Counselor’s Desk: It’s more common than you think

When I moved to Demopolis, I knew that a certain level of curiosity was expected from neighbors and townspeople. People generally want to know where you are from, if you have children, who you know, etc. Then, more times than not, the classic question surfaces: “Now what do you do?”

This is where I have come to expect a level of hesitancy after I answer. I feel like it requires some sort of introduction: “Hi, I’m Kate and I am a mental health counselor….” After I say this, people generally give me various responses ranging from, “I don’t know how you do that every day” to “Well I guess those people need help too.”

After several years being in this field, people’s responses have stopped surprising me. The surprising part is how people act once we begin talking – they all have a sense of relatable familiarity.

I am a mental health counselor and, to many, mental illness is the elephant in the room at the dinner table at night. It’s the all-too-common cause of family turmoil. It’s the “problem” seen in families that people don’t like to talk about.

The fact is that all of us have been touched by mental illness either directly or indirectly. We are all affected by it even if we don’t like to talk about it. Mental illness is still very much taboo in today’s society – especially in small, rural towns such as ours.

I wanted to begin writing a weekly segment on mental illness to help break the silence. My hope is to make this struggle a conversation among friends, family, neighbors, and the community. Mental illness is just like any other illness – it has proven time and time again to be debilitating, chronic, and, oftentimes, lethal.

About one in four adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. It’s a shame that the people who need help often fail to seek support because of the stigma associated with mental illness. We can help people through our openness to talk about what is wrong and our willingness to seek treatment. We stop the stigma through listening to others without judgement and by walking a mile in their shoes.

My goal is to start this conversation through highlighting some common features of mental illness each week and to educate people about when and where to seek help.

Kate Crawford is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is the director of Tombigbee Outreach in Demopolis. For more information about Tombigbee Outreach, call 334-287-2428.