First Step to Better Mental Health is Asking For Help

WHEELING – For women, the first step toward better mental health is understanding what disorders can impact them and how it also can impact their families and lives outside of the home, a local doctor said.

Dr. Imad Melhem, a St. Clairsville-based psychiatrist, said the most common mental health issues for women include depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and panic disorders.

In his own practice, Melhem said he often makes women aware that their mental health can also affect their familys well being.

“Women are caregivers, more than men, of children and their parents,” he said. “Their mental health problems are likely to affect other people, especially children.”

And since most American women work outside the home, mental health issues can impact their employment if they miss work due to issues not resolved, he added.

“The most important piece is that they are aware of the problem and get help to cope with it,” Melhem said.

Women also need to understand that it is OK to be vulnerable and seek help for their mental health issues as issues not acknowledged can often manifest into physical problems. And when seeking help for the first time from a psychiatrist or counselor, one should expect a professional who will listen to them and be understanding, he said.

Mental health issues differ between males and females at an early age, he added. For example, adolescent boys are more likely than girls to exhibit destructive and anti-social behavior, while girls are more likely to develop depression and eating disorders than boys. And though there is some debate, some studies show autism is more prevalent in boys than girls.

Girls tend to have more suicidal thoughts, while boys have a higher risk of actually committing suicide. Boys also tend to engage in risky behavior, such as driving too fast or jumping from high places, compared to girls.

As adults, women have a higher prevalence of mood disorders. And men have higher instances of substance abuse and anti-social behavior. With disorders such as bipolar or schizophrenia, the onset set of symptoms for men tend to occur earlier than women, about 17-18 years old. While it occurs later in women, 24-25 years old.