What if you do a Google image search for sunrises and sunsets? After looking at hundreds of pictures what will you see? Can you actually tell the difference between a sunrise and sunset? Perhaps there is something about a sunset that makes it look different, or maybe it is something about you that you see a picture of the sun on the horizon and it seems like a sunset but maybe it is not.
We all see the world through our own lens according to how we think and feel, or what our attitude is. Maybe what we see is not what we think it is. Maybe we need to ask ourselves how our minds are shaping our perceptions.
We all need someone to challenge our assumptions sometimes, even though we may not realize it or want it. Sometimes a good friend or caring parent is there for us. Sometimes we hear from a co-worker or a neighbor.
There are times though, when we need more expert help in the process of looking within ourselves and uncovering the things that need attention. Healing within so that we can see more clearly the way ahead is hard work. It is also some of the most important and rewarding work there is. Do you need a guide on a healing journey?
“I wouldn’t know what to talk about.”
This is sometimes the reason people don’t go to counseling. You’re not quite sure what to say to the stranger in the room in front of you. However, something inside of you says that you need to discuss your day with someone else outside of family, friends, or co-workers. It can be awkward at first.
You essentially get invited into a room where there will be a possibility of comfortable chairs or even a couch. You then have the opportunity to tell someone you have never met before, what’s going on. It’s not like a medical exam in which you would sit on a table with crinkly paper. There are no pills or any shots. The counselor may ask you questions, sometimes on initial paperwork or in person that can be detailed and quite personal. Write down what you feel comfortable writing down, and eventually discuss things that you may not at first feel comfortable discussing. Don’t expect that every single counselor knows every detail of your life. They don’t know about you until you share about yourself.
If you’re coming into counseling to talk about not feeling great about your job, well then that’s what you talk about. Chat about not feeling great about your job and all the bits and pieces that go into that. Don’t feel like you need to discuss what was going on in your life when you were a five-year-old if you’re 45 years old and you’re simply not liking your job. However, know that if there are issues in addition to your job a qualified counselor can help you to talk through those things. A good counselor will not judge you for not wanting to talk. A good, confident, clinically trained counselor will not judge you for any of your most intimate secrets.
Counselors are people that clients can come to talk about the hard or embarrassing stuff in life. Counselors are the people trained to not shy away from topics such as the mechanics of a sexual encounter, the pain of losing someone to suicide, or the thoughts that go on in your head that you might not feel like you want to be having. There is a very broad range of wellness and illness and with it comes the ideas and activities that each of us has in our daily life. A counselor can help you sift through them. Not every session is deep and dark and tricky. Some might be for some people, while other may never have these types of discussions. People come talk to us about their jobs, their parenting, their relationships, their next awesome business idea, or about the people that are bullying them and they just don’t know what to do. People talk to us about the life choices that they are making with drugs or alcohol and they want to find out more about healthful choices they can make for their bodies that may not be as damaging.
There is no right way or wrong way to talk to a counselor. Simply be the respectful person that you are and remember that the counselor is human too. Counselors themselves have been through many life experiences and hundreds of classes that can help guide you to make the decisions that are best for you. So, when you feel like you don’t know what to talk about with a counselor simply say that. Tell the counselor you have never sat with someone like this before and that you’re not sure what to do next. This is probably not a first session ever for the counselor, in which case they can guide you to help discover what it truly is that you’re there to talk about. Try it out. You never know what you might learn.
– by Anthea Isaacs Marymount University Forensic Psychology Intern
Within smaller communities it is harder to receive information on mental health resources. That is why in Loudoun County, VA, the first annual Hopefest: Health and Wellness Fair 2016 was held. The fair included various mental health organizations within the are so the community could learn more about them. A few centers that took part included Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter (LAWS), Loudoun Citizens for Social Justice, Windward Optimal Health, and Boulder Crests Retreat for Military & Veteran Wellness. These organizations and 37 others set up exhibits with information and fun activities for children. There were also panels, which consisted of mental health professionals, law enforcement, and political influences that provided information on why there is an increased need for mental health awareness.
Guest lecturers discussed drug use within the community, eating disorders, and helping veterans after they returned home. The suicide awareness and prevention panel which included Suzie Bartel, Dr. Sherry Molock, and Susan McCormick was of most interest to me. Suzie Bartel is the president of the Ryan Bartel foundation created in honor of her 17 year old son that committed suicide two years ago. Dr. Molock is the director of clinical training in the department of psychology at George Washington University and works with churches to increase the awareness of suicide among teens. A short video that displayed several teens who shared how suicidal thoughts can affect an individual was shown. Being supportive and listening to people may be way to help prevent a suicide attempt.
Ms. Bartel explained that she started the organization to prevent other parents from going through what she went through. She explains there may be signs, especially with teens, that adults must pay attention and not dismiss as a phase. Dr. Molock explained the importance of the church in being more accepting and less condemning of those with suicidal thoughts. She explained how she works with churches to incorporate more open talks among teens about how they may be feeling.
The group spoke candidly about how parents and others adults could speak to those they believe are considering suicide. They explained that many who want to talk to those they believe are suicidal, think asking them if they are suicidal will put the thought in their head. It would not. Many do not ask their friends or love ones if they are suicidal because they are afraid they will make them think they are. Asking an individual if they are suicidal can be helpful to the individual. It can give them an outlet to express their feelings and not feel alone. It can be easy it is to hide from family and friends when you don’t feel good. I have seen how damaging the shock can be to family and loved ones when the choice of suicide has become final.
Teens can take breakups with friends or relationships very hard. Listening to them and being aware of changes in behavior can be helpful in noticing when something is wrong. Like teens, adults can display a change in behavior when depressed or contemplating suicide. A common behavior that can be noticed is the giving away of sentimental objects and being withdrawn. An individual may find a sense of peace when they have decided to commit suicide, which can be confusing for loved ones. The acceptance of the act seems to create a sense of calm for the individual. Those who were once irritable can all of a sudden be easygoing once they have decided to commit suicide.
I have seen how depression and the lack of communication can lead to losing someone unexpectedly. Some conversations can be very hard and sad, but showing a little support can be the difference between someone believing they shouldn’t live or they should receive help. Losing someone very close to you can be very hard to move on from. Many do not know how to ask for help and support. Being aware and there for that individual even if they may not want it could make the difference. I enjoyed how honest and up front the panelists were about a topic that many are uncomfortable to talk about. They created an awareness in me that no one should be ignored or left to go through something alone because you never know how hard it is for them.