Last February, I was going through a lot. I was standing on the precipice of turning 20, had one of my parents get injured at their job, another facing a serious cancer scare, one sibling nearly lost to domestic violence and felt guilty about losing contact with the other. When a friend suggested therapy, I thought, “Finally, I have a reason to go.”
I, like so many others, assumed that I needed to be facing a “serious issue” in order to seek out help. Yes, a lot was going on with my life, but I had been seriously depressed the semester before and hadn’t sought out help. I wasn’t “dealing with a lot,’’ so I felt selfish and ungrateful to be feeling so down. And yes, I was worried what people would think of me. But even as the problems in my life began to clear up, therapy was still immensely helpful. The best days were when I entered feeling that I “had nothing to talk about,” and left having outpoured a wealth of emotion, armed with a new perspective.
With nearly 40 million Americans facing anxiety and 16.1 million American adults having experienced a major depressive episode in 2015, it’s clear that mental health is an all too common part of the human experience and it’s a problem we can’t ignore. So many people are dealing with some form of mental health issues and it’s never something to be ashamed of. Mental health coverage isn’t guaranteed for all those people, as even those with insurance can face tough requirements to receive coverage, which is often accompanied by long and difficult processes. A whole separate conversation must be had about the right to mental health services, but even for those who have access to it, it remains daunting to try and find the right professional for you. For those looking for a therapist, know that access aside, choosing one is like trying on clothes — it’s a process in itself.
One hopeful light for the future of mental health is that more people, especially younger Americans, are seeking out therapy or counseling. It doesn’t matter when you decide you want to start trying out therapy; you can be a student, working professional, parent or grandparent. Mental health issues can arise at any point in your life and time alone won’t necessarily help heal from them. Up to 70 percent of adults have experienced trauma at some point in their lives, with nearly 20 percent going on to develop post-traumatic stress disorder. Our generation appears to be the most open to the idea of seeing a therapist, but there are still those who struggle with making the appointment.
Men also happen to be one of the largest demographics that can’t seem to make therapy work as well as others. There’s this idea that going to see a therapist means you’re weak — that you can’t handle your own life well, so much so that you need someone else to do it for you. Rather, it’s better to think of therapy as seeking advice from someone outside the issue you’re facing. It’s no secret that mental health isn’t a race with a destination in sight; regardless of who you are, it’s a marathon that endures the entirety of our lives. While the concept of dealing with illnesses like anxiety and depression well into adulthood can seem daunting, there is some comfort in the idea that you may be coping better with life in the future than you are now.
Going to therapy will not fix all your problems. It will simply give you tools and a new perspective in order to face the future with a little more confidence. It isn’t “for” anyone specifically. You could be dealing with a recent death, anxiety about school, depression, facing relationship problems or just want to get some worries off your chest without feeling like you’re dumping it on your friends. If you have access to help, just go for it. Take baby steps on your journey toward better mental health and stability. There are resources like treatment coordinators here at Binghamton University, who can help you find a psychiatrist off campus, and websites like Psychology Today to help you filter through therapists nearby. Mental health coverage is a gift that not everyone possesses and I can only hope more receive it in the future. My only regret is not signing up for therapy sooner.
Elizabeth Short is a junior majoring in English.