Social isolation, discrimination, and labeling are a part of the everyday struggles faced by the mentally ill. 1 in 4 American adults suffer from a mental illness. 1 in 17 people will have a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression and bipolar disorder. The stigma of mental illness ensures the majority of affected individuals will face negative consequences in recognizing and coping with their mental health needs.
Erving Goffman defined mental illness as a blemish of character and a way to deviate from social norms. However, many of the definitions of mental illness fail to grasp that there are many other aspects to mental health. The three most influential social factors to mental illness are family stability, the placement of neighborhoods and society’s relationship to mental health problems. Mental illness does not solely arise from one’s environment. There are also biological and genetic predispositions that contribute to one’s mental health. One thing that is certain, as a society, we can change the way mental illness is perceived.
Social isolation or exclusion has been one of the most detrimental affects of the stigma, which is brought upon by labeling. The labels placed on the mentally ill by society, which the media reinforces, are dangerous, crazy, and inadequate. Due to these labels, those with mental illness get isolated from the rest of society. The practice of socialization then inevitably creates an “us vs. them” mentality, those people, the sane and the insane. Confided by these labels and exclusions, mental illness sufferers also struggle with finding their place in society.
Stand up against the stigma of mental illness is what society needs to create a new normal. This new normal will accept the importance of mental illness and will recognize treatment as equally important with physical illness. This new normal will place mental and physical health on the same spectrum. The new normal will make talking about mental illness a part of everyday conversation, and it will allow people to no longer be ashamed.
Hopefully with the acceptance of the new normal, it will bring about affordable mental health treatment, better counseling centers in high schools and colleges, and a society that is better educated on the issues of mental illness. With a new normal, those with mental illnesses can finally feel like they are a part of society and live without fear of isolation, discrimination, or labeling.
Listen to Episode 1 of my podcast Anxious Ramblings:
Anxious Ramblings is a biweekly conversation about mental illness. This show will challenge society’s views on the mentally ill and help to fight against the stigma. Anxious Ramblings explores the good, the bad, and the ugly side of living with a mental illness. Here we speak about all the crazy thoughts in your head that you’re afraid to say out loud.
For this episode of Anxious Ramblings, I introduce my story with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and speak about the stigma regarding mental illnesses. The episode concludes with me sharing responses from people who want to tell the world about their mental illness.
Is Counseling For You
Have you been in counseling or therapy? If not, have you ever hesitated in seeing a counselor, or wondered why you felt so wary? Studies show about 20-35% of Americans having attended some form of counseling and psychotherapy compared to approximately 80% of mental health professionals.
Believing that counseling and psychotherapy could be helpful for anyone in alleviating problems, improving relationships, and developing a more positive outlook toward life, a Journal for Human Services research study explores why some people attend counseling or therapy while others do not.
Researchers, Ed Neukrug, Mike Kalkbrenner, and Sandy Griffith wondered why it was that some people seemed readily to attend counseling while others hesitate or who don’t attend often to their own detriment. Their research on attendance in counseling of helping professionals and their upcoming research on attendance in counseling of the public in general offers a thoughtful analysis which will hopefully shed some light on this important concern.
After an exhaustive review of the literature, researchers independently looked at over 60 potential barriers to attendance in counseling and eventually reduced this number down to 32 specific items. Their research found three broad areas or reasons likely to affect individuals who tend to avoid counseling and therapy. They identified these areas as “Fit,” “Stigma,” and “Value” to reflect the areas they represent.
Factor 1: Fit
Fit has to do with one’s sense of comfort with being in counseling and whether one has the ability to trust the process of counseling will be beneficial. Some typical fit questions were related to whether a potential client believed a counselor would feel comfortable with the potential client’s sexuality, disability, or other aspects of the client’s identity. Other questions in this area assessed whether a potential client believed a counselor could understand him or her, was competent enough to deal with the client’s problem and could keep the client’s concerns confidential. In addition, other “fit” questions queried whether potential clients had a bad experience with a counselor in the past and if they thought they could find a counselor near to where they lived
Factor 2: Stigma
Stigma is the feeling of shame or embarrassment some people experience when they consider entering a counseling relationship. Some of the stigma questions highlighted whether a potential client believed their friends, family, peers, colleagues, or supervisors might view them negatively if they knew the individual was in counseling. Other questions focused on how some potential clients might consider themselves weak, embarrassed, or unstable if they were in counseling. Often, those with high scores on stigma believed others would judge them, and thus, they would feel badly if they were to enter counseling.
