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What is a mental health intervention?

For Mental Health Awareness Week, we’re shedding some light on mental health interventions and exploring where someone going through a tough time can find support.

Mental health intervention support is given to someone

Around the world, it’s estimated that one in every eight people lives with a mental health disorder, with many of those finding it difficult to talk about their own mental health and seek the support they need. 

The truth is, neglecting mental health can seriously impact a person’s emotions, social connections, and overall psychological wellbeing. It affects how we handle stress, interact with others, and even make important life decisions.

In this article, we’ll explore what a mental health intervention is in depth. We’ll explore a range of techniques you can use to assist someone in coping with their challenges and, when necessary, guide them towards appropriate treatment options.

Mental health conditions: warning signs 

When it comes to mental health, it’s important to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. 

There are various signs and conditions to keep an eye out for, and being able to recognise them early on can make a big difference in offering the right support and guidance before things escalate. Let’s take a look at some common warning signs:

  • High levels of anxiety
  • Persistent low mood
  • Problems with sleep
  • Dramatic weight loss or gain
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Substance abuse
  • Extreme mood changes
  • Excessive fear and feelings of guilt.

What all of these warning signs have in common is their ability to severely disrupt daily life and have a huge impact on someone’s overall wellbeing. 

If you start noticing these signs in someone you care about or even in yourself, it might be a sign that a mental health intervention is necessary. 

If you’re interested in learning more about how to spot behavioural changes in both yourself and others, the Behaviour Change Interventions: Introductory Principles and Practice course by UCL is an excellent resource.  

Alternatively, the Understanding Depression and Low Mood in Young People course by the University of Reading may also be of interest to those who want to learn how mental health impacts young people in particular. 

What exactly is a mental health intervention?

Put simply, a mental health intervention is when you encourage someone to get additional support before their mental health worsens and symptoms deteriorate. This allows them to get the appropriate treatment, so they can start to feel better and lead a happier life.

Mental health can be difficult to self-diagnose and a lot of people struggle to openly discuss how they’re feeling. This means that a mental health intervention may be necessary to motivate them to seek treatment and recognise that they need help before a situation reaches crisis mode.

Types of mental health interventions 

As mental health is an incredibly complex area, there are multiple ways of conducting an intervention and supporting an individual. Let’s take a look at the different types of mental health interventions, so you can help someone take the next step on their road to recovery.

Crisis interventions

Hopefully, you’re able to intervene before a situation is critical, but in some cases, this may not be the case. If someone’s mental health puts them or others in immediate danger, then a crisis intervention is required as quickly as possible. For example, if someone is experiencing deep depression or having suicidal thoughts.

The individual’s safety should be your primary concern and guide you when deciding the appropriate action to take. Whether they’re suffering from depression, extreme anxiety, or excessive substance abuse, if you recognise that they pose a danger to their own life or those around them, you need to act immediately. 

The best way of acting initially is for you to intervene in order to prevent them from causing any damage in the short term. This can be done by taking them to one side and having a conversation about their behaviour. Alternatively, you could seek the help of a professional if you feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of doing this yourself.

Crisis intervention should allow you to stabilise the situation and ensure everyone concerned is safe.

Psychological interventions

This type of intervention relies on professionals using evidence-based techniques to help people deal with their mental health issues. While this can be used to achieve short-term success, it’s most effective when used for long-term recovery. 

There are several different forms of psychological interventions, so being able to tailor the right technique to the individual is essential. As it’s a long-term process, it’s also vitally important that the individual is on board with the treatment and willing to engage fully with the mental health professional in order to get the most out of the experience. 

Some psychological interventions may include:

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). The individual and a therapist set goals and strategies using the interaction of thought, feeling, and behaviour.
  • Dialectic Behavioural Therapy (DBT). A therapist comes up with a set of strategies and targets that focus on talking and communication. It’s based on CBT, but specially designed for people who feel emotions intensely.
  • Medical therapy. Medication is prescribed alongside other interventions to aid someone’s recovery.
  • Trauma therapy. A therapist helps someone deal with the emotional response caused by a traumatic event. This is also a form of CBT.

