Your mental health FAQ

The straight answers you’ve been looking for, all in one place.

(Don’t see your question addressed? Ask our team.)

WHAT AM I EXPERIENCING?

Stress and anxiety: What’s the difference?
Not all stress is created equal. Occasional stress can be useful, like when you need to focus on an exam, compete athletically, or react quickly to avoid a sudden threat. But consistent stress can be harmful to your health in a wide variety of ways, such as disturbing mood and sleep, zapping your energy, and impairing your immune system.

When the brain’s stress response never stops, stress chemicals (cortisol, adrenaline) remain elevated and “feel good” chemicals (serotonin, dopamine) are blocked. This can lead to anxiety. Panic attacks are one example, in which you find yourself totally freaking out in a very real way about less than life-threatening situations, like an exam in history class.

Anxiety shouldn’t be part of everyday life. If you are feeling an overwhelming sense of worry or restlessness every day, there are many options to keep it in check, such as lifestyle changes, targeted therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, wellness practices, and medications. Check in with our team or answer a few questions to learn more about what’s going on and explore options for feeling better.

 

What is depression? How do I know if I have it?
Depression is a common experience that affects how you feel, think, and handle daily activities. It’s different from feeling intermittent sadness or grief. The symptoms stick around for at least two weeks without ever really letting up.

Signs of depression can include feeling sad, nervous, empty, hopeless, helpless, worthless, or flat-out exhausted — not just once in a while, but for most of the day, every day, over an extended period of time. Many people who experience depression express complete loss of energy to conduct regular daily activities.

There are other signs too: Maybe you’ve lost interest in your friends or hobbies. Or maybe you’re having trouble sleeping at night, waking up in the morning, or oversleeping. Or maybe you can’t seem to bring yourself to eat anything or, on the flip side, to stop eating all the things. Or maybe you’re suffering through ongoing stomachaches, headaches, or other pain that just won’t go away, no matter what you try.

Sound familiar? If you’re feeling some of these things regularly, take our self-check-in quiz to better understand what you’re experiencing. And, if you ever feel like hurting yourself — even once — please text HELLO to 741-741 to talk with a crisis counselor. Your life matters.

What is psychosis? How do I know if I have it?
Psychosis” is a term that describes changes in functioning that make it hard to tell what’s real and what’s not. Common signs of psychosis include seeing or hearing things that others do not, having unusual or disorganized thoughts or behaviors, and/or becoming fearful or suspicious of others. These experiences vary from person to person.

Psychosis can be a short-term effect of extreme stress, substance use, or trauma — or a symptom of a mental health condition like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Psychosis can change your perceptions, thoughts, and behaviors. It also can cause you to withdraw socially, feel paranoid, or have difficulty doing everyday activities, such as going to school or work.

Psychosis is fairly common, and it most often starts in teen or young adult years. Three out of every 100 people in the U.S. experience it at some point in their lives.

If you think you may be hearing or seeing things or having troubling thoughts and want to talk about it with someone who has been there, peer mentor, Danny, is standing by. We know these experiences can be confusing and scary at times. Our team is here to listen and identify helpful resources that meet your specific needs.

How soon should I seek help? Will this get better on its own?
Just like any other kind of health issue, the sooner you seek help for emotional and mental health concerns, the better. Early professional support from peers and therapists — and also from your loved ones — can make a big difference in getting back to feeling like yourself again quickly.

Mental health issues rarely go away on their own. Teens and young adults who seek help early tend to recover faster, have fewer setbacks, and stay in school or keep their jobs more often than people who don’t.

Is it common to hear voices?
Not everyone hears voices or sounds, but it’s not an uncommon experience. The types of things people hear vary greatly, from distressing to comforting. Sometimes the voices or sounds go away quickly, and sometimes they linger over time.

Hearing voices does not automatically mean you are experiencing a mental health condition like psychosis. Roughly 5 out of every 100 people hear voices at some point in their lives. But, because changes to how we process sounds are very common with psychosis, it’s a good idea to check in with a professional. Our mental health quiz or free online licensed therapist are good places to start.

