Part 1: Good Talk: How Society Creates Obstacles to Healing

Part 1: Good Talk: How Society Creates Obstacles to Healing

 So at the age of 13, I walked into a counselor's office because I was told that I had to.   Well, that is what you have to do when you tell

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 So at the age of 13, I walked into a counselor’s office because I was told that I had to.
Well, that is what you have to do when you tell authorities that you have been sexually violated.
I had to get fixed because I guess I was broken.  I could agree with that.
I wanted to die.
I tried to die.
I would have died had the internet been invented at that time.  I tried to kill myself.  I just wasn’t any good at it. Nothing that I had been trying for at least the past year or so was working.
I have gone to counseling many times since then.
Over the years, from family, friends, and strangers, I hear the following comments:
“Those counselors are just taking your money.”
“Counselors don’t know what they are talking about. Sometimes their own lives are so messed up, they need a counselor.” 
“You are just opening wounds from the past. What for? Why would you do that?”
“What good would come from telling the same stories over and over again?”
“You tell those strangers your business?”
“Pray about it.” 
“Pray about it. Forgive those who hurt you. There, you’re healed. Now you can pay me.”
“Counselors are for “crazy” people.”

It seems that collectively we agree that people should “get help” when they need it. At least that it what we say when folks die from suicide.
Yet, we manage to create obstacles for people when it comes to seeking that help.  We do this through our attitudes and behavior.
And, depending on the person, we create levels of obstacles to healing.
Level 1
Crazy vs. Normal Obstacle: 
Our society continues to believe that counseling is an indication that the person seeking help is wrong but others around them are “normal”.
We see this in domestic violence cases.  Ron abused Jan. Jan seeks therapy to heal from the abuse.  When they go to court to settle financial matters and custody Jan’s mental stability is called into question.
She is the one who went into therapy.  Of course, we believed that Ron was the one who needed it.  You know, the violent one.
However, because Jan sought therapy she was viewed as “broken”, “unstable”, and “flawed”.
Her accounts of the abuse were called into question because she was depressed as a result of years of abuse.
First of all, general population viewed getting counseling as an indication that one is “crazy”.
This view that people who go to counseling are somehow admitting to being crazy or surrendering to the notion of being “crazy”while everyone around them who doesn’t get help is “normal”; is a certain obstacle to seeking much-needed help.
Level 2 
When it comes to a person’s placement in society, societal norms position obstacles that block your entry in two places.
1.   Norms that dictate why you should not go to counseling because of who you are as an individual.
2.   IF you are able to get beyond this obstacle there is yet one more hurdle.  When you enter therapy,  counselors may not be experienced, trained, or have enough awareness of their biases to aid you.
Gender obstacles:  Men don’t talk about their problems, they fix them and move on.
This keeps men from healing from the pain of trauma, depression, and even adapting to changes in life.
Generational obstacles:  The generation prior to mine believed in not “putting your business in the street.”
One doesn’t go to a stranger and reveal family secrets.
Level 3 
ISM Obstacles: like racism, heterosexism, ableism etc.
People with disabilities are expected to overcome like the people that were profiled in the media.  If they have difficulty.  Well, perhaps they just aren’t trying hard enough.
Racism:  I can speak to this one personally.
Black women are expected by both the general population, people from other minority populations, and even members of our own culture give us an entire restaurant tray of full of dishes and expect us to balance them all on the tip of our noses if we must.
From an early age, many black girls are slammed and tackled with oppression, sexism, racism, misogyny, bias, discrimination, misunderstanding, and/or poverty.
Yet, society literally makes us out be criminals if we don’t handle it all like white gloved and pearls debutantes.
Those are just a few of the obstacles that are in front of people who may need help in their healing process.

I continue to call for us to make drastic changes to the way that we serve people in need of mental health care.

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Still, where there is a will there is a way.  Until things change, it will take more work on the part of patients and families than it should but it is worth it.
I want to tell victims/Survivors that everything was not “fixed” in that one year or so that I went to counseling as a teen.
But, it was a great start. I still use many of those skills to this very day.  They have saved my life.
I have encountered many very gifted counselors who offered patience, support, information, and wisdom just when I needed it most.
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