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Our bravest are scared of getting help; here are 6 things they should know
The people who help us in our greatest time of need are suffering. There is an epidemic of public servants like firefighters and police officers staying silent while enduring mental pain. It is time they feel comfortable finding help. - photo by Jessie Shepherd, MA, AMCHC
The people who help us in our greatest time of need are suffering. There is an epidemic of public servants like firefighters and police officers staying silent while enduring mental pain. They are not seeking help for anxiety, depression, sleep issues, post traumatic stress or suicidal thoughts. Instead they are negatively coping, which results in marital issues, severe agitation and substance abuse or even death. It is time they felt comfortable finding help. Here are some things they should know.

1. Find a therapist you click with

In my opinion, finding a therapist that you feel comfortable with is the most important aspect of therapy. You might feel that you do not get a choice when it comes to getting a therapist, but you would be wrong. Many offices offer a quick meeting in which you can interview your new potential therapist. It is important to go with your gut and make the best choice for you. If for any reason you feel uncomfortable or that the therapy is not moving in the direction you would like, you should bring it up with your therapist. They should be there to help you find better mental health, so if it is not working its time to figure out as a team the next strategy.

2. Privacy policy

If you are a public servant you are aware of HIPPA, which goes into not sharing information without permission. But there is still the fear that someone may see you seeking help and view you as a weak individual. You may have even talked to a few of your friends on the job and they have told you that therapy turns into a blame game. But good therapy is problem solving in a healthy direction. It takes a great deal of strength to seek help to improve your situation. Although it can be uncomfortable, it takes a braver person to confront the issue than to run from it.

3. It can get better

Many people live with anxiety, depression, general agitation, sleep disturbances and even suicidal thoughts. Although these aspects may always be present, they can decrease. Finding a therapist who will exhaust all strategies is important. Each person is different and various techniques will work in unique ways. Make sure to stick with a trial-and-error piece of therapy so that you find the best way to handle your own obstacles.

4. Therapy is uncomfortable

If you have ever started a new workout routine, you know that sometimes to fix something you need to experience discomfort. Therapy is no different. As you sift through the emotions, themes and views, there are shifts towards healthier directions. Although you are moving toward positive changes, they are still changes that can be awkward at first. Keep your eye on your goals along with remembering your small successes.

5. Not all therapy is talk therapy

You may have the stereotypical image of laying down on a couch and having a therapist with a notepad ask you how that makes you feel. In most cases this is not fully accurate. Although therapy generally includes discussion when identifying issues to work on, it is not the only technique. Eye movement desensitization reprocessing (EMDR) and neurological feedback (EEG) have been shown to be very effective in reducing post traumatic stress symptoms and increase emotional regulation. The nice aspect of these therapies is that you dont necessarily need to tell the therapist all the tragic details to get positive results. This reduces the likelihood of re-traumatization in discussing all the painful details over and over.

6. You are human

My favorite argument to therapy is when someone tells me they are "too rational" for it. Therapy is not just based on emotion, it can easily become a way for you to identify/cope when your stomach aches, heart races or when you are irritable for no medical reason. When using EMDR for instance, the focus is to assist the brain in processing previous experiences in a healthier way. In all honesty, everyone has some emotion, even if they are "too rational" or tuning it out. Also know that everyone is different. An experience may be upsetting to you but not your work partner, and that is OK. Everyone is different and processes situations differently. The goal is to make sure you can cope with future situations and past experiences in a productive way for you.

We are thankful for all the wonderful things our public servants do for us. It is now time that these amazingly brave individuals get the help they need.