Facing mental illness

Janice Kizy

Janice Kizy

As we are bombarded by media sensationalism daily, we can easily think of therapy as lying on a couch while telling our personal story to someone who is insincerely nodding, taking notes and asking “how does that make you feel?” The more extreme portrayal is someone in a straightjacket thrashing around on a bed with restraints or perhaps rocking themselves in a corner. Exaggeration of mental illness in the media and movies has made society afraid to address their mental health needs. Allow me to address this exaggeration.

For many years the Chaldean community has been acculturating in the U.S. In the beginning, the important things were to learn the language, laws, regulations, education, employment, and social life styles. As we progress there has been a great need to focus on health and wellness. History shows that our community is connected spiritually. In Iraq the church was and still is the hub where people seek help and refuge. Today we continue to see our leaders work endlessly to ensure the spiritual needs of the people are met. We have many programs, bible studies, retreats, and youth groups at our local parishes that encourage personal growth and self-reflection. In addition, endless hours of meetings and spiritual direction are offered to those who need guidance. These interactions can be therapeutic and healing.  However, there may be situations when a spiritual leader may help by redirecting a person/family by providing them resources and programs within the community.

Growing up, I remember that going to the doctor was a taboo subject. I would hear people say "What if someone sees me?" or "I don't want people to know that I'm sick." Even today people are afraid to identify illnesses by their names and tell others that they are suffering. There is an idea that saying the name makes the illness more real. Recently, with social media and technology people have been more open to asking for help and support. Talking about illness has become more normalized and helps to bring hope and healing.

For generations, mental illness has been viewed as something that we don't talk about. Yet, in my years of practice, I see many people that struggle with the effects of mental illness. Confidentiality is usually the most important topic addressed. Many times the fear is that someone may be looked at as “weak” or “crazy”.  Clients express concern that they may bring shame to their family. Unfortunately, the impact of untreated mental illness has proven to be detrimental to the wellbeing of clients, families, and the community. The recent epidemics of drug use, overdose and suicide rates in our community are examples of this.

Mental illness refers to a wide range of conditions that affect your mood, thinking and behavior. Many factors contribute to mental health problems. These factors include: brain chemistry, physical illness, biological inheritance, and life experiences such as trauma, abuse or loss. Mental health concerns may be long or short term and can be treated with or without medication. Therapy is the first step to treating mental illness. The main goal is to build a therapeutic relationship (rapport) and identify goals that the client wants to work towards. In building rapport, a safe non-judgmental environment is created allowing clients to express feelings and be open about situations they can’t share with their family or social circle. 

Clients have expressed that coming to therapy gives them a place to find their voice and helps them develop tools to navigate daily stress in a healthier manner. Communication skills can be developed, allowing individuals and families to build stronger bonds and loving relationships. The healing process begins with acknowledging traumas that may have occurred as early as childhood and into adulthood. Until they are addressed, these traumas often hold a person back causing them issues in different areas of life.

There is a misconception that the therapist is supposed to give advice and fix problems. Our role is to support clients, help them reflect, find their own inner strength, focus on best parts of themselves, build confidence, and healthy relationships. Therapy is not only for people with severe conditions. Therapy has proven to be helpful with positive life changes that may cause stress such as: marriage, having a child, and getting a new job or promotion.

 Individual and family therapy are common types of therapy. Some people may benefit from group therapy which can build a support system and help clients recognize they are not alone in their distress. Therapy is for all ages. Children who experience socialization issues, behavior concerns at home/school, bullying, or family stressors can benefit in developing healthy ways to identify feelings, manage, and cope.

Medications for mental health conditions can be used to improve quality of life. Some client concerns include developing addictions or becoming dependent on medications. These questions are best answered on an individual basis with your physician. It’s always recommended to consult your prescribing physician before taking new medications or making changes to your prescriptions. The majorities of doctors encourage someone with a mental health concern to participate in outpatient therapy and will prescribe after the patient has started therapy.  

As a social worker, my hope is to work with clients to improve their health and wellness: mind, body, and spirit. I work with the client to get an all-encompassing view of where they are and where they want to be. The most important and rewarding aspect of my work is witnessing clients grow and make progress towards their goals. Every therapist has their own style and every client has to find the right person for their needs. Whether goals are to manage anger, find their voice, decrease depression and anxiety symptoms, clear their minds, navigate life changes, grieve a loss, work through family issues, manage behavior, work through traumatic life events, or increase self-care, self-love, and awareness. I am always honored that my clients choose to trust me and allow me to take this journey with them. To find more information about therapist in your area you can visit psychologytoday.com.  Have you considered who you will trust to take the journey with you?

Janice Kizy is a masters level licensed clinical social worker LMSW. She obtained obtained her master’s degree from Wayne State University School of Social Work in 2006 and bachelor’s degree from U of M - Flint School of Social Work in 2002. Kizy’s work experiences over the past 15 years include child welfare, homeless shelters, outpatient clinics and refugee services. She currently has a private practice Mind and Spirit Counseling in Sterling Heights.