How to Get Started
Mental health is an important part of overall health and well-being. People often don't get the mental health services they need because they don't know where to start.
- Talk to your primary care doctor or another health professional about mental health problems. Ask them to connect you with the right mental health services.
- If you do not have a health professional who is able to assist you, use these resources to find help for yourself, your friends, your family, or your students.
Get Screened Today
A screening is a tool that has been proven by research to help identify symptoms of a mental health disorder. MHA's screening tools provide an anonymous, free and private way to learn about your mental health and if you are showing warning signs of a mental illness.
If you're in danger of harming yourself or someone else, call 911 immediately.
If you or someone you know is suicidal or in emotional distress, contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. Trained crisis workers are available to talk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Your confidential and toll free call goes to the nearest crisis center in the Lifeline national network. These centers provide crisis counseling and mental health referrals.
If you are a Veteran, dial 988 and press 1 or text 838255.
Call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org.
The number for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255.
There are several local crisis and warmlines available.
For Hampton and Newport News residents, you can contact the Hampton-Newport News Community Services Board. The Crisis Hotline is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call 757-788-0011. The Hampton-Newport News Community Services Board also hosts a Peer Warmline from 8am-11pm, 7 days a week. Call 757-251-2394.
For James City County, Poquoson, Williamsburg, and York residents, you can contact Colonial Behavioral Health. The Emergency Services Line is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call 757-378-5555.
Talk About Mental Health
School and Campus Health
Young people face a variety of life challenges that can affect their mental health use or abuse of alcohol and other drugs. Schools and campuses should be safe havens for them to grow and learn. Both settings offer mental health promotion and substance use prevention activities, yet America’s schools and campuses are facing challenging public health issues such as bullying, violence, alcohol use, and drug abuse.
Underage drinking and associated problems have profound negative consequences for underage drinkers, their families, their communities, and society. While schools provide programs and activities to promote emotional health and prevent substance use among students, they face unprecedented behavioral health challenges.
Many children and youth want to feel well-liked and included in a group, which can sometimes make them susceptible to bullying and peer pressure. Both behaviors can start as early as preschool and become an even greater risk as young people transition into middle school, high school, college, and beyond. There are actions school staff can take to make schools safer and prevent bullying.
- SAMHSA’s KnowBullying App
- Targeted Violence
- School Climate
- Infectious Diseases and Public Health
- The MHTTC School Mental Health Initiative
Project AWARE is a program overseeing school-aged youth to advance wellness and resiliency in education by increasing mental health awareness in schools across states, territories, and tribal communities.
As a parent or caregiver, you want the best for your children or other dependents. You may be concerned or have questions about certain behaviors they exhibit and how to ensure they get help.
What to Look For
It is important to be aware of warning signs that your child may be struggling. You can play a critical role in knowing when your child may need help.
Consult with a school counselor, school nurse, mental health provider, or another health care professional if your child shows one or more of the following behaviors:
- Feeling very sad or withdrawn for more than two weeks
- Seriously trying to harm or kill himself or herself, or making plans to do so
- Experiencing sudden overwhelming fear for no reason, sometimes with a racing heart or fast breathing
- Getting in many fights or wanting to hurt others
- Showing severe out-of-control behavior that can hurt oneself or others
- Not eating, throwing up, or using laxatives to make himself or herself lose weight
- Having intense worries or fears that get in the way of daily activities
- Experiencing extreme difficulty controlling behavior, putting himself or herself in physical danger or causing problems in school
- Using drugs or alcohol repeatedly
- Having severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships
- Showing drastic changes in behavior or personality
Because children often can't understand difficult situations on their own, you should pay particular attention if they experience:
- Loss of a loved one
- Divorce or separation of their parents
- Any major transition—new home, new school, etc.
- Traumatic life experiences, like living through a natural disaster
- Teasing or bullying
- Difficulties in school or with classmates
What to Do
If you are concerned your child's behaviors, it is important to get appropriate care. You should:
- Talk to your child's doctor, school nurse, or another health care provider and seek further information about the behaviors or symptoms that worry you
- Ask your child's primary care physician if your child needs further evaluation by a specialist with experience in child behavioral problems
- Ask if your child's specialist is experienced in treating the problems you are observing
- Talk to your medical provider about any medication and treatment plans
How to Talk About Mental Health
Do you need help starting a conversation with your child about mental health? Try leading with these questions. Make sure you actively listen to your child's response.
