What would you think if I told you that there are probably over 300 students in Kosciusko struggling with depression?
Well, according to a study done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2010, Mississippi had the highest rate of depression in the entire United States. In their findings, nearly 15% of Mississippians had experienced depression during the past year.
Often times we read those stats and just gloss over them, but think about that for a minute. Fifteen percent of Mississippians experience depression. That would mean that in Attala County alone nearly 2,800 people experience some form of depression during the year.
Mental Health America, a non-profit that promotes mental health awareness, recently ranked the 50 states and the District of Columbia for their prevalence of mental health issues. In their findings, Mississippi ranked 50th, coming in only ahead of Nevada. This ranking factored in things such as access to mental health providers, prevalance of citizens with alcohol and substance abuse disorders, the number of citizens with a mental health disorder such as depression or anxiety, and other factors.
I didn’t know these stats when I moved to Mississippi back in 2009 as a part of the Teach for America program. In fact, having grown up in Michigan my entire life, I didn't know much about Mississippi at all when I began teaching algebra 1 at Greenwood High School. But after a couple years teaching, I grew to love Greenwood and now consider this my home. In 2013, I began working as a counselor here in Greenwood because I wanted to figure out a way that I could help impact this community. For the last five years, I’ve been meeting with clients from all around the Mississippi Delta as they work through the difficulties that come with living in a fallen world.
Counseling is a very private thing, and because of that there can be some misunderstandings about what counseling is like or when people even go to a counselor. I want this column to be a place where people can ask questions (anonymous, of course!) about issues about counseling and mental health. The scope of what people go to counseling for ranges vastly, from depression, anxiety, biopolar disorder and substance abuse addiction, to coping skills for stress, loneliness, work-related stress, marital and familial therapy, dealing with anger, grief and much more.
And the truth is that many of us deal with those issues on a day-to-day basis. Maybe it’s feeling like you can’t get out of bed, or you’re overwhelmed with work. Or maybe you’re watching as your spouse, parent, child, friend or coworker struggles daily with depression or panic attacks. I hope that this column is a place where people can begin to see that they are not the only ones dealing with certain issues and learn some practical tips for how to approach mental health issues. In our country right now, mental health is quickly being recognized as not only an important thing, but a long-overlooked issue. We hear about it whenever there is another mass shooting or when we watch the news and hear about horrible crimes. More and more, celebrities are opening up about their struggles with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues.
So, I ask you to join me as I write about current mental health issues that affect our community. I plan to address some of the more common issues that counselors see as well as practical tidbits about how to deal with things like anxiety, depression or anger. I want to address some misconceptions about counseling and fears or stigmas related to it. I would like to give people a basic road map about common mental health issues, such as what exactly is depression or anxiety, how to know if you or a loved one is struggling with it, and what are things you can do to help someone with a mental health issue.
Too often we try to overlook these types of issues. We feel embarrassed about our struggles and think that we are the only ones with them. We feel alone and have convinced ourselves that no one would accept us if they really knew what we were going through. Reading this column probably won’t take away your grief, sadness or anger, but I hope that by writing this column, people with mental health issues can begin to see that they are not as alone as they think they are and that together we can all begin to take steps to help our community.
Mischa McCray is a licensed professional counselor and licensed marriage and family therapist in Greenwood. He can be reached at email@example.com.