FINDING HELP

What should I do if I think I need help?
Reach out. We know that confiding in someone requires strength and courage. (You can do it!) Here are a couple of tips to get started:

 

  1. Talk to someone you trust. This can be a parent, a friend — anyone who you trust. You might start the conversation by saying, “I haven’t been feeling like myself lately, and it scares me. I’d like some help figuring it all out.”
  2. Talk to a therapist. Check in with Nicole Germano, a licensed counselor who specializes in helping teens and young adults sort out mental health concerns. Nicole will give you her expert advice and connect you with options for getting mental health care, if you need it, as well as other supportive resources. Our online support is a free, confidential resource offered through a nonprofit partnership with Northwell Health and OnTrackNY.
Where can I find help in New York?
Strong 365 offers a safe, confidential way to find accurate information, connect with peer support, and find wellness resources, both online and in your community.

Our free support program, enabled by grant support from the National Institutes of Health, can be your guide to navigating New York’s mental health care system. We’ve partnered with experts at Northwell Health, a nonprofit health care provider, and OnTrackNY, an innovative youth-focused wellness program with locations across the state, to make getting help as easy as possible.

Get started now by talking with our licensed therapist.

(Not in New York state? Visit our Find Help page for national and international resource directories.)

What if I don't have insurance?
If you don’t have health insurance, or if your policy doesn’t cover everything you need, don’t worry. Check to see if you qualify for any free, sliding-scale, or subsidized programs.

  • You can take advantage of grant or publicly funded treatment programs. Our team partners with youth mental wellness programs across New York state that are available to everyone, regardless of insurance coverage or ability to pay, thanks to nonprofit grant-funded financial support. We may also be able to refer you to other free or reduced-cost support, depending on your needs. Get started now by chatting online with our team, or schedule a time that is convenient for you.
  • Federal programs like Social Security Disability Insurance, Supplemental Security Income, and Medicaid are available in New York state for children, adolescents, and young adults coping with a diagnosed mental health disorder. The requirements differ for each program.
  • The state of New York offers low-cost health coverage for residents under the age of 19 through a program called Child Health Plus. It’s available to families that earn too little to pay for private insurance but too much to qualify for Medicaid.
  • Community health centers, programs, and organizations also provide financial assistance or free or discounted services to families with low incomes or youth with special circumstances (such as artists, military, living with HIV/AIDS) who’ve been diagnosed with a mental health condition.
How can I help my child, friend, or loved one?
Here are four things you can do right now to support someone:

  1. Take the Mental Health Quiz. Answer these yes-or-no questions to help determine whether someone you care about could be struggling with stress, or something more.
  2. Talk to a therapist. Check in with Nicole Germano, a licensed social worker who specializes in helping people identify and overcome mental health challenges. She offers guidance to parents and loved ones who are looking to help someone. In addition to connecting you with options for effective care, she can also provide a roadmap of next steps.
  3. Try to understand what it’s like to face a mental health challenge. A little empathy goes a long way. Learn as much as you can about mental health so that common misperceptions don’t get in the way of being positive and supportive. Ask questions and really listen to the answers, with a readiness to learn more about what your friend or loved one is experiencing. To start the conversation, you might say things like: “You don’t seem like yourself lately, and I’m concerned because I care about you. “How can I help?” “How are you feeling today?” and “How can I support you?”
  4. Find ways to connect. Spending quality time together — whether you’re walking the dog, going for a bike ride, playing games or making music online, or collaborating on a craft or other project — can help ward off feelings of loneliness and isolation.
How can Strong 365 help?
Strong 365 is a nonprofit group that provides free emotional wellness resources to teens and young adults. We offer safe, confidential ways for you to find accurate information, connect with peers facing similar challenges, and personalized guidance via a licensed therapist.

Our community, created by people with personal experiences alongside medical experts, supports people ages 13 to 30 who are coping with mental health challenges. We understand how hard it can be to overcome fear, stereotypes, and stigmas. Mental health challenges aren’t shameful, and they can be treated before they disrupt your life. We’re here to support you.