Factor 3: Value
Value is the perceived benefit or worth one believes he or she is receiving from attendance in counseling. Potential clients who would score high in this area often believed the financial cost of counseling was not worth its benefits. Participants in this category simply could not afford counseling or they didn’t have time for it. Many participants in this category believed counseling wasn’t necessary because problems usually resolve on their own, or that counseling was simply not an effective use of their time. These individuals simply did not embrace the counseling process because the financial costs in their mind are hard to justify over meeting basic needs and/or having to take time off from work.
Although some individuals cannot find a counselor to their liking, participants worried whether counseling would be worthwhile, or they were ashamed or embarrassed about going to counseling. Most people believe that when faced with difficult life problems, counseling could be helpful.
It is hoped through research like this, people can better understand why they might be hesitant to seek a counselor and maybe overcome some of their fears. Additionally, this research can help national organizations, in the helping fields, find ways to help clients overcome these barriers.
Turnkey: A Co-Housing Experience in an Italian Public Service for Addiction
Turnkey is a term used in the economic field, but it also fits well in a social rehab project. The idea comes from the need to give some answers to the problem of those patients that experienced a long term therapy in an addiction rehab center for 3 or 4 years.
In the Italian welfare system, the outpatient service team -work (doctor, psychologist, educator, nurse and social worker), operating in the addiction recovery can schedule long term treatment in the residential rehab centers. In some cases, this long time permanence is something obliged, because of the serious addiction and also for the lack of different life perspectives after the recovery.
These kinds of patients need more therapeutic help in order to return to civil society in order to find meaningful social membership. Usually, these clients have no meaningful familiar connections, no job, and no significant friendship.
In the last years, our social services system has become more careful about the use of public money. They noticed social workers more equipped to provide therapeutic interventions using a holistic approach in order to spare economic resources. Social workers are more capable to assist patients in reaching a better life condition by using their abilities toward social integration.
Five years ago, the program’s director asked for the professional team to think about a solution for the rehabilitation of the” long term patients”.
I started wondering about the meaning of poverty which is not only economics but it also the satisfaction of primary needs. It’s the lack of healthy relational bonds which weakness a lot the patients coming out of the drug addiction recovery programs.
I also noticed that this relational deficiency is a modern human condition; in the weakest social situations the loneliness is something that “destroys the mind “.
So I got an idea: I proposed to my director to start thinking about a possible apartment for a temporary co-housing for at least two patients.
He liked the project and submitted the plan to the municipalities which have the competence in the social side of rehabilitation. The municipalities agreed to the project and financed it.
For the patients in long term recovery, the rent was paid through the financing with the municipalities (an average of 6.000 Euro a year for 4 years, renewable), whereas the utilities and the others cost of the house has been in charge to the occupants.
The management of activities like the admission of the patients, the guaranteed respect of the therapeutic contract, the check of daily life and the help in the money administration, are some of my specific competences as a social worker.
In my job role, I had a significant part into find fitting persons for the project who were able to live together. I also contributed to choosing the people eligible to live in that specific therapeutic situation.
I helped the patients to organize their new life and to establish minimum rules of mutual life in the apartment. The project is strictly tied to the learning of the skills required to come back to live a regular life.
– living together is an opportunity for the patients to learn mutual respect
-cleaning the home and paying the utilities is a way to come back to daily responsibility and autonomy.
– having a good neighborhood relationship is a way to learn again to have good relationships without drug addiction to interfered an apartment, next to the main social and sanitary services of the town.
Since 2011, we housed 11 clients in the apartment with an average of one year placement. We should consider that one year in a residential rehab center cost 30.000 euro each person.
Eight of them returned was able to manage a regular social life, their addiction, a job, maintain social relationships which helped them to achieve a dignified lifestyle.
Two persons are still in the co-housing situation, one of them has a regular job, and he is searching for an own house. Only one person abandoned the treatment.
