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A mental health screening is an examination of your emotional health and helps assess if there is presence of a mental disorder. 

Some of the most common disorders include:

  • Depression and Mood Disorders - These mental disorders are more severe than normal sadness or grief and can cause extreme sadness, anger, and/or frustration.
  • Anxiety Disorders -  Anxiety can cause excessive worry or fear at real or imagined situations.
  • Eating Disorders - These disorders cause obsessive thoughts and behaviours related to food and body image. Eating disorders may cause people to severely limit the amount of food they eat, excessively overeat (binge), or do a combination of both.
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) - ADHD is one of the most common mental disorders in children and can also continue into adulthood. People with ADHD have trouble paying attention and controlling impulsive behaviour.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) - This disorder can happen after you live through a traumatic life event, such as a war or serious accident. People with PTSD feel stressed and afraid, even long after the danger is over.
  • Substance Abuse and Addictive Disorders - These disorders involve excessive use of alcohol or drugs. People with substance abuse disorders are at risk for overdose and death.
  • Bipolar Disorder, formerly called manic depression - People with bipolar disorder have alternating episodes of mania (extreme highs) and depression.
  • Schizophrenia and Psychotic Disorders - These are among the most serious psychiatric disorders. They can cause people to see, hear, and/or believe things that aren't real.

The effects of mental disorders range from mild to severe to life-threatening. Fortunately, many people with mental disorders can be successfully treated with medicine and/or talk therapy.

There are many types of providers who treat mental disorders. The most common types of mental health providers include:

  • Psychiatrist - A medical doctor who specializes in mental health. Psychiatrists diagnose and treat mental health disorders and can also prescribe medicine.
  • Psychologist - A professional trained in psychology. Psychologists generally have doctoral degrees. But they do not have medical degrees. Psychologists diagnose and treat mental health disorders. They offer one-on-one counseling and/or group therapy sessions. They can't prescribe medicine, unless they have a special license. Some psychologists work with providers who are able to prescribe medicine.
  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker (L.C.S.W) - They have a master's degree in social work with training in mental health. Some have additional degrees and training. L.C.S.W.s diagnose and provide counseling for a variety of mental health problems. They can't prescribe medicine, but can work with providers who are able to.
  • Licensed Professional Counselor (L.P.C.) - Most L.P.C.s have a master's degree. But training requirements vary by state. L.P.C.s diagnose and provide counseling for a variety of mental health problems. They can't prescribe medicine, but can work with providers who are able to.

What happens during a mental health screening? 

Your primary care provider may give you a physical exam and ask you about your feelings, mood, behaviour patterns, and other symptoms. Your provider may also order a blood test to find out if a physical disorder, such as thyroid disease, may be causing mental health symptoms.

During a blood test, a health care professional will take a blood sample from a vein in your arm, using a small needle. After the needle is inserted, a small amount of blood will be collected into a test tube or vial. You may feel a little sting when the needle goes in or out. This usually takes less than five minutes.

If you are being tested by a mental health provider, he or she may ask you more detailed questions about your feelings and behaviours. You may also be asked to fill out a questionnaire about these issues.

Why do I need a mental health screening? 

You may need a mental health screening if you have symptoms of a mental disorder. Symptoms vary depending on the type of disorder, but common signs may include:

  • Excessive worrying or fear
  • Extreme sadness
  • Major changes in personality, eating habits, and/or sleeping patterns
  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Anger, frustration, or irritability
  • Fatigue and lack of energy
  • Confused thinking and trouble concentrating
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Avoidance of social activities

One of the most serious signs of a mental disorder is thinking about or attempting suicide.  If you are thinking about hurting yourself or about suicide, seek help right away.


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