What is a mental health evaluation?

Jessica Dixon | October 19, 2023

Imagine a person going to the doctor because they’re feeling sick. The doctor or nurse asks questions and takes their temperature. They also might run a few tests to find out what’s going on. This whole process is called a medical evaluation. A mental health evaluation is like a checkup for a person’s feelings, thoughts, mood and behaviors. But unlike a medical evaluation, mental health evaluations are not as familiar. In this guide, we explain mental health evaluations and discuss the benefits of 24-hour urgent mental health care

What happens during a mental health evaluation? 

During a mental health evaluation, a trained and licensed mental health professional talks with a patient to understand their history. They want to learn what is bothering the patient now, who helps them in tough times and what is happening in their life. This assessment helps them know what assistance they need to overcome their challenges. 

When is a mental health evaluation performed?

A mental health evaluation happens in a few different situations including: 

  • If a person talks to their regular doctor about feeling worried, sad or anxious, they may ask more questions to understand what is going on. If the feelings make it hard to get through the day, the doctor might recommend the person go to a mental health expert. 
  • If a person goes to an emergency room for help during a mental health crisis, the providers will talk with them to understand how serious the problem is and figure out what kind of treatment is needed. 
  • If a person goes to a 24-hour urgent mental health care for help with a mental health crisis, the providers will talk with them to learn what brought them in and what kind of help they need. 

How does a mental health evaluation work?

A mental health evaluation has three main parts: 

  1. Questions: The mental health professional needs to understand a person’s symptoms, the history of the symptoms and what is happening in their life. The provider will ask questions like “When were you born?” “Whom do you live with?” “What brought you in today?” and “When did these thoughts and feelings start?” Some of the questions may be very simple, and others more complex. Ultimately, the provider needs to understand who the person is and what is going on to help them get the treatment they need. 
  2. A physical check: Physical illnesses can sometimes cause mental health symptoms. For example, feeling sick can sometimes make a person feel sad. A mental health professional might ask questions about a person’s medical history and physical health. They also may suggest getting a checkup from a regular doctor. If physical illness is causing mental health problems, it is crucial to get medical treatment as well. 
  3. Questionnaires: Mental health providers use many questionnaires or screeners to help them understand a person’s symptoms and feelings. For example, if a person feels sad, a provider might give them a depression screener. If a person is struggling with racing thoughts and feeling overwhelmed, the provider might give them a questionnaire to learn more about that. A person might fill out a paper questionnaire or answer questions the provider reads out loud. Questionnaires commonly ask people to rate thoughts or feelings on a number scale from 1 to 10 or 1 to 5. 

How do you know if you need a mental health evaluation?

A mental health evaluation is helpful when people are: 

  • Feeling overwhelmed by thoughts and feelings 
  • Need some extra help dealing with challenges 
  • Thinking of hurting themselves or someone else
  • Having a hard time sleeping or eating 
  • Having trouble focusing and making decisions
  • Hearing or seeing things that others do not
  • Feeling really anxious, depressed, nervous or angry

24-hour urgent mental health care from MIND 24-7

It is okay to ask for help when you are having a tough time. MIND 24-7 strives to make that easy. We provide walk-in, emergency and ongoing care to all adults and children, regardless of their ability to pay. We currently have several  locations in the Phoenix area, open every day of the year, all hours of the day and night, including holidays. 
For help with a mental health evaluation and to get mental health care in minutes, visit one of our convenient locations or text/call 1-844-MIND247.