From Madoka T. Urhausen, LMFT, ATR-BC, Program Manager, School Based Program:
For some, it might feel like playing a game of chess without having a sense of how it will end, or working on a puzzle without all the pieces or having to do whatever it takes just to keep your feet on the ground. “Nope, I’m not moving from here unless I know for sure it’s safe.” However it feels, influences in our everyday lives, like the news, COVID-19, racial injustices, school, our jobs, our families, etc., can have major impacts on our mental well-being.
October 10, 2020 is World Mental Health Day. This is a day to remember to take care of your own mental health as well as a day to help stop the stigma of mental health treatment. According to NAMI, 1 in 6 U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year. Therefore, I invite you to join me in speaking out about mental health.
We are currently living through a time in history where many are feeling stuck and helpless at the same time, which is a dangerous combination and can contribute to depression and anxiety. This practically puts everyone at risk because it is our nature to feel and think. We try to make sense out of our lives despite the chaos and uncertainty.
When things don’t make sense, we can experience dissonance, discomfort, disorientation, disillusionment and dis-ease, to name a few. We may also fall victim to doubting many things, including our present existence and our future. Out of desperation, people may look for a “quick fix” that is typically not healthy and could even make things worse.
When you have exhausted your usual “go-to” self-care and still don’t feel okay, or when you notice family members or friends not being able to come out of the “funk” for a long time, it’s time to ask for professional help.
Please remember, while the word “mental” often connotes something undesirable in common vernacular, our mental health is a crucial dimension of who we are and how we embody a sense of agency, or having a sense of control and ability to do things and take care of things on own.
Believe me when I say there’s an opportunity to heal, and it all starts from picturing something beyond what you feel. I am a survivor of a family member who died of suicide after we immigrated to the U.S. I am also an artist turned expressive arts therapist and an educator. I believe in the power of art and how elucidating personal truth through expressions can facilitate deeper communication and understandings of a person’s experience. This is also how we relate to little children. We ask them to draw a picture of their happiness and what is getting in the way. We help create the roadmap so we can remove obstacles and journey together from there.
At The Guidance Center, we struggle together with our client’s challenges and help them find the path beyond the seemingly impenetrable wall. It takes some time to build a trusting relationship with your therapist, yes, but we are clear with the message to you that we are here to help. You don’t have to suffer alone.
We help our clients reclaim their strengths, remember who they are and cultivate how they can contribute to their own mental health healing. We also work to help family members understand what their son, daughter, sister or brother might be going through. Family members often think, “Oh, here he goes again. He’ll be ok if we just let him be.” Please take caution. It is important to connect with that person and encourage them to seek help.
My personal experience prompted me to be a piece of a puzzle that belongs to a larger healing community where more people can be restored to health and be the persons who they are meant to be. I hold this vision for everyone. A healthy mental well-being allows us to move toward a more fulfilling and successful life.
I will end by offering a haiku poem by Basho
We’ve miles to go together.
Here are some resources to help you get the conversation started:
• How can I help a friend struggling with their mental health? By Better Mynd
• 31 Tips to Boost Your Mental Health by Mental Health America
• What is Stigma? Why is it a Problem? By NAMI
• Do you have Stigma? Stigma harms the 1 in 5 Americans affected by mental health conditions. It shames them into silence and prevents them from seeking help. Take the quiz at CureStigma.org
• 5 ways to start a conversation about mental health by Time to Change
• 21 Ways To Be Kind To Our Mental Health by Mental Health America
• How to engage in positive self-talk by CHOC Children’s
• Signs Your Child Might Benefit from Mental Health Support by The Guidance Center
• Sign up for a local Mental Health First Aid course and learn how to help someone who is experiencing a mental health crisis
• Talk to your doctor about mental health if it’s not already part of your annual wellness check up
• Other Mental Health Resources and Hotlines
Madoka Urhausen, LMFT, ATR-BC, is the Program Manager in The Guidance Center’s School-Based Program where she helps guide children and families struggling with mental health conditions or abuse toward positive and productive futures. She is especially passionate about working with families to resolve intergenerational trauma and creating sustainable efforts among service providers to work in the community. Before joining The Guidance Center team in 2011, Urhausen worked with Asian Pacific Islanders and immigrant populations in diaspora as a Site Manager at another DMH contracted agency. Urhausen earned an MA Degree in Marital and Family Therapy with concentration in Clinical Art Therapy at Loyola Marymount University. She is currently working on her doctorate degree in Expressive Arts Therapies at Lesley University and is a field instructor for Loyola Marymount’s graduate-level art therapy students.