This is Chelsea and her adorable baby. This picture is actually almost two years old. She is a Mental Health Professional and has a LCSW License(Licensed Clinical Social Worker). She was willing to share some knowledge on the subject of Mental Health. I am very grateful for her willingness to do this. I hope you can gain something from this and it helps someone. We all need a little reminder that we are not alone. I know I do.
Very few terms are as loaded as “mental illness”. Ask yourself what you think of when you hear that term. Even as a mental health professional I have to admit a sterile looking room with padded walls is among one of the first images I see….shortly followed by the words CRAZY and WEAK. The “mentally ill” in our experience tend to be reserved for those severely psychotic great aunts and 3rd cousins twice removed that nobody really ever talks about. The reality is that one in four adults (approximately 57.7 million Americans!)-experience a mental health disorder in a given year. It’s the person sitting on the same bench as you at church, around the same table at the last relief society meeting, the person you visit teach. It has affected your best friend, that family at church with the perfect looking children, the woman in the ward with what seems like limitless energy that does it all. It’s a real and around us every day.
What it really looks like
Mental illness can vary vastly from person to person, but it generally involves a disruption in a person's thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning. It is an actual disease like diabetes that makes it hard to attend to daily responsibilities like working or going to school and can even be so debilitating that simple tasks become overwhelming, even things like showering. It cannot be overcome by “willing” it away or trying to be stronger. The way it manifests itself looks different from person to person. The most common disorders include bipolar, depression, and various anxiety disorders. You’ve probably heard all of those terms but likely don’t know exactly what they really mean. There tends to be a lot of misconceptions/hysteria/drama that circle these disorders which can make it even harder to recognize them in oneself. For example, OCD doesn’t always mean that you’re a clean freak. Bipolar doesn’t mean you’re flying to Vegas one day and L.A. the next. Depression isn’t just the unemployed person that hasn’t left their bed for a month. Post-Partum Depression isn’t just reserved for the woman you saw on the news who drove her kids into the lake. Eating disorders aren’t just for the 90-lbs model. Let me tell you that I see productive members of our society in my office every day who are challenged by each type of these disorders.
When to Seek Help
The reality is that most people suffer with their experience far longer than they should. Our culture tends to be all about the perception of perfection which serves as a huge barrier to seeking help. I feel like with the advent of social media like Facebook and blogs, the power behind that perfection has been magnified. How often do you see status updates about the fight she had with her husband the night before, or the messy house and burned dinner? Conversely, how often do see posts about “loving life” and “having the best husband and kids in the world” (insert 15 exclamation points). I’m partially joking but the perception is real. It can make admitting there is a problem and a need for help very difficult. I know many people who verbalize feeling like coming to treatment is like admitting they’ve failed or are weak. I must say that the people I see seeking treatment are of the most courageous people I know. It’s about an investment in living and living well. That was a little soap boxey but the case I’m making is to not let self- judgments (that must mean I’m crazy/weak/a failure) perpetuated by distorted views of perfection keep you from seeking help. Research suggests that nearly every human being could benefit from therapy at some point in their lives. This website:
http://www.campusmindworks.org/students/when_to_get_help/Knowing%20When%20to%20Seek%20Professional%20Help.asp provides an awesome overview of how to know when to seek treatment. I always say that if you’ve considered it, you should go.
Other Reasons to Seek Help
Mental health therapy isn’t just reserved for those with a clinical diagnosis. In fact, the majority of people I see in my practice don’t fit that criterion. They’re parents who are overwhelmed with the burdens of child rearing. They’re couples who’ve hit a rough patch in their marriage. It’s moms who feel guilty because they work…AND moms who feel guilty because they want more than to be “just” a mom. They’re women with low self-esteem. They’re real people with every day challenges who could use a little support.
What to expect
The majority of first-timers I see for therapy usually have the same fears; that they’ll be asked to sprawl out on a couch and admit their deepest-darkest secrets while I analyze them. Ha! If only it were that easy!
You can go here:
http://www.nami.org/template.cfm?section=About_Treatments_and_Supports to look into the various treatment options that are out there, but you can generally expect to find a normal looking office where you will converse with a (fairly) normal person. The treatment I provide generally involves looking at the way your thoughts impact your emotions and subsequently your behavior. We work together to address distortions, make behavioral plans and changes in an effort to meet the goals that YOU set for yourself. I promise it’s not nearly as scary as you’ve likely imagined.
The Good News
It really does work. The best treatments for serious mental illnesses today are highly effective; between 70 and 90 percent of individuals have significant reduction of symptoms and improved quality of life with a combination of pharmacological (medication) and psychosocial treatments and supports. The earlier you seek treatment, the better.
I hope I got the message across that mental health is a critical aspect of our overall health and an important element in everyone’s life. Taking care of one’s mental wellness is crucial to overall wellness. Who doesn’t like feeling positive about themselves and their life!? I have this theory that if everyone aired their deepest-darkest secrets the way they do in therapy, we’d all be better off. Then we’d know that all moms lose their temper and react in ways that they’d be ashamed to see in replay…that all moms question whether or not they’re cut out for motherhood…that all wives occasionally wonder why in the world they married their husband…that all women have felt like the ugliest and fattest person on the planet. As women we more than ever are faced with daunting expectations to be the best mother, most supportive wife and most fit female there ever were. Not only do we have those expectations; we have social media acting as our ruler stick. We could all stand to take a little better care of ourselves. Go here: http://oser.state.wi.us/docview.asp?docid=1142 for a nice run-down of everyday tips to care for yourself.
· Go to your Bishop! I happen to know that our bishop is very well versed in mental health needs and will refer you to services when needed. LDS Family Services is an amazing resource that provides a number of individual and family services. You can visit their website here: http://www.providentliving.org/familyservices/strength/0,12264,2873-1,00.html or call our local office at (435) 586-4479
· Dial 211 from your phone! Or go to http://www.211.org/ and enter our zip. It’s an information and referral source. These operators know their stuff and can link you to any social service you might need.
· Go to your doctor! They can refer you to any services you might need.
· For more information about mental health visit: http://www.nami.org/
Again, here is the link to a good rundown of self-care strategies: http://oser.state.wi.us/docview.asp?docid=1142
· You can go here for an accurate description of the majority of mental illness: http://www.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=By_Illness. Let this be for information purposes only. A licensed professional is really the only one who can tell you if you have a disorder.
· For information and help regarding domestic violence visit http://www.udvc.org/home.htm With emergencies call 1-800-897-LINK (5465),
· For child abuse information visit http://www.emedicinehealth.com/child_abuse/article_em.htm To report child abuse call: 1-800-4-A-CHILD