This intervention is a daily challenge for our team; it gave us good results in the recovery outcomes like independence, citizenship, struggle against the stigma and improvement of personal resources.
We also have spared a significant amount of public money while offering to our clients a higher quality of life.
The creativity and the professional skills mixed together with the help of other colleagues in the multidisciplinary teamwork made this project an effective strategy to help patients overcome their circumstances.
So, I can call myself a responsible social worker, because I help to improve the personal resources in my client’s life. I was mostly inspired from the basic professional principle “start from where the client is”.
Will Veteran Suicide and Mental Illness Rate Improve?
It was about 9 years ago. I decided to put down the rifle and pick up the DSM. You see, I was an infantryman since I was age 17. That means, since I was a child, I was literally trained to kill people. Looking back at it, that sounds like a profound concept.
I am proud of my time in the military. I am proud of my brothers and sisters who have ever answered the call. But… I am also worried.
As I said, 9 years ago, I decided to change my path. I didn’t realize where that path would lead. I seen multiple traumas and death happen to my fellow comrades. I went through some trauma myself, but I still worried about others more than myself. So, I decided to become a Mental Health Specialist in the military.
It’s been a long road going from Infantryman to Social Worker. There are a lot of learned attitudes and behaviors I had to change. Can you believe it? I literally had to learn empathy. And that took a long time.
Just about anyone in the military knows that drinking alcohol is a part of the lifestyle. Everyone I looked up to drank and considered me a p**sy if I didn’t. So… when I was sent to Germany back in the early 2000’s as a 19 year old kid, you better believe I drank. It was legal!
Looking back at my adventures between then and now, I don’t regret a thing. Yes, there were many embarrassing moments, and I have lost many friends along the way. I also met some great people. My alcohol use made my path rockier than anything else.
Many others have had this experience as well. Between 1998 and 2008, binge drinking went from 35% to 47% of veterans, and 27% of that 47% experienced combat.
Between 2002 and 2008, misuse of opiate prescriptions went from 2 percent to 11 percent in the military. These prescriptions were mostly due to injuries sustained in combat, as well as the strain of carrying heavy equipment.
This concerns me. When I was young, I had a good time. Looking back, maybe it wasn’t.This might not be every veteran’s experience, but the culture encouraged substance use and discouraged getting help. There are others that would agree with me.
This could explain why 20 veterans a day on average commit suicide. This is actually down from 22 a day before the 2014 study from the VA. However, it is a 32% increase since 2001. In 2014, veteran suicides accounted for 8.5% of U.S.’s adult suicides, and the rates were especially high among 19-29 year old compared to the older generation.
Let’s not forget about the infamy of PTSD. Up to twenty percent of veterans have suffered from this. Of course, those who suffer are more likely to admit their distress to a computer program than a battle buddy or their superior. This, again, goes with the constant culture that causes our military to fear judgment.
These wars have been a constant the last two decades, and have cost all U.S. citizens a pretty penny. According to one report, the VA spends $59 billion a year on health care. This number is 3 times as much as it was since before 2002.
And let’s not forget the cost this country has incurred for being in war for this long. Well, we don’t really know an exact number. The cost is estimated by many to be in the billions or even trillions. This isn’t including the interest from borrowed money.
So, after looking at all these figures, I am overwhelmed. How can I even make a dent in helping our nation’s veterans? The current administration is planning on increasing our presence in war zones. I am expecting the rate of PTSD and suicide to increase once again. Also, our country will continue to spend. It seems to me that we are all participating in a death and mental illness factory. The thing is, I didn’t even get to the physical injuries many of our combatants have suffered from.
I love our nation’s military. I want every one of them to know that I am here to support them. But most of all, we all need to be here to support each other.
First Responders: Behind The Festive Season
I’m a social worker. I’m a first responder spouse. With my partner, I advocate for improved mental health for first responders, including educating helping professionals to understand the culture, lifestyle, and demands of the job on both responders and their families.
I hear stories from police, paramedics, firefighters and frontline rescue responders and their family members every day. Tales of trauma, grief, and horror – and on the flip side incredible strength, resilience, courage and sacrifice. It’s December and social media is full of excited conversations about planned gatherings and festivities for Christmas and the New Year. Those posts inspire this reminder.