- Can you tell me more about what is happening? How you are feeling?
- Have you had feelings like this in the past?
- Sometimes you need to talk to an adult about your feelings. I'm here to listen. How can I help you feel better?
- Do you feel like you want to talk to someone else about your problem?
- I'm worried about your safety. Can you tell me if you have thoughts about harming yourself or others?
When talking about mental health problems with your child you should:
- Communicate in a straightforward manner
- Speak at a level that is appropriate to a child or adolescent's age and development level (preschool children need fewer details than teenagers)
- Discuss the topic when your child feels safe and comfortable
- Watch for reactions during the discussion and slow down or back up if your child becomes confused or looks upset
- Listen openly and let your child tell you about his or her feelings and worries
Learn More About Supporting Your Children
There are many resources for parents and caregivers who want to know more about children's mental health. Learn more about:
- Recognizing mental health problems in children, how they are affected, and what you can do
- Diagnosing and treating children with mental health problems
- Talking to children and youth after a disaster or traumatic event
Get Help for Your Child
Seek immediate assistance if you think your child is in danger of harming themselves or others. You can call a crisis line or the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
If your child is in need of community mental health services you can find help in your area.
If you have, or believe you may have, mental health problem, it can be helpful to talk about these issues with others. It can be scary to reach out for help, but it is often the first step to helping you heal, grow, and recover.
Having a good support system and engaging with trustworthy people are key elements to successfully talking about your own mental health.
Build Your Support System
Find someone—such as a parent, family member, teacher, faith leader, health care provider or other trusted individual, who:
- Gives good advice when you want and ask for it; assists you in taking action that will help
- Likes, respects, and trusts you and who you like, respect, and trust, too
- Allows you the space to change, grow, make decisions, and even make mistakes
- Listens to you and shares with you, both the good and bad times
- Respects your need for confidentiality so you can tell him or her anything
- Lets you freely express your feelings and emotions without judging, teasing, or criticizing
- Works with you to figure out what to do the next time a difficult situation comes up
- Has your best interest in mind
Find a Peer Group
Find a group of people with mental health problems similar to yours. Peer support relationships can positively affect individual recovery because:
- People who have common life experiences have a unique ability to help each other based on a shared history and a deep understanding that may go beyond what exists in other relationships
- People offer their experiences, strengths, and hopes to peers, which allows for natural evolution of personal growth, wellness promotion, and recovery
- Peers can be very supportive since they have “been there” and serve as living examples that individuals can and do recover from mental health problems
- Peers also serve as advocates and support others who may experience discrimination and prejudice
You may want to start or join a self-help or peer support group. National organizations across the country have peer support networks and peer advocates. Find an organization that can help you connect with peer groups and other peer support.
Participate in Your Treatment Decisions
It’s also important for you to be educated, informed, and engaged about your own mental health.
- Find out as much as you can about mental health wellness and information specific to your diagnosed mental health problem.
- Play an active role in your own treatment.
Get involved in your treatment through shared decision-making. Participate fully with your mental health provider and make informed treatment decisions together. Participating fully in shared decision making includes:
- Recognizing a decision needs to be made
- Identifying partners in the process as equals
- Stating options as equal
- Exploring understanding and expectations
- Identifying preferences
- Negotiating options/concordance
- Sharing decisions
- Arranging follow-up to evaluate decision-making outcomes
Develop a Recovery Plan
Recovery is a process of change where individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential. Studies show that most people with mental health problems get better, and many recover completely.
You may want to develop a written recovery plan. Recovery plans:
- Enable you to identify goals for achieving wellness
- Specify what you can do to reach those goals
- Can be daily activities as well as longer-term goals
- Track your mental health problem
- Identify triggers or other stressful events that can make you feel worse, and help you learn how to manage them
You can develop these plans with family members and other supporters. Learn more about recovery.
