safe, insightful talk alternative to family, friends, therapy, coaching

Here’s one perspective:

Trends and barriers to getting folks
the counselling they need.

adapted from Psychology Today, April 2013
Susan  Heitler, Ph.D. with Linda McKinzie

Reach Out. Just Do It.For what do folks seek help?

The pie chart above shows what kinds of emotional problems led over 1500 folks last year (2012) to seek help from Denver’s Maria Droste Counseling Center’s 30 or more counsellors.

Maria Droste’s analysis indicated that anxiety and depression together accounted for the primary troubles of almost 40% of people who sought help.  What triggered their anxious, stressed and depressed feelings?  The something going wrong in their lives, MDCC’s staff believes, has often included long-term or chronic unemployment.

When people face a life problem, which usually is about the work or the love aspects of their lives, they typically first feel anxious.  Looking ahead they feel uncertain about what if anything they can do about the problem.

After a period of anxiety, which they may refer to as stress, people become at increasing risk for feeling angry, blaming others for their dilemma, for depression with hopelessness about finding solutions, or for self-injurious habits like drinking and smoking, and for relationship problems.

Note that the two biggest reasons people seek help are depression and relationship troubles.  That should be a heads up that internalizing our thoughts and feelings is a societally widespread problem, desperately requiring more life-skills training earlier in life, and a perspective shift regarding the freedom to be ourselves and speak our truths without fear of judgement.

It’s probably a bad sign that there’s twice as many folks seeking help for depression as for anxiety.   Depression suggests that folks are giving up on finding a fix.  This disproportion could indicate that people wait out their difficulties while they are anxious rather than seeking help in response to this initial distressed feeling.

“Depression is the leading source of disability in Canada at a rate slightly higher than the world average.”
~ Bill Wilkerson, Business and Economic Roundtable on Mental Health

For many folks, it’s only when they have fallen into a dark hole of hopelessness that they finally feel so bad that they reach out  for professional mental health services.  Better late than never, and yet that’s sad because often it’s easier for folks to find solutions to their problems when they are still feeling anxious than after they’ve given up.

Intake workers at Maria Droste noted another unexpected factor when they looked at these statistics for the past year’s intake records.  They noticed an increase in calls about relationship issues.

Claudia Gray, Maria Droste Intake Manager, said, “This year in particular, we had a lot of people requesting couples and family therapy for a variety of reasons.”

“Mental health disorders represent the greatest business and public health challenge of the 21st century. We must understand that. And in a hurry.”
~ Bob Lord, Chairman of the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants

One of those reasons Gray speculates, has been the country’s economic downturn. “If couples are already struggling with insufficient communication skills for talking over their difficulties cooperatively and productively, and then you add the stress and struggle of economic and financial worries, weaknesses in communication become more pronounced.  Couples seek out counseling to help them find better ways to communicate with each other.”

Sue Kamler, Director of Maria Droste’s intake services, added that the calls coming in last year also seemed to be more complex. “For example, when someone called in saying they were experiencing depression and anxiety, during the assessment process we often discovered a history of childhood abuse or domestic violence. The depression and anxiety needed treatment, and at the same time it was important also to address their earlier issues of loss or abuse.”

Employees experiencing high work/life conflict have absenteeism rates three times those of employees with low work/life conflict.
~ Duxbury, Higgings: “Work-Life Balance in the New Millennium: Where Are We? Where Do We Need to Go?”, 2001

A recent study by compensation consultant Watson Wyatt Worldwide found the estimated direct cost of absenteeism to business is 7.1 per cent of the payroll, up from 5.6 per cent in 1997. Again, stress-related disorders accounted for the lion’s share. In 2000, the only year studied, there was an additional 10 per cent indirect cost for overtime, replacement personnel and loss of productivity.
~ The Globe and Mail, July 15, 2002

 Why don’t more folks reach out
for the help they need?

“Mental health is talked about more now than ever before.  With the high profile media coverage and analysis of incidents such as the Sandy Hook shootings, public forums such as Dr. Phil and Oprah, and corporate involvement to bring mental health issues to a more commonly recognized part of life (such as Bell Let’s Talk Day), it is now the subject of discussions at national through to community through to dinner table levels.

Yet only a small proportion of the people who would benefit from counselling actually seek it out.  Why??

Ms. McKinzie offers the following explanations for why many people delay seeking support:

“One major reason that many people, especially men, do not seek support and therefore needlessly suffer for long periods of time from emotional pain, anxiety, excessive anger, old resentments and depression, is their perceived stigma associated with receiving mental health care. They regard getting help as embarrassing, something others do but not themselves.  Better to grin and bear it than to admit that they need help.

“Another concern is expense.  Only one of the costs of meeting with a counsellor is paying for the sessions, which health insurance or extended benefits may or may not help to cover.  In addition, missing time at work for weekly daytime therapy sessions can be costly in terms of not getting work done, docked pay, and supervisor disapproval.  Evening and weekend sessions may require payment for babysitters.

“Finally, there is a documented shortage of affordable mental health care in most communities. If everyone who genuinely needs mental health help were to seek it, there would be far too few resources to meet the challenge. And, there needs to be more options for talk therapy readily acknowledged to meet both a person’s comfort level and financial level, such as community programs, clergy, and mentors.

“Mental health is fundamental to physical health as well as to experiencing life’s most positive blessings such as happiness, gratitude and supportive loving relationships.”

This was one of the key messages in the first-ever Surgeon General’s report on the topic of mental health and mental illness released way back in 1999. Now, 15 years later, we still have far to go in terms of getting mental/emotional/spiritual health support to all who need it.

What can give us hope?

Fortunately, there are more options being recognized for folks who are feeling that they just have to grin and bear it:  don’t know where to turn, think they can’t afford help, or fear the stigma of being labelled with an “inferior mind” or weak.  One of the most exciting new trends in our internet age has been the offering of SKYPE, phone and web-based mental health services in any form, from anywhere in the world.

The bottom line

Services are available far more broadly and less expensively than many might think.  If you are feeling down and out, mad or stressed, do consider giving mental health services a try!

When is talk-therapy useful?  Any time you:

Need someone on your side — someone who is knowledgeable

Are stuck and need help resolving a particular problem

Need coaching support to meet a specific goal, such as career, relationship or social

Have concerns about your relationship and want expert help to improve it, or to make decisions about the direction the relationship should take

Have a need for strict confidentiality in regard to your concern

Need a fresh look at your life and where it’s going

Are feeling depressed or stressed by specific events

Are sad, lonely, or anxious and don’t see a way out

Susan Heitler, Ph.D., is the author of many books, including From Conflict to Resolution and The Power of Two. She is a graduate of Harvard University and New York University.
Co-author Linda McKinzie, is executive director of Denver’s  Maria Droste Counseling Center.

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