Have you ever thought about going to therapy? Maybe you’re thinking “I don’t need to go to therapy. Isn’t therapy for people who are really struggling with intense issues or they’re just crazy?” Well that isn’t necessarily the case. Yes, a lot of people who are in therapy are struggling with depression, anxiety, or other mental issues; however, therapy is simply an outlet for people to talk about their problem, whether they’re anxiety driven or not.
Going to a therapist was one of the best decisions I ever made. I began going to therapy because I was dealing with anxiety and struggling with my sexual identity; however, after I figured all of those things out, I continued to go because it was one of the most therapeutic and relaxing experiences I have ever had. I was allowed to talk about things, drama and other stressors, without the back and forth you have to have with your friends. I sat there for an hour as she listened to me talk and talk and my crappy friends and my messed up parents and she gave me advice and support. With friends, they can say “I’m here for you” and all those other cliche phrases but you know deep down that they have their own lives to deal with and they’re just waiting for their turn to talk. With therapy, the therapist sits there and talks to you like you’re friends but doesn’t expect anything in return from you. They are simply there to help guide you in the right direction and make sure that you are going to be okay. It’s fulfilling and relieving.
The best part about going to therapy is they know nothing about you. They don’t know anyone else’s side of the story and they don’t know the history of you or anyone else in your life. When you complain about someone or something, they have zero bias on the situation so they can give you honest and genuine advice about the situation. They tell you how it is based on the information you give them. With friends or parents, they usually understand the whole situation or have known the other people in the scenario, making it harder for them to stay unbiased. If you’re choosing between talking to a friend or a therapist, I’d go with therapy every time.
I understand that therapy isn’t for everybody; however, if you’ve never tried it what’s the harm? You may discover that you love it and it helps you more than any friend ever could or you could realise that you hate it and you never want to go back again and that’s okay too. Whatever the outcome may be, try therapy. It made me a happier person.
Therapy is good for the heart and soul. While talk therapy is nice, additional therapies are also beneficial. I had the pleasure of recently going to a conference on alternative healing practices. I was able to learn about the mind, body and soul. A lot of these alternative healing ideologies come from eastern practices and may be foreign concepts.
The first practice to address is Yoga Nidra. When you think of yoga today, you probably get the mental picture of people doing all sorts of bending poses. While these poses are an aspect of a yoga, Yoga Nidra is much more in-depth. The basis of Yoga Nidra is all about focusing on your breathing and putting yourself in a deep state of meditation and relaxation while remaining conscious. The healing value of this type of practice is simple: it allows the individual to enter a state of deep rest and relaxation. Those with mental illness can find peace within themselves by just being and breathing. Dr. Swami Shankardev Sarawati helps his clients find peace with Yoga Nidra. You can read his account of how Yoga Nidra is useful as part of the therapy process here.
The next healing practice is homeopathic remedies, particularly Bach Flower Remedies. These Flower Remedies are extreme dilutions of the healing parts of various flowers in nature. There are 38 different flower remedies that are tailored to specific issues. For example, the Crab Apple Flower Remedy is often used for an individual who may feel emotionally dirty, or unclean, and isn’t satisfied with their appearance. This particular remedy is often used by individuals who’ve been sexually assaulted or raped. The healing value of this practice helps the individual feel better from whatever is ailing them emotionally. If you’re interested in the explanation of how these flower remedies work, you can read Heal Thyself by Edward Bach.
The last alternative healing practice is the power of pet-assisted therapy. When you walk into a room to find a friendly dog or cat, often you will notice a smile on your face. Pet-assisted therapy is a type of therapy that aims to help an individual improve their emotional, cognitive and social impairments. In the mental health community, animal assisted therapy decreases anxiety and improves symptoms of depression. Pet assisted therapy is also used to help children with ADHD and autism. If you’re interested in learning more about pet therapy or how to become a certified pet therapy handler, you can visit Pet Partners.
Healing comes in many different forms. In the mental health community it often comes from within. Being open minded about what’s out there to help promote inner healing is a good idea. Whether it’s acupuncture or yoga, a lot of these eastern healing practices are based on the idea of negative energies being let out and positive energies being let in. Healing is healing no matter what form it takes, so be open about taking in those positive energies.
Susie Ramsland is a senior psychology major at the University of Mary Washington who lives with a variety of psychological illnesses. She has a panic/anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and major depressive episodes, and she chooses to go without any medication. She is majoring in psychology because she wants the people she encounters to be able to relate to her and learn from her experiences.
“At one point my panicking got so bad that I couldn’t even get behind the wheel of a car,” Ramsland said. “I was the only 17-year-old at my high school who wasn’t learning to drive, and I was too afraid to tell people what was going on because I knew they would see me differently — I mean, it’s high school.”
