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Psychiatric counseling

The truth about receiving psychiatric help

Many people think you have to be "crazy" to receive psychiatric help. Further, if you or a family member have used psychiatric services, you should be ashamed and keep this information a deep, dark family secret. Mental health services are equated with padded rooms, straight jackets and scenes from "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."

In reality, there are many levels and types of mental health services and many reasons for getting help. Locked hospital units do exist for safety issues, but most people who receive therapy are seen on an outpatient basis. Outpatient therapy programs can last up to six hours a day for a period of weeks, or for as little as one hour per month, depending on the reason for the therapy and the intensity of the problem. Many people who come for help feel that they are alone and no one else is going through what they are feeling.

The truth is, mental health problems are very common. A mental illness is simply a "disturbance of the mind that may interfere with normal behavior and cause difficulty within daily life." The following statistics show just how common mental health problems are within the United States:

  • Mental illness affects nearly 20 people in 100.
  • One in four women and one in 10 men can expect to develop depression during their lifetimes.
  • Eight percent of Americans suffer with anxiety disorder.
  • 1.6 percent of adult Americans will have a panic disorder at some time in their lives.

Experts estimate that more than 50 million Americans are suffering from a mental illness or addictive disorder at any given time. But only about a third of them ever seek professional help. Seeking professional assistance can help many people ease their suffering and lead happy, productive lives. So why do so many fail to seek the help they need?

To answer this question and to find out exactly what people think about psychiatry, people who had received psychiatric help were interviewed. The interviews uncovered three main reasons why people don't seek help:

  1. the belief that people should be able to deal with their problems by themselves:
  2. the belief that only "nut cases" seek outside help;
  3. fear due to misconceptions or lack of information about psychiatry.

Many people don't get help, because of the belief that they should be able to "get over it" or "snap out of it." Mental health services are reserved for "nut cases" or the very weak. In reality, many mental health issues have physical components that need medical attention. Also, when faced with mental health issues, people usually don't have the strength or information they need to deal with the situation. A specialist trained to deal with these issues can guide and assist with alleviating the problem.

There is also the fear of dealing with the unknown. Our concepts of what to expect from mental healthcare come from television and the movies. Following are some comments about what the interview participants thought mental health services were all about:

  • "I had no idea what to expect. This was the complete unknown and that was scary."
  • "I visualized rubber rooms, straight jackets and people telling me what to do -- a situation similar to a prison."
  • "I thought counseling was lying on a couch, someone asking lots of questions and analyzing my life."

What the interview subjects actually found was a "safe haven" to discuss their problems and gain a fresh perspective. They found that counseling meant talking with someone who could understand what they are going through and help them work through their problems. Receiving help let them know they are not alone and kept them focused on resolving their problems. A very common comment was, "I wish I had done this long ago. I feel so much better, and my life is so much improved."

Admitting you need help and asking for it can be very difficult. It is hard to face problems and not avoid or deny their existence. Seeking help shows the desire to improve yourself, your life and the lives of those you love.

For more information about counseling services available at Baptist Health Louisville, call Baptist Health Counseling at (502) 896-7105 or toll-free 1-800-478-1105. Help is available 24 hours a day.