What would you think if I told you that there are probably over 300 students at Kosciusko struggling with depression?
Well, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2010, Mississippi had the highest rate of depression in all of the United States. In their findings, nearly 15 percent of Mississippi residents had suffered from depression in the past year.
Often we read these statistics and ignore them, but think about it for a minute. Fifteen percent of Mississippians suffer from depression. This would mean that in Attala County alone, almost 2,800 people suffer from some form of depression during the year.
Mental Health America, a nonprofit organization that promotes mental health awareness, recently ranked all 50 states and the District of Columbia for their prevalence of mental health issues. In their findings, Mississippi ranked 50th, just ahead of Nevada. This ranking took into account things such as access to mental health care providers, the prevalence of citizens with alcohol and drug addiction disorders, the number of citizens with a mental health disorder such as depression or anxiety, and other factors.
I didn’t know these statistics when I moved to Mississippi in 2009 as part of the Teach for America program. In fact, having grown up in Michigan all my life, I didn’t know Mississippi at all when I started teaching Algebra 1 at Greenwood High School. But after a few years of teaching, I learned to love Greenwood and now call it my home. In 2013, I started working as a counselor here in Greenwood because I wanted to find a way to impact this community. Over the past five years, I have met clients from all over the Mississippi Delta as they navigate the challenges that come with living in a fallen world.
Counseling is a very private thing, and because of this there can be misunderstandings about what counseling is or when people will even see a counselor. I want this column to be a place where people can ask questions (anonymously, of course!) about counseling and mental health issues. The range of what people seek for counseling varies enormously, from depression, anxiety, biopolar disorder and substance abuse, to stress coping skills, loneliness, work-related stress, marriage and family therapy, anger management, grief and much more. .
And the truth is that many of us face these issues on a daily basis. Maybe you feel like you can’t get out of bed or are 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 start to see that they are not the only ones facing certain issues and learn some practical tips on how to approach mental health issues. In our country today, mental health is quickly being recognized not just as something important, but as a long-neglected issue. We hear about it every time there is another mass shooting or when we watch the news and hear about horrific 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 in writing about current mental health issues affecting our community. I plan to cover some of the more common issues counselors see as well as practical information on how to deal with things like anxiety, depression, or anger. I want to address some misconceptions about counseling and the fears or stigmas associated with it. I’d like to give people a basic roadmap of common mental health issues, such as what exactly depression or anxiety is, how to tell if you or a loved one has it, and what things you can do to help someone with a mental health problem.
Too often we try to overlook these types of issues. We feel embarrassed by our struggles and think we are the only ones with them. We feel lonely and 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 so alone. that they think so and that together we can all begin to take action to help our community.
Mischa McCray is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Greenwood. He can be contacted at [email protected]