Connected Woman Magazine reached out to Tenethrea Buffington, LPC, to discuss mental health, the stigma is carries with it and explains why we must begin to care less about the stigma and more about our own self-care and care of our children. We discuss why we have to drop the cloak of shame and hold our heads up and seek the help we need.
There is a lot of stigma and shame attached to seeking mental health help or counseling. I myself worked in behavioral health offices for 7 years and have witnessed the shame firsthand from women who kept their families, friends and even their husbands in the dark about their struggles until they presented in a more dramatic fashion and could no longer be hidden. Tell our readers how important it is to “not let the stigma keep them stuck”. It is vitally important that we move past the stigma that receiving mental health help is a sign of weakness or a sign that a person is “crazy”. It is not. It takes great strength to reach out and ask for help. Receiving mental health treatment can literally be the difference between life or death. People receive mental health treatment for many different reasons including: depression , anxiety ,trouble dealing with a trauma, dealing with the Loss of a loved one, parenting issues, anger problems, poor conflict resolution skills, marital problems, Feeling stuck in life, experienced or experiencing divorce, lack of direction in life, low self- worth, and communication problems. These are all things that everyday people have to deal with. Don’t allow the stigma to keep you stuck.
I made a list of possible triggers and feel free to add to them: Nutrition – Exercise – Stress – Sleep – Trauma/Abuse/Grief – Addiction – Adolescent Peer Pressure – Pregnancy-Career/Life Balance. Can you give us some general pointers on how can we as women pinpoint our triggers, the shift it caused and know when we should take next steps? To pin point your triggers, we must begin to become more self-aware. When there is a shift in your mood, ask yourself, “What about that bothered me?”. The key to that is being honest with yourself. Also you can log your mood changes for a few days and identify what was going on at the time and identify your thoughts about that incident. Once you recognize your triggers, it is important that you recognize your cues. Cues are your body’s reaction to the trigger. When we become aware of our cues, this is powerful because it is our body’s way of telling us to use a coping skills. Some healthy coping skills include: exercise, deep breathing, challenging our negative thoughts, processing feelings and doing a hobby.
Can you tell us which of these triggers you see the most in women and common causes? There are so many triggers, but the things I see most often in women include: Stress, depression and life balance. Much of this stress comes because we compare ourselves to others. We all have our own path so comparing my path to your path will only lead to frustration.
Another problem is that we place unrealistic expectations on ourselves. We try to be super mom, super spouse, super daughter, super career woman etc. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be excellent in everything we do but we must realize that help is needed. Even Michelle Obama had her mother to step in and help more with the children when they transitioned into the White House. We all need a support system.
I think people also need to understand that mental health issues come in many levels and varieties. I think a big part of the stigma is being classified as “crazy” or that only people with really major problems need help. For some it symbolizes weakness and sometimes this propaganda is promoted in families. Trauma is brushed under the rug, kids are told to shake it off and people are shoved into “moving on” well before they are ready and without dealing with the real problem. What are your thoughts on this? You are absolutely correct. As I stated earlier people can seek treatment for so many different things. We must stop the mind set of “just move on”. We cannot conquer what we refuse to confront. This is the reason so many people have negative cycles in life because they keep moving when they really need to stop and deal with a specific issue. I tell people all the time, “Our issues will show up some way no matter how we try to hide them. So it is best to deal with it in the right way rather than through, food, drugs, failed relationships etc. “
What is a good way for women to find the right resources and determine which are best for their overall wellbeing? How do they find the right fit in a counselor or support group? Asking friends that you know and trust for referral or even consulting with your physician about a referral can be helpful. There is also sites such as Psychology Today, in which you can type in your zip code and find a list a Counselors in your area. You can read the bios and find the match that best fits you. I have had several people to call me to talk for a few minutes about my approach and ask a few questions to see if we are a good fit.
What signs should mothers/parents/teachers/guidance counselors look for in children? Explain the importance of not ignoring the warning signs and assuming they will grow out of it. This is so important that as parents or guardians we pay attention to changes in behavior of children. Children may become withdrawn, angry, depressed, or begin to act out sexual. There is a site that list warning signs by age groups that is very helpful. (I will list below.) It is very important also that we are not so reactionary. We must be proactive. Talk to our children about appropriate and inappropriate touch early and take them seriously and report if they mention that someone has abused them. When child have been violated they need to know that are not to blame and they need to receive professional help. You don’t just grow out of the effects of abuse. Many adults come to my office with the scars from abuse that happened when they were children that was never dealt with.
What made you decide to go into Psychology as a young college student? I have always had a heart to help others. I initially wanted to go to law school, but I took a couple’s communication class and I was hooked. I loved the idea that learning the right skills could help reshape families and communities.
Is it rewarding seeing people thrive after they sought out the help they needed? It is very rewarding. I am honored to go through the process of growth and change with my clients. It takes courage to face problems and fears but it is amazing to see the transformation. I feel blessed that I get to witness people unlocking their potential.
What final thought would you leave with women and girls and the people in their support circle? I would just like to say, You are amazing. You don’t have to be perfect to be amazing. Life does not always give us the best cards but we can decide how we play the game. You are not alone, there is help available. Live your best life.
Tenethrea Buffington is a licensed professional counselor in the state of Arkansas. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Studies and a Master of Science in Counseling from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. She also has a post-graduate certificate in marriage and family therapy from the University of Arkansas in Little Rock. She has worked in various environments including: school based mental health programs, outpatient mental health centers and residential treatment. She brings 8 years of clinical experience to her clinical repertoire. Her passion is working with families, couples, children, adolescents and adults who may be going through tough times or may just feel stuck and ready to move past the pain and experience wholeness and peace. For her full bio visit http://thriveworks.com/conway-counseling/conway-counselors/.
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