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Mental Health: Ending The Silence

Sioux City (KTIV) — It is safe to say all of us need a little help every now and then, but we’re not talking about help around the house or working on a car or giving someone a ride. May is Mental Health Awareness Month and medical experts remind us everyone can benefit by seeing a mental health professional.

“Think of it as a place to talk, to vent, and to help deal with things because we all need help at times. Realistically, everyone in America needs to see someone at some point in their life,” said Kerri Weaver, LISW, CSW, Family Health Care of Siouxland.

If you or a loved one think you might need to see a mental health professional, but want a little reassurance, you have options. Some people immediately recognize the signs of ailing mental health and it’s not easy for everyone to admit they need professional help to get better. Some worry about the stigma, and others worry about the costs involved in the healing process.

One Siouxland woman says turning to a mental health professional saved her life.

“I’m an energetic, independent, strong female,” said Jessica Prather of Sioux City.

Jessica Prather says she’s in a good place now, but that hasn’t always been the case. She has suffered from depression, anxiety, and says, at one point in her life, she was even cutting herself.

“I had a kid when I was 16 years old so that was kind of a traumatic event so that caused some issues for me. I had a bad marriage and all of those things led me to go get some counseling and some medical help to deal with everything,” added Prather.

One of the people Prather turned to was Kerri Weaver, a Licensed Independent Social Worker with Family Health Care Of Siouxland.

“I want everyone to know it’s important to talk about things, our feelings, our stress level. We live in a very stressful society. Sometimes we need to talk to that third party we don’t live with, we’re not friends with, to get some new coping skills, so we can survive,” said Kerri Weaver, L.I.S.W., C.S.W.

Weaver says the red flags that our mental health is under stress can be anything from excessive crying, stomach aches, headaches, neglecting self-care, spending a lot of time sleeping, avoiding housework, missing work or school, or ignoring loved ones and making statements like, I don’t want to live any more. But Weaver admits, it’s not always easy to take that first step.

“It’s easier to stuff it and not talk about it. And what if people judge me. What are they going to say if I say I’m seeing a therapist,” said Weaver.

And that’s not the only factor stopping people from getting the therapy they need. The assumption by patients, at times, is that they can’t afford the counseling.

“It is difficult because of the resources. There might be therapists out there, but we don’t all take the same insurance. Being from the Tri-State area, a lot of the insurance from Nebraska and South Dakota don’t always transfer to Iowa so there are limited providers in those little areas of the state,” said Weaver.

However, getting help is important, there are agencies in every community which can help in some way, and loved ones should pay attention.

“If someone says to you, yeah I need to see a therapist, praise them, and don’t criticize and put them down. I see that from a lot of the older high school kids. I can’t tell anyone. They might think I’m crazy. They think something’s wrong,” said Weaver.

Jessica Prather, with encouragement from a loved one, knew it was important to get counseling. She says it saved her life.

“In my 20s, I was actually to the point I was suicidal. I tried to kill myself and that’s when I realized I needed some serious help. and that kind of started my progression forward,” said Prather.

And life hasn’t been perfect, but Prather graduated from Morningside College in 2013 and has held onto her current job, which she loves, for more than five years. She knows therapy is what she needed to get better.

“People think of mental health and they think it’s bad. It took me a long time to realize it’s not. It’s like diabetes or cancer or other illness that can be treated and you can get help for it,” said Prather.

Adolescence & Mental Health

Adults aren’t the only people who need some guidance. Children do too. Mental health professionals say they are seeing a lot of stress among young people, much of that caused by social media, trying to take on too many activities, worries about school, a traumatic home environment or other factors. Additionally, they say some young people simply lack the proper coping skills.

Organizations in the Siouxland community are working together to start the focus on good mental health at an early age. Students, who are part of the Sioux City Community School District’s Project AWARE District Youth Team, organized a Mental Wellness Festival last month. They invited professionals with mental health agencies to answer questions and provide guidance to young and old alike.

Rachel Wescott, a Sophomore at East High School, knows first-hand how important it is to seek help right away.
She says guidance from a therapist and her time at Jackson Recovery Centers helped her heal.

“At the beginning of 9th grade, everything got really overwhelming and I started to hurt myself because I didn’t know what else to do and I didn’t want to get help. It was embarrassing to me and I felt like only crazy people got help. Like I didn’t need it, but I did and I just didn’t want to admit that to myself,” said Rachel Wescott, High School Sophomore.

Wescott says the simple act of talking to someone else is beneficial. She adds, it shouldn’t be embarrassing and no one is going to judge you.

“It’s a big thing and a lot of people don’t want to admit it’s a big thing, but if there wasn’t all these people and all these services for me, there’s no way I would be alive right now,” said Rachel Wescott.

Rachel says her mother was extremely supportive and urged her to get help and because of the guidance she’s received, she’s now able to start achieving her goals.

Last week, we reported, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed a bill focused on the well-being of children.
It creates a system for children who need help with mental health issues.

Reynolds says the law requires core services for children, and also includes regional crisis stabilization, mobile response teams, 24-hour hotline access to services, and one-point-two million dollars for home and community-based children’s mental health services.

The bill was one of Reynolds’ top priorities. It passed with bipartisan votes, but lawmakers did not provide all of the funding she requested. Reynolds says her commitment is to develop long-term funding for mental health services, to propose next year.

Options Available For Help

Mental health professionals say whether you’re a young person or an adult, and you feel you need help, talk to a friend, family member, or your doctor.

Staffers at the Siouxland Mental Health Center and similar agencies in other Siouxland communities say even if you can’t afford therapy, they will figure out a way to get you the help you need.

Another option might be to take an online evaluation of your mental health. We have attached a link to a few brief online assessments, including one from Psychology Today, Psycom, and Mental Health America.


Stella Daskalakis

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