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How much anxiety is too much anxiety? The answer to that question can vary depending on your circumstances.
Dealing with the stresses of both the outside world and inevitable challenges in our personal lives can take a mental and emotional toll on our mental health—and it's often more severe than we realize. But there is a simple way to gauge your emotional health: by taking a mental health assessment.
What is a mental health assessment?
A mental health assessment is a multi-faceted survey of your emotional and intellectual well-being. Much as a mechanic checks your car to make sure your tires aren’t worn out or that your engine has all the fluids it needs to continue running smoothly, a mental health assessment is a proactive way to gauge your current psychological state.
Much as we maintain our vehicles by taking them in for regular check-ups, we can also maintain our mental wellness by occasionally completing a mental health assessment. These surveys help you spot potential problem areas or even issues you may not be aware of, helping you to correct them while they are still minor.
The benefits of mental health assessments
Almost every person will at some point in their lives experience sadness, a lack of motivation, or other shifts in mood that prevent them from “feeling like themselves.” These are normal parts of life.
However, in some cases these moods can linger far longer than is healthy. Like an engine gradually running out of motor oil, there is a point where a lingering feeling of sadness or anxiety can damage the proper functioning of your life.
Taking an assessment helps highlight the areas to which we need to pay attention. Even if we’ve experienced a lifetime of excellent mental health, life will often challenge us in unexpected ways. Grief, sudden economic changes, and extended periods of heavy stress can incur damage that we don’t appreciate until it becomes a much larger problem.
Also, some mental health issues do not develop until later in life. Many people hesitate to ask for an assessment either because of lingering stigma around mental health or because they feel they should be able to handle their stress without asking for help.
In truth, asking for help is the adult way to handle a problem. Even better, by taking an assessment, we can prevent our issues from becoming problems.
Types of mental health assessments
There are four basic types of mental health assessments: a clinical interview form, a physical exam, lab tests, and written or verbal tests.
The clinical interview is perhaps the most popular form, especially for people who have never taken an assessment before. The interview usually consists of a physician or therapist asking a patient about their overall mood and reactions to basic life events over a period of time. The interview can also include questions about a person’s background, including their experiences during childhood, to establish basic behavioral patterns.
However, physicians will usually focus their efforts on examining the period of months that preceded the patient’s interview. By carefully noting changes in the patient’s stimuli responses and behaviors during this time, the physicians can help spot potentially problematic mood swings or anxiety disorders. While it’s normal to have a range of emotions, persistent and crippling feelings of anxiety, dread, or fear over a period of months could indicate a mood disorder.
The physical exam is an assessment used to help distinguish between a problem caused by an issue originating in your psychology versus one that is primarily centered in your body. Sometimes, the cause of a symptom is not clear until this physical exam is performed. In most cases, the physician will also take a brief family medical history and ask about what medications, if any, you are currently taking.
Depending on the results of the physical exam, lab tests may be necessary to clarify what is causing the symptoms. This third type of assessment usually involves taking blood or urine samples from the patient. In some cases, the use of medical imaging or monitoring equipment, such as EEG, CT, or MRI scans, may be used. Again, this assessment is used primarily to help doctors narrow their focus and recommend courses of treatment.
The fourth type of assessment takes the form of verbal or written tests. These tests can be administered as multiple-choice surveys, taken online or via a phone app, in which you are encouraged to rate your emotional responses to certain situations or stimuli. Other tests focus on evoking responses based on imagery, which can take the form of drawings, photographs, or a sequence of moving images.
How to take a mental health assessment
The easiest way to take a mental health assessment is through an online form or phone app. Although these quick assessments are not a substitute for a meeting with a medical professional, digital surveys can provide a quick gauge of where you are in the comfort of your own home and help guide you to the level of care you need.
Spring Health’s digital platform, for example, prompts members who log on to start by taking a 3-5 minute, clinically-validated mental health assessment that screens for a variety of different mental health concerns and illnesses, then matches each member with a Care Navigator—a licensed clinician who guides the member to the care they need, whether that is app-based mindfulness exercises, a program of psychotherapy and medication management, or inpatient treatment.
For additional support and diagnoses of mental conditions or illnesses, you may want to get a more comprehensive mental health assessment from a therapist or physician This would include not only a multiple-choice assessment of the sort you receive through a digital platform, but also a clinical interview and, if necessary, a physical exam with lab tests to determine if there could be physical causes for your mental concerns.
If you are an HR professional, it’s a good idea to be versed in how to connect employees with the mental health care they need through your organization’s health care provider. While specific treatments will vary depending on what the employee is experiencing, having a comprehensive health plan—including a mental health benefit—in place will help ensure each of your team members can get the support they need.
How to find the right mental health partner
Whether your organization has ten employees or several thousand working across multiple continents, Spring Health offers a tailored, data-driven approach to mental health treatment. Our benefit begins with a comprehensive, guided mental health assessment and regular check-ins to help keep your employees healthy, motivated, and productive.