What would you think if I told you that in Kosciusko there are probably over 300 students struggling with depression?
Well, according to a 2010 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mississippi had the highest rate of depression in the entire United States. According to their findings, nearly 15% of Mississippi residents experienced depression in the past year.
A lot of times we read these stats and just sugarcoat them, but think about it for a minute. Fifteen percent of Mississippi residents suffer from 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 nonprofit organization that promotes mental health awareness, recently ranked the 50 states and the District of Columbia according to their prevalence of mental health problems. In their results, Mississippi ranked 50th, ahead of only Nevada. This ranking takes into account things like access to mental health providers, the prevalence of citizens with alcohol and substance abuse disorders, the number of citizens with a mental disorder such as depression or anxiety, and other factors.
I didn’t know these stats when I moved to Mississippi in 2009 as part of the Teach for America program. Having grown up in Michigan all my life, I didn’t know much about Mississippi at all when I started teaching Algebra 1 at Greenwood High School. But after a few years of teaching, I’ve come to love Greenwood and now call it home. In 2013 I started working as a consultant here in Greenwood because I wanted to find a way I could help impact this community. For the past five years, I have met with clients from across the Mississippi Delta as they work through the difficulties of living in a fallen world.
Counseling is a very private matter and because of this there can be misunderstandings about what counseling is like or when people go to a counselor in the first place. I want this column to be a place for people (anonymously, of course!) to ask questions about counseling and mental health topics. The spectrum of why people seek counseling ranges from depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and drug addiction to coping skills for stress, loneliness, work-related stress, marital and family therapy, dealing with anger, grief, and more.
And the truth is, many of us deal with these issues on a daily basis. Maybe it feels like you can’t get out of bed or you’re overwhelmed with work. Or maybe you watch your spouse, parent, child, friend, or co-worker struggle with depression or panic attacks on a daily basis. I hope this column is a place where people can realize they are not the only ones dealing with certain issues and get some practical tips on how to approach mental health issues. In our country, mental health is now being quickly recognized as not only an important issue, but also a long-overlooked topic. We hear about it whenever there’s another mass shooting or when we watch the news and hear about horrific crimes. More and more celebrities are speaking openly 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 affecting our community. I plan to address some of the more common problems counselors see, as well as practical tidbits on how to deal with things like anxiety, depression, or anger. I would like to address some misconceptions about counseling and related fears or stigmas. I want to give people a basic roadmap to common mental health issues such as: B. what exactly depression or anxiety is, how to tell if you or a loved one is struggling with it, and what you can do to help someone with a mental health issue.
Too often we try to overlook these types of problems. We’re ashamed of our struggles and think we’re the only ones with them. We feel alone and convinced ourselves that if no one really knew what we were going through, they would accept us. Reading this column probably won’t take away your sadness, sadness or anger, but I hope that by writing this column, people with mental health issues can realize that they are not as alone as they think they are and that together we can everyone is beginning 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 protected]