Behavioral Health - Peeling the Onion

Define Behavioral Health… Please!

BCBSIL looks at behavioral health as a big umbrella. The first way any of us detects a “problem” in ourselves or anyone else is if we or they behave differently than what we each consider “normal.” Each of these words inspires its own debate. One person’s problem is often another person’s normal.

Behaviors are things like:

  • Expression of emotions (good, bad or none at all)
  • Consumption (of food, drugs, media, possessions)
  • Social Interaction (too much or too little, submissive or aggressive)
  • Physical Presentation (personal hygiene, reasonable dress for season and setting)

Experts have often debated the meaning and use of the terms behavioral health and mental health. Search and you will find many points of view. The words themselves bring up images ranging from fanciful nanny tales to chilling news stories. Still neither extreme quite fits. We all live somewhere in between over the course of our lives. It’s called being human.

When to Get Help

Drawing that line in the sand between “going through a rough patch” or “that’s just the way they roll” and “time to get some help” can be very personal. If a person’s behavior could hurt them or anyone else, that line draws itself. Sometimes a person sees the issue in themselves and reaches out. Sometimes it takes family or friends or even acquaintances speaking up. Less obvious lines to draw come down to things like whether a person:

  • Is not happy with who/what/where they are
  • Is not managing life as well as they can or normally have (job, finances, home, family, health)
  • Is keeping themselves or others from functioning as expected
  • Is having an unusual life event, such as a loss of a loved one, or relationship change, and is not “bouncing back” like they would typically

No Coverage but Needs Help? DON’T WAIT.

Know someone who needs help now and doesn’t have coverage yet? Here are a few resources where you may find information and help:

We Must Ask Why

So, now what? When someone draws that line and reaches out for help, what’s next? Well, first we look at possible reasons for the behaviors we are concerned about. There are many possible factors that can drive a person to behave one way or another. Think about it: do any of these things influence how you behave sometimes? I know they can influence me!

What makes a person tick?

  • Physical Health – Think migraine, stomach flu, recent diagnosis or change in ability.
  • Circumstances – Think finances, employment, relationships, any answers to “How’s it going?”
  • Events – Think life events like births, deaths, marriage, divorce, accidents, crimes.
  • Environment – Think people, places, weather.
  • Behavioral Health – Think response to stress, changes in sleep, mood that may involve depression, anxiety or other conditions with both psychological and biological parts.

Then Comes Who and What

When we start to figure out why a person is behaving a certain way, then different providers and treatments may apply. Like with any other health concern, you should talk with your PCP first. They may know you well enough to have insights about your issue that a specialist might not know, and you might not think of. From that point, you may be referred to one of several types of behavioral health care providers. They all have a common core education in behavioral health, but they offer different services for different needs:

  • Social Workers – Think “roll-up-our-sleeves practical.” Social workers can help diagnose and do therapy, but are also trained to connect patients with various community resources (say classes for the tasks in life that are giving a person trouble) that may help them return to their normal.
  • Therapists – Think fairly regular “fireside chats.” Over a period of time, you work together to identify a problem, and talk through what to think or do to get over it, or live better despite it.
  • Psychologist – Think therapy plus psychological testing in some situations.
  • Psychiatrist – Think medical doctor who can look at and treat physical as well as mental concerns. Psychiatrists often prescribe medications when appropriate, and some provide therapy as well.

As with any form of specialty care, check your policy to confirm what services are covered, and be sure whoever you see is in your health plan’s provider network.

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