Mental health conditions are more common than you might think. In fact, 20% of American adults live with a mental illness at any time, yet only half of them get the treatment they need. Sadly, many people live with symptoms of mental health conditions and never seek help. But common mental illnesses – like depression and anxiety – are treatable, and can be identified easily by a doctor. So the first step to getting help for mental health conditions is a mental health assessment.
What to Expect at a Mental Health assessment Evaluation
While it’s normal to feel down sometimes if your negative feelings are consistently getting in the way of your life, it’s time to seek help. You can arrange a mental health assessment with your GP, a psychologist, or a psychiatrist. When you meet them, they’ll do some tests and ask you about your symptoms and personal life.
These are the most common things they’ll want to know:
- Mental health history – Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and any history of mental illness in your family
- Personal history – They’ll also ask about your personal life and any traumatic experiences or stressors that could contribute to mental illness.
- Mental evaluation – The doctor will want to know about your symptoms in detail, including what triggers them and any things you’ve done to improve them.
- Cognitive evaluation – You will do some simple tests which assess your ability to think clearly and carry out everyday tasks.
- Physical exam – Some mental health conditions can be caused by physical illnesses, so your doctor will do a physical exam to identify any underlying conditions.
- Lab tests – Common lab work like blood and urine samples will also help rule out any physical illnesses.
Try to think about each of these areas before you go to the assessment so that you can provide full, truthful answers to your doctor. If you don’t give them an honest picture of your experiences, it will be harder for them to diagnose a mental health condition, and suggest appropriate treatment.
Try This Quick Mental Health Self-Assessment
Before you visit a doctor, you can use this quick tool to identify symptoms of two of the most common mental health conditions: depression and anxiety. If you think you may have another mental health condition (like an addiction, eating disorder, or PTSD), there are other mental health assessment tools you can use to assess your symptoms.
Answer the questions as honestly as possible based on your experience in the last two weeks. If you don’t, you won’t get an accurate assessment of your mental health symptoms.
|Over the last 2 weeks, how many days have you been bothered by
the following problems?
|1. Little interest or pleasure in doing things||0||1||2||3|
|2. Feeling down, depressed or hopeless||0||1||2||3|
|3. Trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping too much||0||1||2||3|
|4. Feeling tired or having little energy||0||1||2||3|
|5. Poor appetite or overeating||0||1||2||3|
|6. Feeling bad about yourself – or that you’re a failure or
have let yourself or your family down
|7. Trouble concentrating on things, such as reading the
newspaper or watching television
|8. Moving or speaking so slowly that other people could have noticed.
Or the opposite – being so restless that you have been
moving around a lot more than usual
|9. Thoughts that you would be better off dead or
hurting yourself in some way
|10. Feeling nervous, anxious or on edge||0||1||2||3|
|11. Not being able to stop or control worrying||0||1||2||3|
|12. Worrying too much about different things||0||1||2||3|
|13. Trouble relaxing||0||1||2||3|
|14. Being so restless that it is hard to sit still||0||1||2||3|
|15. Becoming easily annoyed or irritable||0||1||2||3|
|16. Feeling afraid as if something awful might happen||0||1||2||3|
What Your Mental Health Score Means
This quick assessment tests for symptoms of depression (questions 1-9) and anxiety (questions 10-16). Add up your scores for questions 1-9, and then questions 10-16. Then compare your scores against these scales which assess the severity of depression and anxiety:
Depression: Questions 1-9
Anxiety: Questions 10-16
What’s next? Getting help for mental health conditions
If your score suggests you have moderate depression or anxiety, you should get a full mental health assessment from a doctor, as you may benefit from a treatment like therapy or medication. Tell them about your symptoms honestly, with as much detail as possible. You can also tell them your score and answers from this test.
You may also want to use this self-assessment to start a conversation with someone you trust about your mental health. It can help you share how you’ve been feeling, and they can support you as you seek further help.
Remember, these self-assessments aren’t a substitute for a full mental health assessment from a doctor. If your score is low, but you still feel you would benefit from treatment or further evaluation, visit your GP and speak to them about your symptoms.
For more mental health screening tools, visit Mental Health America’s Screening Tools.
This mental health self-assessment is based on widely used, research-based tools for assessing and monitoring depression and anxiety. The original research can be found here:
 Kroenke K, Spitzer RL, Williams JB. The PHQ-9: validity of a brief depression severity measure. J Gen Intern Med. 2001;16:606-13.
Spitzer RL, Kroenke K, Williams JB, Löwe B. A brief measure for assessing generalized anxiety disorder: the GAD-7. Arch Intern, Med. 2006;166:1092-7.