Mental Health Matters: What Really Matters
I am currently teaching two classes in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program at Northwest University. One course is on Crisis and Abusive Relationships, while the other course is Psychopharmacology. I enjoy teaching each course for different reasons. Both classes bring their challenges in the content of the material and the students’ ability to learn a significant body of information. What I have found, though, despite the voluminous content for each course, is that I like teaching the lessons I have learned as a clinician the most. Some might call these the touchstones.
Last night in my psychopharmacology class, we reviewed the various types of depression: major depression, bipolar disorder, and reactive depression. With each of these mental health conditions, we explored the common symptomology, neurotransmitter activity, and the medications to improve mood and functioning. It was a long class with a lot of important material, great questions and dialogue from my students, and sharing of poster presentations on Culture and Psychopharmacology.
In the last 10-15 minutes of our class, I got to my favorite part: what I call the real lesson, or to me, “What really matters.” This is what I shared with my students/soon-to-be clinical mental health counselors:
What really matters is that you don’t lose sight of the person who walks into your office and sits with you sharing their sorrow and pain while crying softly. This person trusts you and is willing to be vulnerable, sharing some of their most intimate thoughts and feelings. Don’t ever forget how difficult their life might be or lose sight of the challenges they have endured along the way. Don’t forget; this person has hopes, dreams, goals, and plans. Don’t forget that they try hard to make their life better and feel better every day, but sometimes it just doesn’t work, and often it gets worse. Please, don’t judge them. Don’t forget they have come to you for help, and they want you to care for them in a way that perhaps no one has ever done so before. Remember how hard it is to ask for help. Don’t forget that life is precious, and sometimes they think about taking their own life; living another day may be the most daunting thing they have tried to do. Don’t forget to look them in the eye with compassion and call them sweetly by their name. Everyone loves to be called by their name and know that they matter in this world. Don’t forget how good it feels to be treated with unconditional positive regard. This human being is more than a diagnosis, they are more than a disorder, and the moment we truly connect with them is when healing is possible. To me, this is what really matters.
Mental health matters to you and me!
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1(800)273-8255. Help is available
SAMHSA’s National Helpline: 1(800)662-HELP. Mental health and substance use disorders.
Dr. Skillestad Winans retired from the U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisons, after 24 years of service, where she served as the Chief of Psychology Services. She is currently an Associate Professor at Northwest University, and a Clinical Supervisor at the University of Washington, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences. The information in this article does not constitute a doctor-patient relationship, assumes no professional or legal liability, and does not represent the views of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Northwest University, or the University of Washington.