Stength over Stigma

According to the American Counseling Association, counseling is an inherently strengths-based, professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families, and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education, and career goals.  Professional Counselors develop individualized strategies with their clients to help them overcome personal obstacles and challenges.  The core of this unique professional relationship is always a strengths-based empowerment toward the attainment of each client’s personal goals.

Despite the emphasis on strength and empowerment in the very definition of counseling, our society maintains a salient stigma towards the receipt of mental and behavioral health care.  The Oxford English Dictionary defines stigma as a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.  To feel shame or disgrace about one’s need for mental health care certainly adds insult to injury, however, the real cost of stigma should be measured in the lack of treatment received, as all too many individuals and families struggle in secrecy, shame and silence.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 43.8 million American adults experience mental illness in a given year, which is the equivalent of one in five adults. 10 million adults live with a serious mental illness, or one in ten adults. One-half of all chronic mental illness begins by age 14 and three quarters by age 24.  Nevertheless, over 60% of adults and 50% of children and adolescents with a diagnoseable mental illness never receive any treatment. 

Stigma and lack of access explain this egregious treatment gap, and the impact is staggering: serious mental illness costs America $193.2 billion dollars annually in lost earnings, depression is now the leading cause of disability worldwide, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) WISQARS Leading Causes of Death Reports, in 2016 suicide became the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34, and the fourth leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 35 and 54.

Counselors understand stigma and struggle tirelessly to undermine its pernicious effects. One of the chief ways we do this is by not pathologizing clients.  Instead of labeling from a problem-focused perspective, counselors adopt a strengths-based and solution-focused approach to client-centered care.  By promoting and preserving the autonomy of every client, counselors work more like a swing coach in golf or tennis.  We start by understanding our client’s goals and values, we work hard to view the field of play from our client’s perspective, and then we work collaboratively with our clients to promote their strengths and develop their skills.

If you or someone you love and care for are confronted with a serious mental illness or simply struggling to adjust to changed circumstances, please do not let stigma or fear of judgment prevent access to treatment.  Professional counselors stand well-prepared to come alongside to strengthen and empower you to achieve your goals, without judgment or reproach, regardless of who you are, where you come from, or what you believe or value.  Counselors can empower you to leverage your own strengths as you confront areas of needed growth.

Remember, too, one doesn’t need a diagnosis (or suspected diagnosis) to benefit from professional counseling or psychotherapy.  As Carl Gustav Jung wrote: “your vision will become clear only when you look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakens.” Consider taking a strengths-based approach to your own awakening and contact a counselor today to help empower your personal vision.

Mental Health Awareness

May marks Mental Health Awareness month where communities, organizations and other affiliates partner in raising attentiveness to mental health. Usually when the word health is used, most think of only the physical aspects this encompasses. Mental health is just as important as maintaining physical health because it affects all facets of our daily routine. This stresses the importance of seeing the whole person so that we are addressing minds and bodies rather than trying to pinpoint one health to focus on. According to a Harris Poll 89% of people believe that mental health is just as important as physical health. However, the issue lies where many people do not know how to or do not converse about mental health that contributes to stigmas forming. According to the National Alliance of Mental Health, 1 out of 5 people are affected by mental health and when combined with stigma it influences these individuals from seeking help. Therefore, deterrence of treatment usually occurs when the environment may contain shame, fear and silence. This perception of mental illness has the ability to change and you can help by:

  • Identifying and reducing any stigmas you might have
  • Educating yourself and others in the community
  • Finding appropriate ways to help advocate for these individuals 
  • Providing support by volunteering and knowing resources
  • Sharing your experiences
  • Taking care of yourself

Although some might seem small, little changes over time can create huge gains for yours and others overall health and wellbeing. Stigma can be reversed by compassion, empathy and understanding. So remember, sometimes the uncomfortable or unknown topics are what need to be talked about in order to address them. Let’s start learning and talking.

 

Self Care

With February upon us and Valentine’s Day on the way what better time to talk about self-care?