This is when Ramsland decided it was time to see a psychologist, and she said therapy did wonders for her. After her first few visits, Ramsland started working with her therapist to discover the root of her fears, and after several sessions her therapist started to walk her through different ways to deal with her anxiety.
“She told me that she has a lot of patients my age and that I should get comfortable with everything I have because it’s a part of who I am, and it doesn’t make me any less of a great person,” Ramsland said. “She also said that the people who really care about me wouldn’t care. I was really determined to be confident again so I swallowed my worry and I became really open about everything. I ended up being really surprised because it turned out the more I talked about it, the more people wanted to know.”
Mental illness isn’t the terrifying diagnosis it used to be, and in today’s society more college-aged people are seeking therapy and answers.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one in five college students is living with a psychological illness, so at a school like Radford University with a population of about 10,000 students, around 2,000 are living with a psychological illness. NAMI provided other statistics that said one out of three college-aged people said they have lived with “prolonged periods of serious depression” and one out of every four said they have had suicidal thoughts.
NAMI has recently begun a push for parents to talk to their teens about mental illnesses so they are aware and prepared for the independence and psychological stress that accompanies college life. The main point is to keep an open dialogue with young adults in order to identify what they are feeling and whether those feelings are signs of something bigger. Almost half of college-aged people polled by NAMI reported that they have poor mental health, while only 25% of parents reported any behavior that they thought could be a warning sign.
The biggest issue is awareness; parents are often unaware, so they don’t know how to prepare their children, and in turn, their children go away just fine and come back with an undiagnosed case of depression or anxiety, and neither parent nor student knows how to handle it.
Many universities are becoming more aware of the conditions their students are affected by and have stepped up their support programs and the availability of university-employed counselors.
Schools like Radford University and Virginia Tech offer student health and counseling services to their students for little to no charge in hopes that students will take advantage of the opportunity to get help early.
As reported in a previous article, Radford University’s Director of Student Counseling Services Erin Sullivan said the number of students seeking counseling with her department increased by nearly 48% from the 2007-2008 year to 2009-2010.
The programs offered by schools are not usually meant to be long term, but they are able to refer students to long-term therapists and psychologists. Radford University offers counseling for individuals, couples and groups in hopes that therapy will relieve the stress that many students experience every day. They offer medication evaluation and management, so students can have a professional available when they have questions and concerns about their personal health. Radford University also provides educational services to its students for free. This service informs students about a variety of subjects from mental health issues to stress management, anxiety, depression, sexual health, alcohol and substance use, and nutrition.
Jennifer Simpson, a Resident Assistant at Radford University, said that she has had her fair share of experiences with mental illnesses.
“Even before I was an RA, I knew residents with mental illnesses,” Simpson said. “One of my good friends suffered from OCD, bipolar disorder, insomnia, paranoia and addiction, but she was a great person. She had episodes, and I was there for her during those […] It was rough, but I was her friend and I wasn’t going to abandon her when she needed me.”
Simpson’s friend left Radford University, but her experience taught her a lot about mental illness and what some people go through in silence.
“I became an RA because I wanted to be the person someone could come to, trust and confide in,” Simpson said. “My residents know I accept them, I’m here to help them and I want them to succeed. I like being the catalyst for some of them; I don’t push them, but I make sure they all know what resources are out there and that I am willing to personally take them if they need me to.”
Many schools like RU are working to provide the services that will keep their students healthy, both mentally and physically; and according to the statistics, more students are taking advantage of those services than ever before. The issue is being addressed by schools, but according to NAMI, the dialogue has to start at home and awareness needs to start early. An open atmosphere will foster healthier more successful individuals and the first step is knowledge and understanding.
The Tunnel of Oppression is a program that started at the Western Illinois University at Macomb in 1993. Since then the program has spread to college campuses across the United States. The Tunnel’s purpose is to raise awareness about oppressed people and the forms of oppression they endure generated by things like prejudice and discrimination. Radford University has adopted and adapted this program to pertain and relate to the students here at RU.
The program here focuses more on the cognitive effect on its visitors rather than some programs that focus on a more graphic “shock and scar” approach according to DeLoach. The program is presided over by a committee headed by Dave Falletta and Adrien DeLoach. The committee chooses from various topics they’ve brainstormed that Radford students can relate to.
The goal of this particular program is to inform visitors to the exhibit of the challenges their peers with disabilities, which can be invisible to the naked eye, have to face in their regular lives. After choosing the overall theme, the committee chooses what subjects in that theme to address. This year the committee had to choose what disabilities to focus on. They took into account what visitors would find interesting, what challenges members of the community face and what would inspire those in the community to help their peers become successful.
“We wanted to make it hit closer to home so when students went through they would be more engaged by relating personally to those topics,” Falletta said.