Mental Health Illness: Receive Help Now Rather Than Later
SAN ANGELO, TEXAS – Mental health illness continues to be a challenge for people across the nation. Approximately one in five Americans are affected by a mental illness according to the MHMR services for the Concho Valley. Mental health illness can occur at any time, as a person pursues an education, career, or starts a family.
Attending a University can provide a chance for people to learn about themselves and prepare them for the future. However, some develop severe anxiety from living in a new environment without the comfort of what they know. LIVE! Reached out to one student from Angelo State University (ASU) who developed mental health symptoms during her freshman year. She asked to remain anonymous.
The symptoms began when she had a hard time making friends and found it tough to stay engaged in campus activities. The ASU student noted that one of her biggest challenges was living off campus her freshman year, however, she still recommends students to "get inside the dorms regardless of the anxiety of not knowing anyone because it pays off in the long run."
The female ASU student defined her first year as an identity crisis, which spurred a lot of her challenges after being diagnosed with severe clinical depression.
As she began her studies at ASU, the student realized she was showing symptoms of clinical depression. She started feeling lethargic and had little to no interest in socializing with those around her. Her new symptoms caused the female student to miss a lot of mandatory class times as she battled her symptoms and sought out help.
“After being extremely active in high school and living in this perfect bubble, it was a culture shock coming to college,” she remembered. “It took about four months for me to finally realize that there was something wrong with me, and not the people around me," she added.
As she came to a realization that she was suffering from clinical depression, the female student decided to go to the University Health Clinic and Counseling Services on ASU's campus. There she met a therapist who helped her through the process of getting back on track with her life.
“The first step was to admit you have a problem, and be willing to talk through it with a counselor,” the female student explained. After meeting with her counselor, she was prescribed medication , which she received from local area hospital, Shannon Medical Center. After she began taking the medication the female was able to stay on schedule with her classes, stay motivated, and began socializing more.
However, before she could get on a strict medication routine, the student said her illness had a profound effect on her grades.
ASU, like many universities, follows the guidelines of having a scheduled withdrawal date for students. Because of her illness, and before she was able to visit with on-campus therapists, the female student had missed the withdrawal deadline. Now there was no way to withdraw from any of the classes she had signed up for during the semester. Thus, the female was left to fail her classes.
“I do think ASU should take more into consideration when students do come with [circumstances] for needing to drop classes. [Especially] If there is the appropriate paper work to receive the drop from classes,” the student explained.
Cindy Weeaks, Director of Registrar Services at ASU, had different information than the female student had. Weeaks explained that any paper work for withdrawal after the drop date must be approved by the Dean of the collage the student majors in.
“It doesn't make a difference what a [students] reason for withdrawing is, all students must appeal to their Dean if it’s after the withdrawal date,” Weeaks explained.
Due to the miscommunication between ASU and attending students, the female student's transcript showed F’s next to all of her classes.
“It was a challenge to get my Grade Point Average back to a competitive number,” the student said with a heavy heart. Since she failed all her classes, the student was set on academic probation for her sophomore year.
As mentioned above, part of the challenge is accepting the problem. Some students don’t want to withdraw from classes because of their mental health. She explained, I didn't want to drop out, “It was largely a pride thing for me.”
Eventually the student received help from her advisor and the Dean of her college. She was able to recover from her freshman semester and is expecting to graduate in the next year.
Though this is a singular incident at ASU, there are many people in the community who may suffer from anxiety and/or depression on a daily basis.
Dusty McCoy, a License Professional Councilor, who works for West Texas Counseling and Guidance (WTCG), encourages patients to take this first step.
McCoy explained the process of registering for help and the insurance needed to cover the appointments. WTCG use a sliding scale fee that begins at zero, so people without health insurance can still get help.
“If people don’t have [health] insurance, where they fall on the scale determines what their fee is,” McCoy said. “We see everyone and anyone who’s in distress.”
Some of the mental health symptoms treated include, depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. It typically takes 48-hours to get a person admitted, however, there is a crisis service available for those who need immediate assistance.
McCoy added that there are additional services for marriage and family counseling, as well as play therapy for children.
“There has been a lot of progress with stigma as far as people coming in [for counseling],” McCoy explained. “Our average [age] range is around 29 years old.”
He acknowledged the stigma of younger patients requesting help before older patients for mental health services. Of the 2,111 patients in their system, 42 percent are 18 years of age and younger, and 11 percent are 50 years of age and older.
In terms of therapy, WTCG uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy counseling, which McCoy defined as a self-evaluation to help patients understand their symptoms and help with keeping their thoughts in-check.
“It’s a very collaborative approach,” McCoy said. “We want to teach patients everything we know so they can become their own therapist and be able to give them the skills to not be dependent on [counseling].”
The counseling period various depending on the case, however, most patients have 8 to 11 sessions.
“We try to keep it short term, help [the patients], and then let them be on their way,” McCoy added.
There is a negative stigma with addressing mental health illness. Those who feel the symptoms of anxiety or depression are encouraged to seek out therapy sooner rather than later.
“Here in West Texas we certainly have that ‘boot-strap’ mentality," where people think they can do it on their own, and see sickness as a weakness, McCoy explained, but it is simply "not true."
Mental health illness is serious and shouldn't be considered lesser to something like diabetes, McCoy explained. “Toughing-it-out” isn’t a healthy approach to addressing mental health illness
McCoy observed, anyone would treat a physical problem instantly, however, when talking about mental health illness there is some negative views accompanied with it.
“[Mental health acknowledgement] is changing from where we were a few years ago,” McCoy added. “The younger generation are taking a different mindset to it.”
Many patients of McCoy do want to make a change for the better. “People do want to better themselves,” said McCoy “There is no real benefit to being there if [patients] don’t want to change.”
Click here to visit the WTGC website for additional information on therapy and services offered.