This month many will take time to show and share their love for others but how often do we practice showing love and care for ourselves?  Making a point to show others that they are important is a beautiful thing; however, just as beautiful is reserving time to nurture ourselves. This might be a foreign concept or an afterthought with the business and demands that life brings. The following are questions that I have been asked as a counselor and that I admittedly have asked myself:  What is self-care?  Why does it matter? What does it mean to love and nurture one’s self? How does one incorporate self-care into their already busy lives? What are the benefits of self-care? Below I have compiled some answers to these questions.

Here are some key points to know about self-care:

•         It is intentional and often requires planning

•         It helps to improve mental, physical, and psychological well being

•         It helps reduce mental health symptoms such as depression and anxiety

•         It is often ignored

•         It should NOT feel like a chore

Now that we know some key points about self-care let’s move on to some examples of what self-care includes.

- Eating a healthy diet

- Spending time with people we enjoy

-Laughing

-Using relaxation techniques

-Following through with medical care

-Exercising

-Reading

-Listening to your favorite song

-Saying “No” to activities that bring you more frustration than joy

Keep in mind that these are purely examples. Self-care can look different from one individual to the next; however, the theme remains the same and encompasses a sense of balance and self-nurturing.  It is important to take time to promote personal well-being the same way that many of us often do for others. So go ahead and remind those around you how grateful you are to have them in your life but don’t forget to be intentional in your devotion to yourself. Remember that YOU are important and YOU are valuable.

If you or someone you care about could benefit from learning more about self-care and how to incorporate it into your lifestyle, give us a call. Our warm & compassionate counselors are available to support you and provide tools that may assist you on your journey. Call (941) 249-4354 or request an appointment online: www.swfcc.net

“Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths”- Etty Hillesum

Pregnancy and Mental Health

Pregnancy can be a trying and stressful experience for any woman regardless of her age, experience, or number of children. Between the hormones, physical changes to your body, and the complete change in lifestyle, pregnancy can have both times of excitement and times of stress. A woman’s maintenance of her mental well-being is paramount throughout pregnancy for her own sake and that of her baby.

Here are some tips to ensure you are doing what you can to ease emotional stress during your pregnancy:

  • Establish & utilize a personal support system (Close family/ friends)
  • Choose an OB with whom you feel comfortable & safe
  • Attend regular prenatal doctor’s appointments
  • Engage in regular exercise (as approved by your doctor)
  • Maintain a healthy and energy boosting diet
  • Engage in self-care activities like prenatal massage
  • Speak up and ask or accept help from others!!

Personally, I am nearing the end of my third trimester with my second child. And I can tell you, it is a struggle (for even myself, as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor) to ensure I am following all of these guidelines. However, I acknowledge how crucial each of the elements listed above are for my own sanity and the health of my baby. So if you are a mother, or mother-to-be who has read the tips above and thought to yourself ‘Ha! Who has time for all of that?!’, you aren’t alone. Sometimes feeling alone in such a life changing situation such as pregnancy can be overwhelming. Utilizing the previously listed tips, joining support groups online through avenues such as Facebook or various pregnancy apps, and establishing with a therapist can all assist with the support & guidance that enables a healthy mother and child.

Another key to a happy and healthy pregnancy is utilizing your existing support apparatus.  For most, this is a spouse or partner.  Additional help from partners is an essential element to getting through a very challenging time. Here are some tips for dads/partners/caregivers:

  • Have patience with Mother-to-be
  • Don’t wait for her to ask: Offer assistance on a regular basis
  • Be present: Attend appointments if able or desired by Mom
  • Acknowledge emotional & physical needs
  • Let it go: Remember she has significant changes in hormones, so don’t harp on the little stuff
  • Show unconditional love: A woman experiences significant physical changes to her body during pregnancy and she may not feel as comfortable or confident as she was pre-pregnancy

If you or someone you care about is currently trying to conceive, pregnant, or recently postpartum and would benefit from emotional support through this time, give us a call. The therapists at Southwest Florida Counseling Center incorporate a warm and compassionate approach with clients allowing them to maintain successful emotional health. Give Judy a call today to get started (941) 391-1067, or request an appointment online through www.swfcc.net