The human animal is a social, self-aware creature. As such, we are subject to periods when we seek the guidance of another or others to help examine or solve psychological or emotional crises, or to deal with the symptoms, causes and treatments of biological mental health disorders. Certainly, until the advent of "modern psychology" via Freud, Jung and others, the average troubled soul sought comfort from family members, tribal or peer group leaders or members, members of the clergy, and even medical doctors.
All of these resources are still valid; indeed, it may be helpful to first seek the counsel of "non-professionals." The stress of an emotional problem is often relieved through the very act of discourse with a non-judgmental person. Support groups, where those with similar concerns share their experiences, fears and insights, can often be a terrific first step, and less threatening than approaching a one-on-one discussion. When others can share methods of coping and solving aspects of a problem, a "large, overwhelming" crisis can often be broken down into a more easily managed set of smaller obstacles. Other less threatening resources include anonymous telephone crisis "listening" services, on-line self-directed chat rooms and facilitated chat-rooms.
True biologically-based mental health illnesses, such as moderate-severe depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorders, on up through schizophrenia, will show the tell-tale sign of a significant change in a person's functional ability for more than a few weeks. When a person ceases to be able to attend to activities that would usually cause enjoyment, or begins to neglect his/her job, home, family, friends and even personal hygiene, eating and sleeping, then the professional guidance and expertise of a trained psychologist, clinical social worker and/or psychiatrist is recommended. Talk of self-harm or harm to others should never be ignored, despite protests to the contrary.
On the other hand, persons recently experiencing a significant loss, such as a death, divorce, or loss of job, may exhibit some of these serious symptoms-but not all day, every day, and these symptoms may remit for several days. This is usually the normal grief of a loss, which again, may be best attended to by individuals who are close to the person in crisis, and in a non-clinical setting.