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Ready to schedule your annual mental health checkup?

Although we take annual physical exams for granted in our lives, imagine scheduling a similar exam for your mental health.

Or, think about what it would be like to have someone to turn to at the onset of symptoms like fatigue, anxiety, obsessive thinking, or depression -- someone who would work with you to treat and reverse those symptoms in its earliest stage.

An interesting campaign by Mental Health America is working to make this point and spread the idea that mental health treatment deserves the same preventative strategies that we apply to cancer care.

The mental health organization is advocating for treatment that is #B4Stage4, referring to the stage descriptions associated with cancer diagnoses where stage 4 represents the most advanced disease.

The campaign is meant to encourage the same kind of preventive focus for mental health that we give to our physical health.

By intervening earlier -- the average mental health diagnosis comes 10 or more years after the onset of symptoms -- we can more easily offer effective care, prevent years of suffering, reverse or end symptoms, and lower costs.

"Even when we don’t intervene right away, and serious mental illnesses get worse and disrupt people’s lives, we can act effectively,” the MHA organization says on its website. “We can offer people choices and supports to help them recover. These include clinical services, drugs, peer supports, counseling, family supports, and other therapies that also help them manage their thoughts and emotions.”

It’s a fascinating approach to an idea that is gaining traction, especially now when so many more of us are experiencing symptoms of anxiety and stress due to the impact and disruption from the pandemic.

One of the best ways to proceed, I believe, is for each of us to begin to value our own mental health as much as we do our physical health. MHA seems to agree. In a list of five ways for people to get involved with the campaign, the first step is to take a mental health assessment using the screening tools available on the MHA website.

Want to learn more? MHA also offers ways for people to help raise awareness about the need for #B4Stage4 mental health treatment. See their full list here.

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