Anyone can experience mental health problems. Friends and family can make all the difference in a person's recovery process.
Supporting a Friend or Family Member with Mental Health Problems
You can help your friend or family member by recognizing the signs of mental health problems and connecting them to professional help.
Talking to friends and family about mental health problems can be an opportunity to provide information, support, and guidance. Learning about mental health issues can lead to:
- Improved recognition of early signs of mental health problems
- Earlier treatment
- Greater understanding and compassion
If a friend or family member is showing signs of a mental health problem or reaching out to you for help, offer support by:
- Finding out if the person is getting the care that he or she needs and wants—if not, connect him or her to help
- Expressing your concern and support
- Reminding your friend or family member that help is available and that mental health problems can be treated
- Asking questions, listening to ideas, and being responsive when the topic of mental health problems come up
- Reassuring your friend or family member that you care about him or her
- Offering to help your friend or family member with everyday tasks
- Including your friend or family member in your plans—continue to invite him or her without being overbearing, even if your friend or family member resists your invitations
- Educating other people so they understand the facts about mental health problems and do not discriminate
- Treating people with mental health problems with respect, compassion, and empathy
How to Talk About Mental Health
Do you need help starting a conversation about mental health? Try leading with these questions and make sure to actively listen to your friend or family member's response.
- I've been worried about you. Can we talk about what you are experiencing? If not, who are you comfortable talking to?
- What can I do to help you to talk about issues with your parents or someone else who is responsible and cares about you?
- What else can I help you with?
- I am someone who cares and wants to listen. What do you want me to know about how you are feeling?
- Who or what has helped you deal with similar issues in the past?
- Sometimes talking to someone who has dealt with a similar experience helps. Do you know of others who have experienced these types of problems who you can talk with?
- It seems like you are going through a difficult time. How can I help you to find help?
- How can I help you find more information about mental health problems?
- I'm concerned about your safety. Have you thought about harming yourself or others?
When talking about mental health problems:
- Know how to connect people to help
- Communicate in a straightforward manner
- Speak at a level appropriate to a person's age and development level (preschool children need fewer details as compared to teenagers)
- Discuss the topic when and where the person feels safe and comfortable
- Watch for reactions during the discussion and slow down or back up if the person becomes confused or looks upset
Sometimes it is helpful to make a comparison to a physical illness. For example, many people get sick with a cold or the flu, but only a few get really sick with something serious like pneumonia. People who have a cold are usually able to do their normal activities. However, if they get pneumonia, they will have to take medicine and may have to go to the hospital.
Similarly, feelings of sadness, anxiety, worry, irritability, or sleep problems are common for most people. However, when these feelings get very intense, last for a long period of time, and begin to interfere with school, work, and relationships, it may be a sign of a mental health problem. And just like people need to take medicine and get professional help for physical conditions, someone with a mental health problem may need to take medicine and/or participate in therapy in order to get better.
Get Help for Your Friend or Family Member
Seek immediate assistance if you think your friend or family member is in danger of harming themselves. You can call a crisis line or the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
If you think your friend or family member is in need of community mental health services you can find help in your area.
Educators are often the first to notice mental health problems. Here are some ways you can help students and their families.
What Educators Should Know
You should know:
- The warning signs for mental health problems.
- Whom to turn to, such as the principal, school nurse, school psychiatrist or psychologist, or school social worker, if you have questions or concerns about a student's behavior.
- How to access crisis support and other mental health services.
