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A Quick Guide to Assessing Mental Health

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Alan Berman, executive director of the American Association of Suicidology, recommends three steps for an advisor to follow in gauging the mental well-being of an older male client:

  1. Observe What He Says and Does. Symptoms of depression may be communicated or observed.

  2. Ask Questions. These might range from an open-ended “How are you doing?” to more specific questions, such as:

    • “How are you spending your time?”

    • “How have you been eating?”

    • “What are you looking forward to?”

    • “How have you been dealing with [a specific medical problem or personal loss]?”

  3. Refer and Foster Help-Seeking. An advisor’s role is not to act as a counselor or therapist, Berman said, but to be a concerned friend. No specialized skills are required—and helping someone get evaluated and helped when there is a hint of concern is what friends do.

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