what you're going through".

If you truly feel like this person may want your help in exploring ways to fix what they are going through, it's always a great idea to ask them before offering your ideas. A great way to do this is by simply saying "I care about you and am wondering if it's more helpful for you if I just listen right now, or if you'd like me to help you think through solutions?"

Q: What can someone expect in a first appointment with a therapist?

A: Each therapist is different, but typically they will review informed consent and other practice documents, let you know what to expect from your work together, review your goals for therapy, and give you an opportunity to get to know us and feel out if we're a good fit or not. I often find myself saying that I know that I'm not the right fit therapist for everyone, and no therapist is. I wholeheartedly believe that the perfect fit therapist is out there for every person and that first session is an opportunity for you to feel out if you're with a therapist who could be the right fit for you.

Q: What are some great mental health crisis resources?

A: Text or call 988 – National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, or for those living in the Upper Peninsula, visit

Q: Are there any resources for people who want mental health support but are struggling with the cost?

A: Explore employee assistant programs (EAP), many employers will offer EAP benefits for their employee's, employee spouses and/or dependents. EAP's (like Northstar) provide their members with access to mental health information, resources, and even low fee or no fee therapy services.

Another great resource is which connect people to low and reduced fee therapists.

College students should consider their campus counseling center where students can often access free or reduced fee counseling services.

Many therapists offer a few reduced fee, or pro-bono (free) spots on their caseload and you can always ask a therapist if they have any of these spots available.

Q: What would you say to someone who tried therapy once and didn’t like it?

A: I know it can feel really hard to give therapy another try after a poor experience. Remember that fit is essential to making therapy work, and there are many different therapists out there with different personalities, approaches, styles, techniques, etc. The right therapist is out there for you and when you're ready I encourage you to give it another try. The journey to finding a therapist can be overwhelming, but once you find your perfect match it will be totally worth it!

Note: This blog post is not intended to replace professional advice. If you are experiencing severe anxiety or mental health issues, it is recommended to consult with a licensed mental health professional. If you are in a crisis, please seek help immediately.

About the author: Sarah Santiago is a licensed professional counselor in Michigan. She provides therapy to Michigan college students and emerging adults (ages 18-29) virtually. Her specialties include helping clients work through anxiety, eating disorders, and improving self-confidence.

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