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Mental health professionals are trained to guide you through difficulties

This is a new year for the fulfillment of dreams and the development of new opportunities. However, there will be some who will be stagnated because of emotional challenges. They should seek professional mental health services, but their pride or misconceptions prevent them from doing so.

“I don’t need counseling” is an excuse many give for not seeking professional help to deal with emotional or mental health issues. Others say, “I am not going to tell anybody about my business” or “Who can tell me about myself better than myself?” These views have crippled the growth of many individuals and families over the years.

It is interesting that many would call a plumber, electrician or IT specialist to do repairs in their homes because they do not know what to do. However, they refuse to call a mental health professional to help them “repair” the most profound and intricate mechanism in the world — the brain. Why do we do that to ourselves?

In an article entitled “The Top 10 Reasons People Say No to Counseling” on the online Counseling Center, the first two reasons are so true about why people do not seek professional help:

• “Receiving counseling is a sign of weakness.”

This is a popular excuse in The Bahamas. Nothing could be further from the truth. It takes courage to address problem areas and examine painful feelings. Entering counseling is taking the first step in resolving difficulties.

• “People who go to counseling are crazy. I’m not crazy!”

In The Bahamas, this is one of the strongest reasons people stay away from professional counselors. Some people who receive counseling feel “sick” in the sense of being unhappy, but you don’t need to be feeling sick or non-functioning to go into counseling, you just need to be feeling stuck. Counseling helps when you have tried to address a situation on your own, but your strategies don’t seem to help. Asking for help is a sign of maturity, self-awareness and possession of a sense of inner strength.

There is a little brightness in our country. Over the past 30 years, I must report that the stigma of going to professional counseling in The Bahamas has faded a few notches. People from all walks of life, races, nationalities, socio-economic strata of society, are utilizing the mental resources in The Bahamas.

If you are considering help from a mental health professional, to whom should you go? Should you go to your pastor or just anybody who promotes him or herself as a “counselor”? Note that pastors are not trained mental health professionals. Neither is a teacher, nurse or carpenter a mental health professional. Interestingly, any one of these persons, and more, can often give wise advice and guidance that can be life-changing. However, a mental health professional has received years of training and is equipped with tools and skills to deal with issues of life. Therefore, if you want professional help, seek someone with at least a Master’s degree in an area in mental health. People without a Master’s degree should not be providing professional counseling because that level of training does not prepare one to be a mental health clinician.

In The Bahamas, the Bahamas Psychological Association is working with the Ministry of Health to develop legislation and policies for the licensing of all levels of mental health professions. The minimum education requirement to receive licensure in The Bahamas will be at least a Master’s degree in a mental health area.

A mental health professional offers help in addressing many situations that cause emotional stress, including but not limited to: adapting to life transitions; anger management difficulties; anxiety, career change and job stress; death of a loved one or friend; depression and other mental and emotional problems and disorders; eating disorders; family and relationship issues; flirtatious behavior; gambling addiction; intimate partner abuse including spousal rape; sexual abuse and domestic violence including rape or molestation; sleep disorder; social and emotional difficulties related to disability or illness; and substance abuse and other addictions (alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, tobacco, etc.)

“Good indicators of when you should seek counseling are when you are having difficulties at work, your ability to concentrate is diminished or when your level of pain becomes uncomfortable,” says Dr. Gail Robinson, past president of the American Counseling Association. “Or you: spend five to seven days feeling unhappy, regularly cannot sleep at night, are taking care of a parent or a child and the idea crosses you mind that you may want to hit that person, place an elder in a nursing home or in alternative care, have lost someone or something (such as a job), have a chronic or acute medical illness, can no longer prioritize what is most important in your life or feel that you can no longer manage your stress.”

Isn’t it interesting that most of us will go to a medical doctor annually to check all of our body parts, fluids, hormones and functioning, but we do not go to check the most powerful machine in the body and on earth — the brain? One need not wait until the “roof falls in” or one would have spent weeks without sleep or cried out all of your tears to seek professional help. Mental health professionals are skillfully trained to guide people through pathways of life that are often difficult to maneuver. Call a mental health professional today.

• Barrington Brennen is a counseling psychologist and marriage and family therapist. Send your questions to question@soencouragement.org or call 242-327-1980 or visit www.soencouragement.org.

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