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Mental health counseling - “A place where hope begins”

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This is another in a series of articles about mental health. With recent suicides by teenagers on the Waccamaw Neck, many people are working to find ways to help advance the discussion about mental health. Treated in time, suicides can be prevented.

Kathy Redwine and Shannon Davis are counselors who are working toward forming a teen-oriented group where young people can have someone to talk with about problems in their lives. This is in response to recent suicides by two young people on the Waccamaw Neck. An important element in helping teens be open to mental health counseling is understanding some of the terminology about mental health.

Redwine explains that there are several types of medical professionals who work in counseling.

They can be psychiatrists; psychologists; counselors, clinicians or therapists; or clinical social workers.

According to the National Alliance for Mental Illness, Psychiatrists are licensed medical doctors who have completed psychiatric training. They can diagnose mental health conditions, prescribe and monitor medications and provide therapy.

Psychologists hold a doctoral degree in clinical psychology or another specialty such as counseling or education. They are trained to evaluate a person’s mental health.

Counselors, clinicians and therapists are masters-level health care professionals who are trained to evaluate a person’s mental health and use therapeutic techniques based on specific training programs. Working with one of these mental health professionals can lead not only to symptom reduction but to better ways of thinking, feeling and living.

Clinical social workers are trained to evaluate a person’s mental health and use therapeutic techniques based on specific training programs. They are also trained in case management and advocacy services.

NAMI has more-detailed explanations on its website under “Types of Mental Health Professionals.”

Regardless of the level of the professional, Redwine points out, these practitioners can help people deal with mental health issues.

“We all have different roles,” Redwine said, “but we are all very important in the process of understanding an individual’s mental health and overall well-being.”

Sometimes, jargon can be a problem. The Google online dictionary says jargon is “special words or expressions that are used by a particular profession or group and are difficult for others to understand.”

Google also offers this “Archaic” definition: “a form of language regarded as barbarous, debased or hybrid.”

Redwine addresses the difficulties with jargon and with anxiety about mental health issues. “I think part of our job is to make what we are trying to achieve understandable on all levels. I don’t ever want somebody to be afraid to come in because they feel like they won’t understand how to help their child.“

Keep it simple

“A big piece of what we need to do is to make sure that it’s simple as it possibly can be,” Redwine said.

“I always say that my office is the place where hope begins,” she said. “I want us to figure out how to capture the strengths of an individual.”

“Understand that we all have weaknesses, but know that those won’t prohibit us from being successful,” Redwine said.

“Success is something that we can all achieve. Just, sometimes, it’s based on the expectations that we’ve put on it.”

My question

“That goes to the question that I always have, too. Is somebody that is contemplating the thought of suicide … is it in part because they feel like they’ve been unsuccessful, or a failure and unable to meet expectations? Either put on them by others, or put on by themselves?”

“And, how do we as a society look at that, and recognize that there are a lot of unrealistic expectations put on our young people today? And, therefore, they are internalizing these expectations and either will feel pride, or ‘sicks out’ of school, or sad, or feeling like a failure.”

“When expectations are not met,” Redwine said, “we experience disappointment. And what do we do with that?”

“That’s when we need to communicate that disappointment to someone that we trust. To someone that can help us realize that ... being disappointed because something didn’t work out the way you wanted it to do is far from the end of the world. It just might mean that we’ve got to look at doing it a different way.”

“If we’ve done something the same way three times and it doesn’t work, then we know we’ve got to look at it from a different angle,” Redwine said.

“If nobody knows that we’re disappointed with an expectation not being met, then they’re not gonna help us.”

She paused for thought and continued.

“And then it goes to like a more philosophical question, too: Why is there such fear in telling others that we’re disappointed when something does not work out the way we hoped it would?”

Why be afraid?

“I think there’s a lot of different reasons. Children’s behaviors don’t happen in a vacuum. They happen in and amongst the world that they live in, so there are variables that may be contributing to that. So, I don’t want to say that it’s just one thing, but maybe there’s a fear in disappointing somebody else. ‘I can manage my own self-disappointment,’ but then having to know that somebody else is going to be disappointed in me might be more difficult, so there’s that fear (and) not saying anything.

“Sometimes, that fear of not saying something is seen outwardly as anger, and I think this is where it gets complicated.”

“When a child gets angry, we have to look at what is causing that child to feel anger.”

“I’m a believer that anger is a secondary emotion. It’s usually driven by something else. Sadness, worry, disappointment, fear … And so, if we think this is just an angry child, it’s our job to look beyond the anger to figure out what the root cause of the anger, is.”

“Which, I think, goes to the essence of, we just want to understand our kids. Having kids myself, I don’t always understand them. But, it’s my job as their parent to try to help them understand themselves. I can’t fix it for them, but I can be their guide to help them try to understand who they are, and thus, if we understand who we are, we are much more likely to be able to solve our own challenges.”

“I think that it’s very complex. As human beings, we have so much coming at us in so many different ways. We have social media. We have TV media. We have computers. We have work. We have family. We have activities. And so, to quote the old phrase, ‘Is it the chicken or the egg?’”

“Sometimes, I think it can be hard to decipher what is the root cause, and in my mind there’s never just one.”

The Georgetown Times / South Strand News will continue this interview with Licensed Professional Counselor Kathy Redwine in future articles.

More information

As mentioned in a previous article, there are numerous resources available to get help.

• NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.

Redwine said this organization was started by some moms who were concerned about mental health.

• Waccamaw Center for Mental Health is the local office of the S.C. Department of Mental Health. It has offices in Georgetown, Conway, Myrtle Beach and Kingstree.

• Psychology Today is a magazine. The company also has a Web site that offers a lot of information about mental health. There is a look-up feature for therapists. You may search by name or by geographic location.

• Kathy Redwine has an office in Pawleys Island and sees clients also at Riverside Pediatrics in Georgetown. Her phone number is (843) 274-7604.

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