May is Mental Health Awareness Month Part 3



#3 - Taking the First Step, Then the Second


By Terry Bailey


What does a person do when they take a deep breath and say to their self, “I am in deeper than I thought. This is more than I can work out on my own. I’ve tried and tried some more. It is time to find someone more experienced to help me with this.”

As Dirty Harry once said, “A man has to know his limitations.” We all have limitations. Once we hit that point, it is necessary to call for reinforcements. So…how do we send out a call for the cavalry?


Most people first turn to their family or their friends or their religious leaders. They are close. They are safe. They are familiar. It is easy to share intimate emotions and situations with those close to you. You do not want them to “fix” your problems. You just want them to listen, nod their head, and say “Yes, I understand.”


Many times simply talking out loud to those close to you can help you get a grip on those troubling feelings. One of Sigmund Freud’s major tennets of mental health treatment was the act of talking about one’s troubles or concerns. He named this process “Catharsis.” Freud said, “If you talk out loud about what is bothering you, you will get better.” He was absolutely right.


However, sometimes you need to move to the next level. Sometimes talking to people who are close in your social circle do not have the professional counseling skills to help you deal with what is bothering you. At this point you would need to seek the skills of a professional counselor.


In the North Central Kansas area this would mean a call to Pawnee Mental Health. Pawnee covers a nine county area in North Central Kansas and is headquartered in Manhattan, Kansas. They have outreach offices located in many towns throughout their nine county area. Most people live within a thirty minute drive of the closest office. Additionally, there are several competent independent professional therapists operating private practices in North Central Kansas.


For most folks, the first call can be troubling. “What do I say? What if they ask me “what is your problem?” What if they ask me to describe my situation?” Relax. None of these things will happen.


It is as simple as this: look up the number and dial it. When the secretary answers the phone you simply say, “I would like to make an appointment to see a counselor.” At that point, the secretary will help you schedule an appointment and you both say “goodbye.” That is it.


A professional counselor is a trained person who has extensive training and an advanced college degree, considerable experience listening to normal people like you, and they are skilled in helping them gain a strong grip on the things that are bothering them. A professional therapist has an advantage because they are not acquainted with you so all they know about you is what your tell them. Because they are not close personal friends or associates, they have no vested interest in leading you one way or the other. It is easy for them to be neutral and work for a solution that is best for you.


One important point to remember is that a therapist will not solve your problems for your or give you all the “right” answers. Their job is to lead your though the process of thinking though issues and coming to conclusions that make sense to you. Since the issue belongs to you, the answers should be yours, also.

Another advantage of talking with a professional counselor is that most counselors have helped many people deal with issues close to the kind of issues you are dealing with. Their previous experience gives them a strong background to help you come to understandings with your issues and concerns.

Professional counselors do not prescribe any type of medications. That job is handled by a Clinical Psychiatrist. The psychiatrist is a medical doctor who has extensive education and experience in diagnosing conditions and prescribing medications with which to treat those conditions. Once medications are prescribed the psychiatrist closely monitors the patient.


There is no doubt that mental illness is a very real part of our society. It was present in Biblical times and it is present in the twenty-first century. It affects the young and old. It affects men and women. It affects the rich and the poor. It affects all ethnic groups. And it has very real consequences when it goes untreated.


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