Licensed Mental Health Counselor Rebecca Bortnyik of Addison Professional Counseling and Mediation said that even in 2022 there remains a stigma associated with associated with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
“It’s a typical experience and don’t have to be ashamed,” she said. “You don’t have to live with that. It’s safe to talk.
“Yes, there’s always been a long-time stigma on mental health and talking about it. But we’re trying to make it real and let everybody know it’s OK. It’s a typical experience.”
Bortnyik stressed that Mental Health Awareness Month is not only to let those suffering know that they aren’t alone and there are people they can talk to, but also to highlight the professionals that work in the field that are there to support and care.
She said anxiety and depression are the two primary issues she has seen as people come out of the pandemic as they have often been isolated during Covid.
“People were going through a lot of life changes, which also led to anxiety, worry and the unknown,” she said. “And then also there was a level of just things being different with social isolation. The younger population had a harder time with it because the school social settings were different.
“They weren’t getting out as much. We are readjusting, but I would have to say depression and anxiety (were the biggest problems), especially coming off the pandemic.”
It might not be true that men are from Mars and women from Venus, but Bortnyik points out, as a rule, they deal with mental health issues differently and that starts at an early age.
We live in a world when little Suzie falls and skins her knee, we are, ‘What’s wrong? It’s OK. Let’s talk about it,’’ she said. “But when little Johnny falls they say, ‘Pick yourself up and some dirt in it. Move on, you’ll be OK.’
“So when kids are little, we teach, especially males, ‘Hold down your feelings, push through it,’ and not to talk about their emotions. For mental health, for both genders it is hard to talk about our difficult stuff. We’re supposed to keep that, quote, private.”
She went on to say that as a results of how boys are taught to deal with things, they grow into men with problems having an ability to emotionally understand themselves, express themselves how they feel.
“I’m not trying to be stereotypical,” Bortnyik said. “Men and women both can have shame and a hard time discussing emotions. So you’re asking me this specifically with her male? Yes, but I have found that males do have a hard time to say (what they feel).
“They’re used to taking the punches. They are supposed to take the hurts and the pains and not talk about it and push through it. So it is that cycle of physiological pain and psychological pain.”
Men might try to mask their pain more, but women are more likely to attempt suicide. Men might have a lower rate of suicide attempts, but the rate of males accomplishing the suicide is higher.
Bortnyik said men are more lethal in their means of suicide.
“They typically use more things like guns and hanging, and more violent ways in which they attempt suicide,” she said. “With women, most of the time, it’s things like pills or some of the more easier or not so violent ways. And, unfortunately, the more violent attempted suicide with firearms are usually more successful.”
If you have a relative or friend that you think might be dealing with depression, anxiety or some other form of mental illness, Bortnyik offered some signs to look for.
“Social withdrawal,” she said. “Somebody just kind of seem like they’re going through the motions, especially if they’re depressed. You’ll see them not maybe engaging activities like they would have.
“Maybe they’re not smiling as much, or when they do smile, it seems pressured. Also, you might want to just kind of look at their life, is there a lot of tough stuff going on at you would maybe think, ‘This might be hard for this person.’”
She said maybe the person isn’t talking about or sharing their problem and that could be a time to ask questions.
“You can explore and ask questions, ‘Hey, are you OK? Is there something going on? Is there a way I can help?’” Bortnyik said. “Because sometimes you can notice someone is going through a tough time maybe by how they’re acting. But maybe just knowing a lot of they’re going through a tough situation.
“Sometimes by saying it’s a safe place share, that could make a difference.”
She offered these clues for signs of anxiety.
“Some of the things you can typically tell because they worry,” Bortynik said. “They sometimes might do a lot of checking. They limit things like where they go.
“And a lot of times they’ll verbalize it too by saying, ‘I’m just really nervous.’ And they might even isolate.”
Mental health professionals are on the front line of fighting the myriad of issues facing those facing mental health issues. However, sometimes a caring friend, especially one that has dealt with the same mental health issue can make that person feel more accepted and perhaps making it easier to talk about their issue.
“If somebody has gone through depression themselves it’s very likely that they’re going to be more understanding,” Bortnyik said. “They’re going to get where you’re coming from and that of course, creates more openness to share.”
At one time or another everyone will battle some form of mental illness. Many people might never need to see a professional for their problems. But a large number of people will face situations that require professional help and Bortnyik again stressed that it is nothing to be ashamed of.
“The first thing is to know that It doesn’t matter socioeconomic status, gender, age, we all have periods of depression,” she said. “It is a normal human experience and that they don’t have to feel ashamed about it.
It’s OK to talk about it. Find somebody you can trust.
“If you notice that somebody around you that might be having a mental health issue, make them feel safe. Start to create the environment for everybody in our culture, especially in our communities, that it’s OK to share how you’re feeling.”
Access to mental health is more readily available than ever before with financial help available. Insurance companies now cover visits to mental health professionals. And government and private agencies offer help for those without insurance.
“If you think somebody is having maybe even suicidal thoughts,” Bortnyik said, “or they’re in a really deep depression or having super serious mental health issues, there’s experts who are professionals. At school, there’s guidance counselors that they can reach out to.
“In the community there are pastors that would be more than happy to help and talk and connect these professionals and counseling agencies like ours. There’s such a broad spectrum now because we are reducing the stigma and making it more aware.”
If you or someone you know needs help, you can contact the Mental Health Hotline at 866-903-3787. If you fear someone you know might be in suicidal crisis, call 911.