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Are you ready to talk about it?

Talking about how we feel is powerful, and it’s also part of normalizing and improving mental health. Whether you’re looking for support for yourself, or helping a family or friend find support, you’re not alone. The sooner we begin to understand what we feel and why we’re feeling it, the sooner we can start to feel better.

Checking in on mental health: How to talk about it

The following talking points can help you start a conversation with someone that may need some help or a listening ear. It’s also a great resource if you want to talk with someone but aren’t sure where to begin..

Taking the first steps: Building mental strength

Depression, stress and anxiety are normal and necessary responses when faced with difficulties. When times are tough, how we cope and bounce back is how we grow and thrive. It’s called resilience, and it’s something that we can learn and develop.

More stories and tips for adults

There are lots of ways to build resilience: by working on our mindset; helping others; practicing mindfulness; finding purpose; having and obtaining goals; and even through prioritizing play and having fun. One of the best ways to manage anxiety and stress is to focus on what’s within your control. You can’t always control what happens to you, but you can control how you react.

Lifestyle tips for teens and youth

School. Friends. Relationships. Growing up. When you’re making sense of the world, it can be hard to know what is (and isn’t) normal. And, it’s ok to not feel ok. When times feel tough, reaching out for help isn’t weird — it’s a sign of strength. Building strong, healthy habits can help now (and in the long run) and can give you something you can control when things are changing all the time.

More stories and tips for teens and youth

Lifestyle tips for LGBTQIA+

LGBTQIA+ youth and adults are at greater risk for depression, stress and anxiety due to stigma, discrimination, and barriers to physical and mental health care. It’s important to seek out safe environments that are emotionally, physically and socially supportive.

More stories and tips for LGBTQIA+

Other resources

Online support
Helpful apps

Understanding mental health conditions

Depression
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What it is

Depression is a disorder that affects the whole body, including our emotions, the way we think and the way we feel physically. Depression can occur alone or with other health problems and/or mental disorders such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, hormonal dysregulation, substance abuse or anxiety disorders.

Signs and symptoms

Depression may show up in a number of different ways, both emotionally and physically. You might experience some or all of these symptoms: 

  • A persistent feeling of sadness or down/low mood 
  • A deep sense of disinterest, especially a loss of interest in activities, experiences and people you formerly enjoyed 
  • Difficulty eating, sleeping, working and proceeding with your day as you normally would 

You may also experience: 

  • Appetite and/or weight fluctuations 
  • Irritability 
  • Feelings of misplaced or inappropriate guilt 
  • Headaches 
  • Digestive problems 
  • Chronic pain that doesn’t get better with treatment 
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide
What to do

If you think you may be suffering from depression and wish to seek help, start by talking to your primary care provider. Your provider can evaluate your symptoms and condition, connect you with resources as needed and if appropriate, prescribe medication.

Anxiety
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What It Is

The most common anxiety disorder is Generalized Anxiety Disorder. If your anxiety seems more intense than what a situation calls for, or you experience chronic, daily worry that is hard to control, you may have GAD.

Signs and symptoms

GAD can manifest in a variety of ways. You may experience some or all of these signs and symptoms, and more: 

  • Trouble falling and staying asleep and/or extreme fatigue 
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Headaches, stomachaches or muscle aches 
  • Feeling irritable, restless or on-edge 
  • Difficulty controlling feelings of worry
What to do

GAD is just one of several diagnosable anxiety disorders including: panic disorder; obsessive-compulsive disorder; post-traumatic stress disorder; postpartum anxiety and depression; and phobias. If you think you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder and wish to seek help, start by talking to your primary care provider. Your provider can evaluate your symptoms and condition, connect you with resources as needed and prescribe medication if appropriate.

Addiction
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What it is

Addiction, also called “Substance Use Disorder” or “Chemical Dependence,” is a health disorder in which a person is overly reliant on alcohol and/or other drugs, legal and illegal. With constant drug use, the brain changes how it experiences pleasure, which results in a compulsive need for the drug. Addiction is likely caused by a mix of genetics, exposure to trauma, environment and emotional factors.

Signs and symptoms

Some or all of these, and others, may be relevant to your experience: 

  • You are high or drunk regularly, and can only have fun while using substances 
  • You lie, especially about how much you are using or drinking
  • You give up activities you enjoy, and may avoid friends and family
  • You get in trouble with the law, often because you take risks like driving under the influence of a substance
  • Your work performance suffers 
  • You risk your financial security to buy drugs or alcohol
  • You feel depressed, hopeless or have suicidal feelings
  • You experience seizures and hallucinations (delirium tremens) related to withdrawal
What to do

If you are suffering from addiction and feel able to seek help, talk to your primary care provider or find a treatment center. You can take part in inpatient or outpatient treatment programs for substance use disorder. You can also visit the Center for Integrative Medicine for more immediate help. Treatment for alcohol and drug addiction is serious and complex; it is unlikely you’ll be able to stop using safely on your own.

Suicidal thoughts and behavior
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What it is

Suicidal behavior includes having frequent thoughts about and/or planning to end one’s own life. Suicide attempts should be taken very seriously. Nearly half of suicidal attempts do not end in suicide, however those with a history of attempts are 23 times more likely to end their own lives. Over 700,000 people die from suicide every year, and suicide is the second leading cause of death in 10- to 29-year-olds. Learn more about how Spectrum Health is training school staff and administration on how to help with suicide prevention.

Signs and symptoms

There are various warning signs of suicide that may include: 

Talking about

  • Wanting to die 
  • Great guilt or shame 
  • Being a burden to others 

Feeling

  • Empty, hopeless, trapped or having no reason to live 
  • Extremely sad, more anxious, agitated or full of rage 
  • Unbearable emotional or physical pain 

Changing behavior, such as

  • Planning or researching ways to die 
  • Withdrawing from friends, saying good bye, giving away important items or making a will 
  • Taking dangerous risks such as driving extremely fast 
  • Displaying extreme mood swings 
  • Eating or sleeping more or less 
  • Using drugs or alcohol more often
What to do

People who receive ongoing support from friends and family, and/or those who have access to trusted mental health services like a long-term therapist are less likely to act on their suicidal impulses. Those who are socially isolated are more likely to act. 

If someone you know is exhibiting warning signs and seems suicidal, here’s how you can help. 

Do

  • Be direct, and talk openly and matter-of-fact about suicide. 
  • Be willing to listen and reserve judgement. 
  • Allow expressions of feelings, and accept those feelings. 
  • Be available by showing interest and offering support. 
  • Take action and remove means, like weapons or pills. 

Don’t

  • Act shocked or dare the person to do it. 
  • Debate whether suicide is right or wrong, whether feelings are good or bad, or lecture on the value of life. 
  • Be sworn to secrecy. Seek help from people or agencies specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention. 
    • Text with a trained counselor at the Crisis Text Line. Text  "TALK" to 741741. Help is available free of charge, 24 hours a day, seven days a week 
    • Call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1.800.273.TALK 
    • Visit Lifeline Chat
    • Call 911 for emergencies