The onus may be on you to initially intervene and get someone to agree to therapy. Start by sitting the individual down and calmly explaining why you think therapy would be a good idea for them and discuss the possible options. 

If you want to learn more about psychological interventions, try our Psychological First Aid: Supporting Children and Young People course by The UK Health Security Agency.

Counselling interventions

The final type of mental health intervention involves getting support from a mental health professional or a loved one in the form of counselling. 

Counselling differs from therapy in the sense that it’s typically short-term, focusing on implementing immediate solutions to a current problem. 

Whether the counselling is one-to-one, in a group setting, or done as a family unit will depend on the mental health issue and other such circumstances. 

Counselling is always carried out in a safe environment, where open and honest conversations are encouraged regularly over a long period of time. This is often the preferred method when a less radical mental health intervention is required and the treatment doesn’t need to be as intense.

Ultimately, counselling interventions help someone to recognise their triggers and develop coping mechanisms to manage their mental health better moving forward.

5 long-term benefits of mental health interventions

Early mental health intervention using one of the methods listed above can lead to several long-term benefits. 

  1. Less intense treatment. The earlier you intervene, the less likely it is that someone will need intense treatment for long periods of time. Treatments such as medication may not be needed if you recognise symptoms early on.
  2. Greater life stability. Whether it’s in relationships, friendships or work, our mental health impacts all areas of life. Early intervention ensures these areas aren’t severely affected and targets the source of the problem before it deteriorates.
  3. A reduction in severe symptoms. Severe mental health issues can lead to long-term side effects that are incredibly hard to recover from. Getting the right support as soon as possible limits the likelihood of symptoms worsening. 
  4. Better self-esteem. Overcoming mental health issues can be challenging, so when someone is able to recover it can be incredibly rewarding and improve their overall confidence.
  5. Improved chance of recovery. Early mental health intervention means that you’re giving someone the best chance of making a full recovery. This should help them avoid relapsing in the future and be able to recognise when symptoms flare up again.

How to plan a mental health intervention

Planning and carrying out a mental health intervention is a sensitive situation that should be approached with the right care and knowledge.

It’s important you get the individual to listen to your concerns and respond in a positive manner to the proposed next steps. Here are five of our top tips to ensure you carry out a mental health intervention in the best way possible:

  1. Make sure you prepare. Think about what you’re going to say and how you’re going to approach the intervention before you begin. You could seek impartial advice to get some additional thoughts on the best method. It’s also worth considering location, time of day, tone of voice, and who needs to be present. The more prepared you are, the greater the chance of success.
  2. Be positive and supportive. It’s an incredibly stressful time for the individual who requires a mental health intervention, so make sure you’re supportive and help them to understand that your heart is in the right place and you care.
  3. Remain calm. Emotions can run high, so make sure you always remain calm and don’t get angry or frustrated. Someone is more likely to respond positively if you approach the situation calmly.
  4. Clearly set out the next steps. A clearly defined plan can help someone not feel trapped and picture the end goal. The individual is more likely to agree to additional support if they know what the next steps look like – whether that involves therapy, counselling, or another approach. Why not create a flow chart that details actions and next steps to help them visualise how to move forward?

Online mental wellbeing courses on FutureLearn

Now that you have a better grasp of what a mental health intervention is, including the different types and the long-term benefits, you might be eager to delve deeper and expand your knowledge on the subject.

By doing so, you can not only make a positive impact on the wellbeing of your loved ones and those closest to you, but also gain valuable insights into the significance of your own mental health. 

To help you on this journey, we have an excellent selection of mental health and mental health intervention courses. These courses are designed to provide you with the necessary understanding and awareness to support yourself and others, not just during Mental Health Awareness Week, but beyond.

Start enhancing your knowledge and making a difference in mental health by exploring our range of courses. Together, let’s empower ourselves and others for a healthier and happier future.

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