I have spent several years in the military and around government agencies. I have personally witnessed the stigma of seeking help for emotional suffering from psychological professionals. The military implemented more discreet ways of getting help with fewer implications, through seeing counselors online.
Then occasionally I would see a military leader at the Battalion level or above say, “If you need help get help. I do. I go to behavior health. There is no shame in it.” or other statements of the like. I admired them. I saw soldiers treated differently, and so were government workers that sought help. I heard people discouraging it because “It would destroy your career.” What is a career if you are living hell?
I didn’t know how bad it could get. I met a person who’s used to be an investigator who could not go to behavioral health. If they had, they would have been exposed by a court order at the behest of the defense attorney to discredit the investigator and have the case thrown out. And yes, that would end that career.
What now? Nobody starts a job and goes, damn, I want to end this by killing myself. They are often full of hope. Nobody stand’s at the alter thinking, I can’t wait for our divorce and custody battle. Nobody takes their first sip of beer, and dreams, you know it is going to be great when I can’t function without this stuff. These roads have small choices along the way and usually help needed before anyone without the barriers described above could bring themselves to it. Having lost colleagues to their hand, divorces of my own, and many friends who struggled with addiction, I can say people don’t always know they arrived at needing help. And yet if you are the one that needs to hear me, this isn’t new. Hear me out though.
1. Your career isn’t married to you. It will not stay with you until your dying breath if everything goes well. You will have a life worth living after, and your mental and physical health is worth preserving.
2. There are discreet ways to get help. When I spoke to that investigator, I found some psychologists away from the agency where they worked that would have seen them at a discount rate, given that discreet care would have been paid out of pocket. There are many hotlines and online services as well.
3. Can you rotate out of your role? You are likely dedicated, but you are not irreplaceable. If you work for the government and you, in fact, a single point of failure, there is a leadership failure above you.
4. Don’t ever think you are too good to get help or you are too good to need it. I have seen remarkable people as functional alcoholics and enablers. And we have all heard of or know some people that had some level of greatness in our lives end theirs. It is easy to be tricked into thinking you can see yourself a certain way that you want to be seen until you get help and that falls apart. This is not a clear vision.
5. You are not broken. You can seek help to have some personal growth in the situation, not to “fix yourself” from being broken. The etymology of the word patient is from Latin as someone who endures without complaining and is where the word patience comes from. This etymology is far from the meaning of weak or broken. It is perseverant. This is not a step-down, it is a step up.
6. Lower the threshold. The threshold of getting help does not need to be so high that you think you have to be a hunkered down person trembling in the corner of a hospital somewhere. You are alive. And the threshold of getting help could be way before it is clear to you that you need it. Look for the smaller things. What are your spouse and friends telling you? Are you miserable on your off hours? Do you operate out of a sense of social and political fear in the workplace? When you relax can you? Can you have fun? Can you enjoy someone else’s company? You don’t have to wait until you have suicidal thoughts or worse a plan.
7. Seek other kinds of help. Multiple whole medicine systems were the only system of their society at one time in history and are now fantastic complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) systems today. Examples are Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine. Additionally, there are many different kinds of CAM modalities that are not complete systems and strategies to manage stress and trauma. There are tons of classes out there in life skills. One of my late practitioners and teachers desired to put himself out of a job by teaching people skills so they wouldn’t need treatment. Many of these will do more than take the edge off.
It is essential to understand that I am not recommending seeking CAM modalities instead of psychological help. I am saying you have choices and they are among them. If you need psychological help, please get it. I am dedicated to appropriately referring people in my practice of Chinese medicine.
Because of my professional education in Chinese Medicine, I will speak more about this one. Restoring balance in the body can change you experience events and memories differently. It can also help you navigate these emotional, career, and other perceived or real threats with the wisdom and clarity that can occur when there is homeostasis (a balance of endocrine function, temperature, blood flow, hormones, and autonomic nervous system, among other things). In most of the tragic endings above, at some point, there was a breakdown of wisdom, homeostasis, and a factor of operating out of fear. Does this resonate with you?
In most of the U.S., acupuncturists are licensed and have ethical guidelines and training to make appropriate referrals. However, there is much they can do for you. Many people are trained in various skills of treating symptoms from trauma and stress as well as symptoms resulting from behavioral health disorders as well as physical imbalances. Could this be okay if you didn’t have migraines, insomnia, or chronic pain?
Regardless of how this lands on you, if you are an employee or an employer, please look at getting help in a positive light. I hope that you take a moment to look at where you are and look at others with appropriate compassion and support.
Resources for you.
From Psych Central
US Suicide Hotline 1-800-784-2433
NDMDA Depression Hotline – Support Group 800-826-3632
Suicide Prevention Services Crisis Hotline 800-784-2433
Suicide Prevention Services Depression Hotline 630-482-9696
Child Abuse Hotline – Support & Information 800-422-4453
Crisis Help Line – For Any Kind of Crisis 800-233-4357
Domestic & Teen Dating Violence (English & Spanish) 800-992-2600
Parental Stress Hotline – Help for Parents 800-632-8188
Runaway Hotline (All Calls are Confidential) 800-231-6946
Sexual Assault Hotline (24/7, English & Spanish) 800-223-5001
Suicide & Depression Hotline – Covenant House 800-999-9999
National Child Abuse Hotline 800-422-4453
National Domestic Violence Hotline 800-799-SAFE
National Domestic Violence Hotline (TDD) 800-787-3224
National Youth Crisis Hotline 800-448-4663
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Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for nonemergency consultations for the treatment of symptoms relating to stress or other physical and emotional suffering for phone consultation leading to treatment or referral.