I’ve often wondered why it’s so hard for us to see the importance of getting a mental health checkup. Our brain and our mind are THE MOST IMPORTANT things for us to be alive. To feel alive. Our mind tells us when/where/why/how we do things. Little daily things like, “Wake up” or “I’m Hungry”. Mediocre things like, “I need to say hi to my boss when I see him this morning.” or “Remember to give the kids their field trip money”. Major things like, “Call Susie and tell her you love her before she flies out tonight” or “I am not going to let this affect me the rest of my life”.
So, what keeps people from finding a personal marriage and family therapist or mental health counselor to help them with their goals & finding solutions, just like they go to their dentist to keep their teeth clean and healthy?
1. I’m fine. I have a good family. I was raised in a good environment. I’m an adult and should know how to fix my problems by now. These things may all be true. Some problems can be taken care of by exercising, eating right, and having a support system; much like we can take care of basic first aid, such as a bee sting, a minor cut, or a burn from the stove. But, what if you’ve done everything you and your family/friends know to do, and your 3 yr old is STILL not sleeping through the night or you’ve read every marriage book out there and you and your husband are still arguing about the same issues and you’re both about to just give up? Just like a good mother would take her child to the doctor if that cut becomes infected, a committed wife should seek out a marriage therapist to keep her family from being destroyed by unspoken issues.
2. If I admit I’m having problems, people will think I’m weak or that I’m crazy. It would be strange to think of someone who has cancer as being crazy because they undergo chemotherapy or to look down upon a parent because he/she takes their child to get braces on their teeth. When we have problems with coughing and breathing, we go to a doctor to see if it’s bronchitis. Because we have to deal with people who are of different cultures, different backgrounds, and different socio-economic statuses at our jobs and in our schools, we WILL have problems with people and within ourselves from time-to-time. We can save ourselves a lot of time and heartache if we go directly to someone who can help us sort through those frustrations and misunderstandings before we lose relationships, friendships, and our own children.
3. Most anxiety, depression, or other mental health disorders have a biological component and can just be treated by my primary doctor. Nothing is more frustrating than going from doctor to doctor, and then specialist after specialist, only to find that there is nothing “wrong” with you and yet, you are still having physical ailments, infertility problems, or weight issues. Mental health problems are not caused by solely bad genes or a biological chemical imbalance, according to the research we have to date. Most medications (with a few notable exceptions, such as those prescribed for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia) prescribed for mental disorders should be taken for short-term (under a year) symptom relief. **It is important to note that it was never meant for a person to be on psycho-tropic meds such as anti-depressants or anti-anxiety pills forever. They are only to help stabilize your moods, until you work with a trained professional such as a marriage & family therapist, mental health counselor, or psychologist to learn coping skills and how to handle what life gives to you individually.
In fact, many physical ailments, such as diabetes, gastro-intestinal problems, infertility, migraines, high blood pressure, joint pains, are caused by anxiety, depression, or another mental health disorder. Our minds are THAT POWERFUL!!! We MUST learn to listen to our bodies. If we are continuously getting sick, our bodies may be telling us it’s time to sit with a therapist or counselor to get to the root issues that we are unaware of. Just like psycho-tropic meds only serve a temporary purpose, other medical treatments only resolve surface symptoms, while the root cause of your physical ailments remains untreated until you seek out mental health treatment.
4. Mental health disorders are labels that are life-long and difficult to treat. Just like the flu comes and goes or cancer can go into remission, mental health disorders are very similar. Parenting stress comes and goes. Anxiety comes and goes. Depression comes and goes, as difficult times in life occur (a death of a loved one, loss of a job, children leaving for college), but it does NOT have to last forever. There are many types of mental health treatments that are short-term, often in as little as 6-12 weeks, depending on the nature of the issue. Even major mental health disorders can be treated in 6-12 months, instead of years. **It is important, however, to remain active in quarterly, or bi-annual mental health checkups, so a crisis doesn’t occur.
5. If I seek out a Marriage and Family Therapist to help me with my children, then I must not know what I’m doing as a mother or father. There are many, many parents and friends who claim to be experts in potty training, disciplining, and building bonds with children. The problem is that each child and each family is so uniquely different. There are thousands of different techniques and tools on how to communicate, how to have a healthy argument, or how to raise children. On top of this, our society is changing at lightening fast rate and books and family traditions often cannot keep up with the new trends in pornography, sexuality, etc. A therapist or counselor has been uniquely trained for a minimum of 6 years, had over 3,000 clinical hours of working solely with children, parents, and couples supervision and post-master’s supervision to learn how to recognize how individuals interact with each other and impact each other.
By reading this, it lets me know that you’ve thought that counseling might be of benefit to someone, maybe even for you or your family. It doesn’t hurt to try it out and see all the benefits there are to having regular mental health checkups with your personal therapist.