25 years ago I made the decision to become a Mental Health Counselor. It was encouraged by a Pastor who saw me working with a couple dozen "Alley Kids" and my own statement of 'its sad that I enjoy what I do for free more than what I do for pay'. Several of those kids had real mental health 'issues' -most just assumed they were the 'bad' kids. I intuitively knew different.
Since then - 1995 - I have been in the trenches of mental illness, addiction, grieving, community tragedies, headline events and the real stories that many don't know, won't know and can't know. Confidentiality does that.
My Mission was to provide affordable sessions so that those who called could attend consistently - long enough to see real progress and results. I prefer a solution- based approach that combines education, clear strategies, encouragement, empowerment and even humor. It has served many well.
In the last 25 years I have watched the shift from having no medications available for many mental illness symptoms to many. I have witnessed the dramatic, positive changes that the right medication can bring to not just the client but everyone around them - as their life becomes more manageable and they take more initiative to take control of their own success. I have watched how the use of real brain scans, more comprehensive addiction care and better medical testing gets more the real support they need. My profession now takes more consideration of nutrition, hormones, stress, chronic illness and disability, significant loss, and environment a lot more seriously. I know I do. I have seen shifts of interest and the impact of labeling - the good and the bad of it. Overdoing it and using it as an excuse but also seeing how proper diagnosis means effective care. I have been on the front lines of the media's focus on attention-deficit, addictions, bi-polar disorder, depression, anxiety, bullying, the role of brain chemistry and now the newest focus - Post-traumatic Stress - that isn't just for those in the military. I'm also thinking the next issue will be the impact of racism on health. As we move away one rock we expose what's underneath it to help others.
In the meantime . . .
We are STILL fighting stigma.
We are STILL apprehensive about seeking mental health care.
We are STILL avoiding talking about 'it'.
We are STILL ignoring its importance even within the treatment of specific issues.
We will treat ONLY addiction and not WHY a person made their 'drug of choice' a choice in the first place.
We don't follow up with mental health treatment after we take away the addiction.
We don't fund the real mental illness issue of anxiety, depression, bi-polar, insomnia, even pain.
We allow Insurance companies to determine if, when and how mental illness is treated before professionals are involved.
We STILL assume that treatment is too expensive and unaffordable.
We STILL think that 'just stop using'' is enough.
We STILL separate ourselves from 'those people' and don't incorporate them into the 95% of our community that doesn't abuse illegal or legal drugs.
We STILL judge and condemn obesity as a 'self control' issue not stopping to understand and treat the 'why'.
We STILL think that the use of medication is 'bad' even though they help stabilize behaviors that cause aggression, depression, anxiety, lack of concentration, impulsive behaviors, homicidal or suicidal thoughts and actions.
We STILL use ugly, character assassination words to deal with and name mental illness - by even public leaders who should be setting an example.
We STILL don't admit or share with those who could support us most, that we're struggling against daily depression, anxiety, hopelessness, worthiness, loneliness. . .
We STILL assume we will be shamed, embarrassed, exposed or condemned if we do reveal our vulnerability.
We STILL assume we will be shamed for not 'getting over it' or 'moving on' or 'stopping it' - and every time we fail we become our own worst enemy first.
We STILL resist reaching out for help, picking up a phone, doing a search for a professional because we think it means we're weak and powerless.
Yet when someone asks us for help and support we usually feel better about ourselves - that someone thought enough of us that we could help - that they assumed we had an answer - yet by not asking - we don't allow that to happen to someone else - we STEAL the opportunity for someone else to feel good . . .
So as we go through the month - reach out - I will follow with more education - review my past posts - there's tons of 'how to' here and with simple searches on Google.
Let's do this better - it could save a LIFE -today.
Use Facebook Private Messenger or call me - 570.640.9026 - text! I don't answer my phone when in sessions and don't return calls after 8 pm (respect!).
Disclaimer: I do NOT prescribe medications. I will work with medical professionals of your choice who prescribe.