In Australia, there will be barbeques and beer in sweltering heat by the pool or at the beach, a stark contrast to some of our global friends whose Christmas will be white, accompanied by outdoor play with snowmen and gift giving inside by the warmth of a log fire.
Despite the contrast in temperatures across the globe, there are those who work tirelessly behind the scenes of Christmas beer and New Year cheer. Police, paramedics, firefighters, and rescue personnel are unlikely to experience the festive season in the way most people do. They are on call to ensure the public’s continued safety, health and wellbeing. And so their festive season, regardless of location, is far more likely to include these scenarios:
- Burglary, elderly occupant assaulted and taken to hospital
- Multiple occasions of drug overdose at a teenage party, several individuals taken to hospital in serious condition
- Alcohol fuelled violence, multiple serious injuries
- Bush fire endangering properties, implement evacuation procedures
- Car accident, children seriously injured
- House fire, no injuries but the house is beyond repair and a family is left homeless
- Notification of the sudden death of someone’s loved one
This is a typical “festive season” for first responders. Their families are at home – not with their loved ones as is traditional, but quietly accepting that their loved one is needed out in the community to keep others safe. Some days will simply be a bit lonely, other days will be filled with concern for their safety.
For many first responders, the festive season brings back memories of trauma past. That makes the lead in time to end December a difficult one, rather than one of anticipatory excitement. And then, of course, we have those who can no longer turn out because of physical or psychological injury. Their lives forever changed by the job. Perhaps this year they do get to sit with their families and share a meal, but at a huge emotional and financial cost inflicted by their injuries.
Finally, a harsh reality in first responder world: the first responder family members who tragically have to face this “festive” season alone. This time not by choice. Their first responder’s life either taken away by an incident on the job or by a sense of hopelessness all too common in those with psychological injuries.
The festive season of giving is a timely reminder that we as a global community are exceptionally fortunate to have first responders looking after us. Whether you’re in Australia, India, Alaska or England, these people give up their precious family time to keep us safe. Many are volunteers. They are human, just like us. Witnessing human suffering is hard at any time – but this time of year adds extra burdens. Please drive carefully, celebrate carefully. And while we all sit in the protected bubbles of our own private Christmas and New Year celebrations- please spare a thought for all frontline responders and their families
In the spirit of the season, please acknowledge their sacrifice with a note, a smile, a thank you – so that in the midst of whatever trauma they’re dealing with, they will be reminded of the true intention of these times: goodwill, human connection, and hope.
Having Difficulty Creating Worksheets and Activities for Your Clients?
Tailoring worksheets and activities specifically for your client needs can be challenging for the best of therapists and counselors. For others, maybe you are a natural born artist moonlighting as a mental health professional dazzling clients with your creativity which helps them move one step closer to becoming their best selves.
According to the National Institute of Health, there is a direct correlation between the creative arts and health outcomes when used in a therapeutic setting. The study reports: “Use of the arts in healing does not contradict the medical view in bringing emotional, somatic, artistic, and spiritual dimensions to learning. Rather, it complements the biomedical view by focusing on not only sickness and symptoms themselves but the holistic nature of the person.”
What are my options with limited artistic abilities?
For those of us who are artistically challenged, it is imperative to identify resources and begin creating a therapeutic toolbox for practice. There is one resource that I would like to share which helps both the artistically challenged as well as the artistically gifted mental health professional.
According to its website, Hub for Helpers is an “online library for all licensed therapeutic professionals to access high-quality, interactive, low-cost materials for diverse client populations”. Hub for Helpers also states that it hopes to lessen the burden of developing materials by providing low cost options to help mental health professionals find materials to best server the need of their clients.
Hub for Helpers was founded by Nicole Batiste, a school social worker in a Texas middle school, when she saw an overwhelming deficit in affordable, accessible, and ready to use materials for therapy. Nicole sometimes found herself spending more time planning meaningful things to do in therapy than providing direct practice.
Inspired by the response to her activities from her diverse client base, she decided to create a hub for therapeutic professionals to access numerous interactive materials conveniently. Nicole states the mission for Hub for helpers is to continuously provide top notch, affordable activities to ensure that we are indeed, “helping you help!”