What Educators Should Look For in Student Behavior
Consult with a school counselor, nurse, or administrator and the student's parents if you observe one or more of the following behaviors:
- Feeling very sad or withdrawn for more than two weeks
- Seriously trying to harm oneself, or making plans to do so
- Sudden overwhelming fear for no reason, sometimes with a racing heart or fast breathing
- Involvement in many fights or desire to badly hurt others
- Severe out-of-control behavior that can hurt oneself or others
- Not eating, throwing up, or using laxatives to make oneself lose weight
- Intense worries or fears that get in the way of daily activities
- Extreme difficulty concentrating or staying still that puts the student in physical danger or causes problems in the classroom
- Repeated use of drugs or alcohol
- Severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships
- Drastic changes in the student's behavior or personality
What Educators Can Do in Classrooms and Schools
You can support the mental health of all students in your classroom and school, not just individual students who may exhibit behavioral issues. Consider the following actions:
- Educate staff, parents, and students on symptoms of and help for mental health problems
- Promote social and emotional competency and build resilience
- Help ensure a positive, safe school environment
- Teach and reinforce positive behaviors and decision-making
- Encourage helping others
- Encourage good physical health
- Help ensure access to school-based mental health supports
Developing Effective School Mental Health Programs
Efforts to care for the emotional well-being of children and youth can extend beyond the classroom and into the entire school. School-based mental health programs can focus on promoting mental wellness, preventing mental health problems, and providing treatment.
- Promote the healthy social and emotional development of all children and youth
- Recognize when young people are at risk for or are experiencing mental health problems
- Identify how to intervene early and appropriately when there are problems
Learn More about Ways to Support Your Students and Their Families
- Learn evidence-based strategies for supporting student mental health in the classroom
- Work with your state, district, and school to learn about school mental health and develop a school mental health program
- Access resources for educators, administrators, and school mental health professionals
- Find tips for talking to children and youth after a disaster or traumatic event
Creating Community Connections for Mental Health
Faith and community leaders are often the first point of contact when individuals and families face mental health problems or traumatic events. In fact, in times of crisis, many will turn to trusted leaders in their communities before they turn to mental health professionals. When leaders know how to respond, they become significant assets to the overall health system.
Faith and community leaders can help educate individuals and families about mental health, increasing awareness of mental health issues and making it easier for people to seek help. Community connectedness and support, like that found in faith-based and other neighborhood organizations, are also important to the long-term recovery of people living with mental illnesses.
Faith communities are also in a unique position to reach many of the millions of Americans who struggle with serious thoughts of suicide each year. Many people having thoughts of suicide feel hopeless, trapped, or are in such emotional pain or despair, that they struggle to face another day. Suicidal thoughts are often accompanied by a spiritual crisis or deep questioning about the purpose of life. If faith leaders are better able to recognize the signs of suicide and learn how to respond, they can serve as an expanded safety net for those most in need.
What Community and Faith Leaders Can Do
Educate your communities and congregations. Promote awareness by educating the members of your communities and congregations about mental health issues through educational forums and other opportunities.
- Invite local mental health experts—including those who have experienced mental illness—to speak with your congregation or at community gatherings.
- Share facts and common myths about mental health.
- Support the development of a trauma-informed community. Trauma often lies beneath seemingly unrelated problems.
- Organize additional meetings, dinners, or other gatherings for members of your congregation or community to have conversations about mental health.
Identify opportunities to support people with mental illnesses. Religious and other community organizations can play an important role in supporting individuals living with mental illnesses and encouraging them to seek help.
- Consider offering your organization's meeting spaces for community conversations and support groups focused on addressing mental health issues.
- Provide space for peer-led groups that give people the chance to tell their stories in their own time and way.
- Include safe shared spaces for people to interact (for example, parks and community centers) that can foster healthy relationships and positive mental health among community members.
- Support community programs (for example: peer mentoring programs or opportunities for volunteering) that encourage social participation and inclusion for all people
- Plan and facilitate a community conversation using SAMHSA's Toolkit for Community Conversations About Mental Health. The toolkit provides information about how to plan a community conversation, how to guide these discussions, and includes information about mental health issues to use during the discussion.
- Share the Toolkit for Community Conversations About Mental Health with your colleagues and leaders in other organizations.
Connect individuals and families to help. Strengthen the connections within your community to mental health services and support and enhance linkages between mental health, substance abuse, disability, and other social services.
- Learn the basic signs of mental illnesses and other facts about mental health to encourage those in need to seek help.
- Remind others that people can and do recover from mental health challenges and that help is available and effective.
- Train key community members (such as adults who work with the children, youth, older adults, veterans, and LGBT) to identify the signs of depression and suicide and refer people to resources.
- Develop relationships with local mental health service providers and other family and youth organizations to help to direct individuals and families in need to available services and support in the community.
