- I’d love to see a therapist, but I’m too busy with work/family/other activities.
- I talked to a counselor one time and it didn’t help.
- I’m not someone who talks about my feelings with a stranger.
- Psychiatry is a racket.
- It is on my list of things to do, right after I accomplish <insert xyz task>
- My spouse/partner doesn’t support that idea.
- Childcare makes it impossible.
- Silence/Change of subject
These reflect the general themes of responses people give to me when I broach the suggestion that therapy might be helpful for them. I know that forcing the matter isn’t useful, but I feel sad that they are in that space. It is a little sadder when they often bring up their challenges and struggles, but resist this tool that I really believe can be essential. When my friends talk about their experience growing up with an alcoholic parent or their challenges parenting their own kids, I wish they could see that help could, well, help.
If you are cringing right now, please just read through to the end as a favor to me.
Early identification, prevention, and intervention can make a huge difference. Too many people wait until they are in a crisis to seek professional help which means a longer and more difficult recovery. It also means fewer choices when it comes to resources such as selecting a therapist that is a good fit.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month and this year’s focus is on early intervention.
When we think about cancer, heart disease, or diabetes, we don’t wait years to treat them. We start before Stage 4—we begin with prevention. When people are in the first stage of those diseases and are beginning to show signs or symptoms like a persistent cough, high blood pressure, or high blood sugar, we try immediately to reverse these symptoms. We don’t ignore them. In fact, we develop a plan of action to reverse and sometimes stop the progression of the disease. So why don’t we do the same for individuals who are dealing with potentially serious mental illness?
One way to see if you may be experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition is to take a screening. Visit www.mhascreening.org to take a quick, confidential screening for a variety of mental health conditions including anxiety, depression, mood disorders or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Use your screening results to start a conversation with your primary care provider, or a trusted friend or family member and begin to plan a course of action for addressing your mental health.
Remember, mental health conditions are not only common, they are treatable. There is a wide variety of treatment options for mental illnesses ranging from talk therapy to medication to peer support, and it may take some time for a person to find the right treatment or combination of treatments that works best for them. But when they do, the results can be truly amazing and life changing.
Sometimes, I lose my patience when people resist therapy or even a screening. I want to smack the nonsupportive partner/spouse and tell them to step up. If they have kids, I want to grab them by the shoulders and say “Don’t let your kids grow up to be like me because you are too stubborn to get help.” And sometimes, I start to tune them out because the cycle of “OMG things are awful” to denial/escapism behavior is exhausting to witness.
None of these reactions are appropriate, but they are real ways that people respond and distance themselves from someone, adult or child. It is very hard to stand by while someone resists getting help for anything really. So I’m going to focus my energy this month on creating solid content that will perhaps connect someone with the supports the need and deserve.