How does Hub for Helpers Work?
Hub for Helpers provides a quick and easy way to access and save materials in your “My Hub” account. If you are wondering how it all works, here are the tips provided on their website:
- We strongly recommend you sign up with us to create your personal Hub. It’s quick, easy and free!
- Begin to browse our materials by searching by the many domains provided
- All of our resources are multi-paged packets that guide you through each activity, if you so need it
- Once you’ve chosen an activity, check out is easy, fast and secure.
- You will then be able to download your resource, all of our resources are in PDF format.
- Your resource will remain in your Hub to be used repeatedly at no cost.
- Should you choose to become a subscriber, a $40.00 credit will be issued to you each month
- If you are a corporate subscriber a $200.00 credit will be issued to you each month to use amongst your employees.
Hub for Helpers has provided three free activities for you to download here.
What else does Hub for Helpers do?
In addition to being an online marketplace to buy low-cost worksheets and activities, for the artistically gifted, you can also sell your creations in the Hub for Helper’s marketplace. For more information, visit https://www.hubforhelpers.com/become_a_seller/.
Sponsored Content by Hub for Helpers
What is Trauma-Informed Care
“What’s wrong with you” is typically our response to what we consider problematic behavior. But what if we shifted our mindset in such a way that would enable us to ask a question such as “What happened to you”?
Trauma-Informed Care makes that possible.
The trauma-informed perspective is a new way of evaluating consumers’ experiences and shifts from the traditional approach of care that focuses on eliminating problematic behavior to a trauma-informed approach that focuses on getting to the root of the issues so that individuals may experience recovery in an empowering manner.
Research data reveal that trauma can – and indeed, does – happen to anyone. As a precautionary rule, then, the trauma-informed approach requires that all administrators, clinicians and other relevant staff and volunteers interact with all consumers as though they have experienced some form of trauma throughout their lives.
Trauma occurs when an external threat overwhelms a person’s coping resources. It can result in specific signs of psychological or emotional distress, or it can affect many aspects of the person’s life over a period of time. Trauma is unique to each individual—the most violent events are not always the events that have the deepest impact. Everyone perceives trauma differently…what may be considered traumatic to one person may not be perceived the same way to another.
Acknowledging what happened to a person will help providers generate a more accurate interpretation of a consumer’s experiences as opposed to thinking there is something wrong with them. As such, the approach to care becomes one in which there is recognition of the multiple ways traumatic experiences impact individuals’ well-being.
It also permits the provider to focus on developing, implementing and monitoring policies, procedures and practices that promote healing and recovery. According to Steven Wiland, “Human service systems become trauma-informed by thoroughly incorporating, in all aspects of service delivery, an understanding of the prevalence and impact of trauma and the complex pathways to healing and recovery.”
The trauma-informed approach is a framework that can be adapted to meet the diverse needs of various organizational, systemic, and individual structures. All trauma-informed systems operate under the realization of the widespread impact of trauma; there is a recognition of traumatic symptoms in people part of our organizations and systems; and a trauma-informed response that yields changes in policies, practices and procedures in order to avoid the re-traumatization of people we encounter in our organizations.
|Traditional Approach||Trauma-Informed Approach|
|Lack of understanding about the prevalence of trauma and its impact||Recognition of the prevalence of trauma and its impact|
|Elimination of symptoms/problematic behavior||Recovery as a primary goal|
|Providing solutions from an expert position||Collaborating with the consumer to agree upon solutions|
|Providing help to the helpless – providing no choices||Consumers provided with choices and have autonomy|
|Reactive to behavioral cues – crisis driven||Proactive – prevention of retraumatization – avoiding crises|
In recognition of the pervasiveness of the experience of trauma, the trauma-informed approach involves the practice of prioritizing safety, trust, empowerment, collaboration, peer support, and culture through the adoption of policies and procedures embedded with these principles.
To get you started on imagining what Trauma-Informed Care might look like for your organization, take a look at examples of the traditional approach to care versus the trauma-informed approach to care as shown below. Then ask yourself, how do we measure up?
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