- Share the SAMHSA treatment locator in your community newsletter or other publications.
Promote acceptance of those with mental health issues. The voices of leaders and members of faith-based and other community organizations can greatly influence attitudes about mental health conditions and those who experience them.
- Talk about your own mental health openly.
- Be an example of taking good care of your mental health by making mental wellness a priority in your personal life.
- Be inclusive. Mental health affects all of us.
- Foster opportunities to build connections with individuals and families dealing with mental health challenges through trust and acceptance.
- Foster safe and supportive environments for people to openly talk about mental health, stress, trauma, and related issues.
- Ask, “What happened?” instead of, “What's wrong?” when talking with a friend in need.
- Encourage and express empathy in your family, congregation, and community. Convey a message of nonviolence, acceptance, and compassion.
- SAMHSA Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (FBCI)
- Community Conversations About Mental Health
- Information for Faith-Based and Community Leaders
- Faith-Based Organizations Fact Sheet
- Taking on the “Perfect Storm”: Faith-based Organizations and Partnerships Address COVID-19 and Critical Behavioral Health Needs in Communities of Color: National Network to Eliminate Disparities in Behavioral Health | Mental Health Technology Transfer Center (MHTTC) Network
- Guiding the Shepherd and Shepherding the Flock in the Wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic, Part 1 Recording | Mental Health Technology Transfer Center (MHTTC) Network
- Supporting People in Your Congregation with a Mental Illness
- Community Engagement Resources
- Family Compassionate Conversation: Community Wellness | Mental Health Technology Transfer Center (MHTTC) Network
Help Start a Conversation in Your Community
Use the following tools to start a conversation about mental health in your own community.
Toolkit for Community Conversations About Mental Health
The Toolkit for Community Conversations About Mental Health is designed to be a resource to help those interested in holding a conversation about mental health. It is comprised of three parts described below, that will help communities and groups plan and facilitate a dialogue about mental health.
- Information Brief, En Español: Provides data and other facts about the promotion of mental health, prevention of mental illness, and how to promote awareness, early identification, access to treatment, crisis response, and recovery supports. The Information Brief helps educate and inform community conversation participants and facilitators about mental health issues.
- Discussion Guide, En Español: Provides a resource to help guide participants and facilitators through a one-day community conversation. The discussion guide offers a framework for holding a successful and productive conversation. The discussion guide includes:
- Discussion questions
- Sample views about mental health
- Process suggestions
- Facilitator tips
- Individual and community follow-up steps
- Planning Guide, En Español: Provides tools to help people hold a one-day community conversation. Includes information for planning conversations, recruiting and training facilitators, recruiting conversation participants, and identifying steps participants may want to take in order to raise awareness about mental health and promote access to mental health services.
- “Mental Health in my Community” Infographic, En Español: Read and share this helpful infographic.
Find an Organization With Mental Health Expertise in Your Community
These organizations can help you organize a community event, locate speakers with mental health expertise, offer information on mental health services, or provide peer and family supports.
Learn More About Community Resources for Mental Health
- Discuss children's mental health. This resource includes materials in Spanish.
- Find national data on mental health such as the prevalence of specific mental health problems, trends in the use of mental health services, and the overall financial cost.
- Find resources for mayors and other local officials. This guidance equips mayors and other public health officials with strategies to use in their role in shaping community responses that promote mental health recovery, and ensure necessary treatments and services are available.
Upcoming Mental Health Events in the Community
The Peninsula Community Health Collaborative (PCHC), in partnership with WHRO Public Media and local public school systems, will host screenings of Hiding in Plain Sight, a youth mental health documentary. A panel discussion of mental and behavioral health experts will follow the film.
This film is suitable for children in middle school and above, guardians, professionals, and anyone interested in learning about how to begin the conversation around mental health with youth and ways to access resources in our community.
This event is free to all. Registration is required. To register, please visit CHKD.org/PlainSight.
Please see the dates and locations of the events below:
PCHC is a collective of Hampton & Peninsula Health Districts, Bon Secours Hampton Roads, Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters, Riverside Health System, and Sentara Healthcare.