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Dr. Annelle B. Primm, Deputy Medical Director of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) & Director of the APA’s Office of Minority and National Affairs answers your mental health questions.


What are symptoms/warning signs of PTSD?

Some of the symptoms of PTSD include low mood, fear, avoidance, social withdrawal, feelings of numbness, and flashbacks of the traumatic event, intense startle response to loud noises, poor sleep, and difficulty concentrating

Is mental health heredity?

Mental illness can be hereditary.  Studies have shown that illness like depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia tend to run in families.

I’m bipolar and want to get off my meds and try homeopathic meds. Do you know of any such meds that might help me?              

My husband had a massive heart attack almost died and I see signs of some mental issues is this normal it is common that people who have had a heart attack to experience depression.  It is important that he be evaluated because treatment of mental health needs can help him recover from the heart attack.

How long should one stay with a therapist before expecting results or is there  no set time for staying with a therapist?          

It really depends on the situation.  Usually, at the beginning of treatment, a person receiving care and the therapist identify certain goals and work together on a plan to achieve those goals.  If the first approach doesn’t work, there is usually a plan B. What you want to have is a good working relationship with the therapist. If not, it may be best to find another person to work with.

How do you tell someone they may need some mental health assistance without getting cut?           

You could let them know in a caring way that you have noticed some changes in them and share whatever you have learned about warning signs. Stay away from terms like mental illness or “crazy”. Instead, ask if they’re feeling stressed out.

What are some signs of depression?       

Signs of depression include sad mood, feeling bad about oneself, blaming oneself for things, negative thoughts, poor sleep or increased sleep, poor appetite or increased appetite, low energy, moving slowly, isolating oneself, trouble making decisions, poor concentration, poor memory, difficulty thinking, thoughts of death or suicide.

If I see someone displaying mental health issues and I have no insurance, how can I get help for them?         

SAMHSA, the government agency that handles mental health services has a hotline.  They can help. The Affordable Care Act may help this person if their state has made arrangements. Some states have ways people can get help through primary care centers called Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs).

Does depression and anxiety ever go away?  How do you get rid of stress when life keeps going downhill? Finance, the stress of hospital bills, house pay..etc.                             

Get checked out by a doctor. Counseling, support groups can help you develop coping skills for life’s difficulties. If you have symptoms like poor sleep, trouble concentrating and making decisions, medication might help also.

 I’ve been on and off of meds for depression and anxiety for many years. I am extremely concerned that even when discontinued, these medicines can cause long term brain damage even permanently. Doctors claim that this isn’t true but I’m not convinced, your thoughts?                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

There are no studies to suggest that depression and anxiety medications cause long term brain damage. Some studies have found that medication and psychotherapy or counseling can help repair brain damage caused by severe stress.

My 40-year- old sister has shown signs of mental instability since she was in the 3rd grade and her daughter had shown signs from age 12 until now at age 17. It’s gotten so unstable between them that my niece was just placed in foster care. When we try to talk to my sister she’s so depressed that she can’t talk about it, she just cries. What can we do as a family to help them?                              

The best thing to do is to encourage and accompany your sister to see a doctor to be evaluated to see how her depression can be helped and also determine how her daughter can get help.

 When my husband shares his delusions: do I ignore, change subject, say it doesn’t make sense, what?

Thank you, be caring, don’t criticize him or be negative about it. Ask if the thoughts are upsetting and if so, suggest focusing on something else.

I have Bipolar disorder 1 and also Borderline personality Disorder. I always had Bipolar disorder as well as a few of my siblings. I do not always take my meds due to the side effects. However, I am a vegetarian and I work out a lot. I know by polar disorder is a medical condition because it works with the brains chemicals. My question is can mental illness be corrected by nutrition?         

There is no evidence to suggest that mental illness can be corrected by nutrition. However, it is good to eat nutritious foods, get physical activity as you are doing because this supports overall health including mental health

Can bi-polar affect your ability to make sound social relations?                                                                                                                         

Yes, bipolar disorder can affect your judgment and decision-making, causing you to take risks that you might not ordinarily take. If you have mood swings or irritability it could have an effect on relationships, also.

Are there any studies that show that marijuana affects the mental health of people?   

Studies show that marijuana can cause people to experience anxiety, panicky feelings, paranoia and low mood, but this is usually found in first time users. Sometimes, when marijuana is laced with other drugs like PCP it can cause people to be out of touch with reality.

My son has just been placed on vyvance for ADHD after years of Ritalin and concerta. Is it possible for him to become angry after starting this new med?

It is possible for people to experience anger in adjusting to a new medication. It is also possible that there could be reasons for the anger unrelated to the new medication.

DR. DAY WEEK: We Answer Your Mental Health Questions  was originally published on