Therapy is not for everyone, although one could argue that it should be (especially for healthcare workers), particularly when you consider the statistics for Americans experiencing mental health struggles, including suicide (NAMI, 2023):
1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year
1 in 20 U.S. adults experience serious mental illness each year
1 in 6 U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year
50% of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and 75% by age 24
Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10-14
Many find it difficult to open up to a stranger (albeit a licensed professional) about our personal “stuff” (i.e., baggage/traumas/depression/anxiety/addiction/etc.); there is still a stigma attached, even now. I am not ashamed to admit that I have sought help from a therapist(s) at several low points in my life, and it has kept me grounded and open to discovering a basic level of understanding about why I self-sabotage and use avoidance to not address some of my issues… avoiding heavy, dark feelings seems like an instinctual form of self-preservation, does it not? But I do know that ignoring the problem, and hoping it will work itself out doesn’t really solve anything… it just delays healing, and moving forward from our pain.
I have yet to meet an adult that is over the age of 30 who hasn’t experienced some degree of a mental health issue, including depression and grief from experiencing a traumatic loss (death of a spouse/friend/child/parent/loss of marriage/job/home/etc.). Pain and loss go hand-in-hand… and as complicated as life can be, it “moves on”, as it should. I clearly remember a simple life lesson that I learned as a child, from another child… I remember feeling very sad about having to move, and my friend said to me… “yes, this is sad, but it’s not the end of the world; the world is still revolving”. While I didn’t fully appreciate the reasoning or reality check at the time, I will never forget the lesson that it taught me: life is hard, and it can be both sad and wonderful, but it goes on, with or without you.
So we try to be resilient and take one day at a time with the hope that things will get better eventually, but the indefinite length of time that defines “eventually” can be so elusive. While it seems that exploring a pathway past pain requires being hopeful and brave, each time it gets harder and harder to stay optimistic. Nothing kills hope faster than disappointment, and showing any degree of courage over fear has its consequences… embarrassment, shame, regret… all the greatest hits.
But my point is this… therapy helps. It heals, and it is sometimes the only thing that gives hope a shot in the dark.
National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2023). Mental health by the numbers. Retrieved from https://www.nami.org/mhstats