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June 5, 2016

Mental Health continues to be stigmatized, which creates a phobia around seeking help and being fully engaged in service provision. I wanted to debunk some of the statements I hear from clients, and their friends and family.  Take a moment and seek out more information because the face of mental health can be you, your sister, your coworker, or even your neighbor. The more we know... not all wounds are physical. 


"Nothing is wrong with me."


Self-awareness is key to living at your optimal level. Usually, self-awareness is diminished in the presence of an issue we rather avoid or escape. Taking time to be introspective, or if you are a friend or family member, taking time to observe that person, is helpful in determining symptoms or changes in behavior. Some general behaviors or feelings that can be indicators of mental health issues are of the following:

  • Feeling fatigued, exhausted

  • Difficulty getting to sleep, or waking up often throughout the night

  • Feeling emotionally detached, or the opposite, highly emotional, almost irrationally emotional for the situation

  • Feeling hopeless or helpless

  • Impulsive behaviors or sudden mood changes 

  • Feeling nervous, constant worrying, fearful or having obsessive thoughts

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Feeling irritable or quick to anger

  • More withdrawn or isolated

  • Feeling low motivation or  overall lack of interest 

  • Constant conflict with others i.e., yelling, arguments, violent, aggressive, etc

  • Hearing voices or seeing things that are not there

  • Thinking of harming yourself or others

  • Inability to maintain daily activities or responsibilities such as showering, going to school or work, cleaning, etc

"I just want to be normal."


By definition, normal is conforming to the standard that is expected. Sometimes we have unrealistic expectations of our self and others, which is a setup for failure. Your normal should be based on the standard of living that makes you balanced and capable of performing at your best. I encourage you to define normal for yourself. Set your definition as your goal, and develop steps to reaching that goal. Make sure your goal is realistic and achievable.  


"People say that I am crazy."


My best answer to this is something that a psychiatrist once told my client. She said that mental illness is no different than a medical issue or physical handicap. Mental illness is simply a disease in the brain, like asthma is a disease in the respiratory system and arthritis is a disease affecting the joints. We are not our illness, disease or handicap. 


"I just want to get my life together." or "Will she ever get it together?"


Successful independence for any person can only be accomplished with holistic wellness and balance. Maintaining mental health wellness through medication management, engagement in counseling services, and/or positive follow up with symptom maintaining activities can bring about emotional and mental stability that is needed to maintain gainful employment, financial stability, positive relationships with others, self-care and hygiene, effective decision making, etc. Without mental health wellness, many fall to poverty, homelessness, abusive relationships, incarceration, unemployment, substance abuse, loss of custody of their children, poor hygiene and self-care, hospitalizations, etc. Being independent means that you have made a conscious choice to take care of yourself at the highest level so that you can achieve goals you set for yourself; and you are actively engaging in practices that maintain that level.


"Won't he just grow out of it?"


One out of every five children have a diagnosable mental illness, but less than 20% are receiving treatment. Most adults that have mental illness showed signs during childhood. 75% of mental illnesses present before the age of 24, with 50% of mental illness presenting before the age of 14. The earlier the intervention, the more successful that child will be as an adult. Early intervention gives time for understanding the diagnosis, learning skills to manage the symptoms, grieve, and develop a lifestyle that is empowering and self-directed.


"I just want to get off of my medication."


Some illnesses need ongoing medication for stabilization, especially if chemical imbalance is apparent. I believe that medication "takes the edge off" of the presenting symptoms so that counseling can assist in increasing daily functioning. For some illnesses, counseling is the most necessary intervention. In those instances, the psychiatrist will eventually decrease medication use. The most important thing is to follow psychiatrist advice, and inform the psychiatrist about your treatment goals. Being off of medication, without medical advice, can mean hospitalization, decrease in daily functioning, increase in criminal activity or impulsive behaviors, relapse, increase in suicide risk, etc. 


"How do I get help for my brother?"


I speak with a lot of people about ways to find help for their family and friends. When someone is over the age of 18 years old, there are limited ways to link them to services without their consent. Usually, others are observing their change in behavior, but the person does not really accept that there is an issue. Below are two resources for to address this type of situation. If the individual is open for help, the Georgia Crisis & Access Line can still be helpful, or follow up with a provider within the person's insurance network for assessment or intake. 


Georgia Crisis & Access Line (1-800-715-4225) is crisis hotline that is available 24/7. There are licensed professionals available to speak with you regarding crisis intervention, as well as referrals within your area based on your insurance, or lack of insurance. In addition, they have a free service called "Mobile Crisis", which can meet you and your family/friend to do an assessment, and provide recommendations. 


Order to Apprehend is a warrant issued by the local probate court judge to mandate an assessment by the nearest emergency receiving facility. This can be simply done by two adults (over the age of 18) that have been witness to the individuals change in behavior providing observation information to the local probate judge in the individual's residing area. The judge will then decide if an assessment is necessary. Once the warrant is signed, the sheriff will locate the individual and transport them to an emergency receiving facility for observation and assessment. 


For more information:


U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

National Institute of Mental Health

Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration

Kids' Mental Health

National Alliance for Mental Illness

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