If you or someone you know is worried about a mental health issue, the first step is talking to a healthcare professional. Your local doctor (general practitioner or GP) can conduct an initial mental health assessment and may refer you to a counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist, depending on your needs.
What is a mental health assessment?
A mental health assessment, or MHA, gives your doctor a complete overview of your emotional wellbeing. It takes a look at how well you’re able to think, make judgments, and remember (also known as cognitive functioning).
Who can conduct mental health assessments?
A mental health assessment can be performed by a:
- Primary care doctor
- Social worker
Regardless of who conducts your assessment, your results are always confidential.
What happens during a mental health assessment?
Health professionals frequently do a brief mental health screening during your regular checkups. So if you’re experiencing symptoms of a mental health issue, they may want to do an accurate assessment or refer you to a mental health professional.
Interview. The interview portion of the assessment is where you and your doctor will discuss:
- How long you’ve been experiencing them
- As well as any other concerns you may have
The interview is meant to help your doctor better understand your cognitive functioning, the way you interact with others, and what your thinking process is like. They may also ask you questions to find out how you feel about your life and ask you safety questions to see if you’re at risk of hurting yourself or others. If you have kept a journal of your symptoms, share this with your doctor.
Physical exam. Since mental health and physical health are connected, a basic physical exam is an essential part of an MHA.
Your doctor may also:
- Ask about your health and family history
- Ask if you’re currently taking any medications
- Test your reflexes, balance, and your senses (hearing, sight, smell, touch, and taste)
Lab tests. Blood work and urine tests are common elements of an MHA. Lab tests to find other problems may include:
- Thyroid function tests
- Electrolyte levels
- Toxicology screenings (to look for drug or alcohol problems).
- EEG, CT scan, or MRI if there’s a possibility for a neurological problem.
Psychological testing-written or verbal tests. Don’t worry; there’s no need to study for them. These tests provide mental health professionals with valuable information about you throughout an assessment. Usually, they come in a questionnaire-type format and can be either verbal or written. In some cases, it may be helpful to bring a friend or family member with you so they can provide further information about the symptoms you’re experiencing.
Depending on the age of a child and what issues they’re suspected of having will affect the way their mental health is assessed.
Younger children may be asked to draw something to express how they feel or look at pictures of everyday subjects and discuss how they make them feel. Parents or teachers are often asked to answer a list of questions about the child, as well.
Taking the first step
The team of experienced clinicians at Abbey Neuropsychology Clinic in Palo Alto, California, provides comprehensive, interdisciplinary assessment, diagnosis, and treatment for neuropsychological conditions. Infants, children, adolescents, adults, and their families benefit from the team’s extensive training and experience and a highly personalized, collaborative approach to neuropsychological care.
To find out more about the services available, call Abbey Neuropsychology Clinic today to book an appointment.