May is mental health month. A month that can help foster hope for anyone that has or has had a mental illness. Far too often the word mental illness has brought about feelings of shame, fear, and guilt. In reality, mental illness is far more complex than just those negative feelings. Mental health is a concept that deserves more attention and understanding as more and more people experience some type of mental illness in their lifetime either directly or indirectly.
In fact, mental illness is one that does not discriminate. Its symptoms can vary from person to person, as well the severity in which it is expressed. However, different from many other illnesses, mental illness is not one that can be detected so easily. There are no blood tests that can pinpoint any particular mental illnesses, and other technological advances in diagnosis are not readily available. Therapists take great care in understanding a person’s subjective experience in order to create and guide the course of a client’s treatment to reach the health and wellness goals that he or she sets. There are options and resources available for those who suffer with mental illness.
Often times, a person may have just had the experience of others telling him or her to “just suck it up”, “look on the bright side”, “hang in there and things will get better.” These words, though intended to help, may not always provide the help and hope that a person with mental illness may need. Sometimes an individual may need a little more help then repeating positive mantras in their head. Sometimes a person may need to feel that his or her emotions are valid. And sometimes a person may need to know that they are not alone in their experience. All of these options can be the foundation of hope that will allow a person to move forward, to take that next step to feel better.
Now, this framework for building hope can only be successful if a person decides to take the first step and share his or her experience with others. Far too often, people feel like they must keep their voices quiet about the thoughts and feelings that they are experiencing regarding mental health. A person may have grown up with the idea that emotions and talking about emotions is equivalent to weakness. Or a person could feel like they would be an outcast within their culture if they step outside of the norm and speak about how they are having a difficult time with their thoughts and feelings. Seeking help does not indicate weakness. In fact, seeking help can show great strength and personal awareness. Furthermore, therapists are attune to different cultures and finding out what exactly that means for the clients that they work with.
Now is the time to let your voice be heard. If you or someone you know is having a difficult time managing thoughts, feelings, or behaviors, take the time to start the conversation with someone else. The best way to build awareness is through talking about your experience. You might be surprised at how many other people understand what you are talking about either from their own experience with mental health or through someone that they know.
In honor of Mental Health Awareness month, Novell and Novell Counseling Services will be offering a FREE class, Therapy 101: Helpful Healing with Hope and Awareness. This class will provide relevant information for individuals, couples, and families. We will be defining what therapy is and challenging the existing stigmas offering clarity of what therapy is not. We will also share key indicators of heath and development to give guidance of when extra help would be beneficial. Further, we will discuss the resources that are available along with sharing what services that are offered through us. Be well, we hope to see you on May 25th at 1pm.