FEELING BETTER & STAYING STRONG

Is it possible to feel better? How long does it take?
Yes! Getting back to feeling yourself usually takes time, and often involves some combination of changing daily routines, family/friend support, engaging with peer support networks, working with a therapist, and/or working with a doctor on medication needs.

Sometimes in the depths of a struggle, when we’re feeling most vulnerable, it can be hard to remember all of the skills and inner wisdom we already possess to care of our emotional health, and the amazing people in our lives who are standing beside us to cheer us on. If you are reading this, please take a moment to appreciate both of these things, and know that our team is also here to listen and help you map out a few next steps to feeling better.

Everybody’s path is a little bit different, and that’s normal. There is no one-size-fits-all approach or time schedule for moving through a mental health challenge. But with patience, courage, and determination, it gets better.

How does therapy work, and what are my options?
“Suck it up” is a common refrain that we think or hear from others when unwanted emotions such as sadness, hurt, or anger bubble to the surface. The reality is, as much as we may try, we cannot simply command our emotions away. That’s because feelings are linked to how we perceive ourselves, others, and the world around us. But, if we can alter our perspective and thinking patterns about a given situation (ideally seeing it in a more accurate way), then it becomes possible for our emotional response to it to change.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy — called CBT or talk therapy for short — helps you change your thoughts or actions by discussing your feelings and perceptions with a counselor. The goal of talk therapy is to interrupt unhelpful thought patterns so that our relationship to a troubling experience or challenging relationship can be shifted.

Mental health care often works best when you consider all the things that could be causing you to feel bad. Some pretty basic approaches to treatment include:

  • One-on-one sessions talking with a therapist
  • Group and/or family counseling
  • Peer support
  • Assistance with school or work
  • Help managing medication, if needed
  • Substance use treatment, if needed
Do I need medication?
Medication can play a role in treating mental health conditions, but not always. In some cases, talking to a therapist and making lifestyle changes may be enough to help you feel better. In other cases, you may find that taking medication eases or gets rid of your most troubling experiences.

Choosing the right approach should be based on your unique situation, with support from your doctor. Chat with our licensed therapist or peer support specialist about how you’re feeling right now and your options for getting help.

 

Why is getting help early so important?
If you are concerned about your mental health, seeking help right away gives you the best chance of getting back to feeling yourself again as quickly as possible. The goal of getting support early is to get back to living the life you want sooner and minimize life disruptions that can make things worse, such as trouble at school, work or maintaining important relationships.
What questions should I ask my doctor or therapist at my first appointment?
We’ve all been there: It can feel intimidating to talk to doctors or therapists for the first time about an issue — especially when that we barely understand. But, remember this: the most important person involved in your treatment and recovery is you. Your needs and well-being matter more than anything else. If you have questions — or if you feel uneasy or confused — speak up, or ask a parent or trusted ally to speak for you.

It’s best to bring a list of questions to a first appointment to make sure you get your questions answered. What are your doubts and concerns? Don’t hold back! Not sure what to ask? Here are some things you may want to consider:

  • What do you think I’m experiencing and why? Where can I get more information about it?
  • What changes can I make in my daily routine to improve my mental health? What are good goals for me to work toward?
  • When it comes to therapy, what are my options?
  • How long does treatment last? What are the benefits and drawbacks? Why are you recommending it? What are my options?
  • How soon (realistically) can I expect to start to feel better?
  • What types of therapy or community support groups are available for people my age? Where can I find them nearby?
  • When it comes to medication, what are my options?
  • What makes this medication the best option for me? How does it work to help my brain? What are the short- and long-term side effects? How long does it take to work? What happens if I miss a dose?
  • How much does the medication cost? Does the manufacturer have a subsidy or reimbursement program? Is other financial assistance available? How do I apply?
  • What should I do if I start to feel worse or need help immediately?

Don’t see your question here?

Our team responds to questions within 1 business day.

Strong 365 is a free, confidential resource offered through a nonprofit partnership with Northwell Health and OnTrackNY.

Our website is not a resource for life-threatening situations, and is not monitored 24/7.

If you are in crisis, text 741-741 or call 1-800-273-8255.

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