Following the horrific crash of Germanwings Flight 4U9525 on March 25, 2015, the subject of mental health in the workplace has, once again, become a hot topic. Unfortunately, discussions around mental health seem to happen reactively and as a function of tragedy which, in my opinion, bespeaks the current social mood regarding mental health and discussions about mental health. Namely, we still ‘don’t want to talk about it.’ The stigma associated with mental health issues prevails despite public education campaigns and attempts to renorm social mores regarding living with mental health and talking about mental health. Interestingly enough, as demonstrated by the Germanwings disaster, it is the workplace that is increasingly becoming the crucible for this discussion. Our workplaces have increasingly become the intersection where the rights and responsibilities of society (here represented by the employer) and the individuals that make up that society (the employees) are meeting and ultimately framing our personal and public values regarding mental health.
Continue reading *The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA
The disturbing and tragic news a few days ago in Barcelona, Spain unfortunately serves as a reminder of the necessity of mental health practitioners in our schools. (“Crossbow attack kills teacher, wounds four others at Barcelona school” The Globe and Mail, April 20, 2015) Indeed, as I learned at the Mental Health Symposium sponsored by the British Columbia Principals and Vice-Principals Association in October of 2014, “Mental Health is the #1 issue facing children today as stress, anxiety and depression have become increasingly prevalent in the lives of children today.” As an educator for the last 20 years with 5 years as a school counsellor and 7 as an administrator, I can attest to this alarming trend first-hand. More and more children, it seems, are having difficulty functioning in schools and ultimately in a broader social context. Studies have shown that fully 50% of mental health issues begin by age 15 and that, if treated appropriately and early enough, 70% of these issues may be mitigated to the point where they will not have a lasting impact during adulthood. For me, this engenders a very clear responsibility on both federal and provincial governments to create structures in our schools that deal specifically with adolescent mental health. Indeed, I believe that schools are the best places to deal with this issue as professionals within the schools enjoy a unique advantage in their ability to see children on a daily basis and develop the essential baseline behavioural data. Furthermore, as respected professionals who deal with children on a regular basis, we have the opportunity to be effective and to help children and families get the care they need so as to offset the detrimental impact of mental illness and possibly avoid the all-too-frequent tragedies that seem to plague our schools. Having both a counselling background and the skillset of a certified counsellor as a school-based administrator has been extremely beneficial to me in helping students and their families who are struggling with mental illness. We will need more professionals with this background and skillset working with in our schools if we are to adequately address the needs of our students.
As a prospective counsellor, you may be asking yourself “Why should I do a degree in Counselling?” For those of us that have a formal background in the field, the answers are self-evident and myriad. For me personally, my Masters in Counselling out of Gonzaga University was one of the most powerful learning experiences of my life. And it wasn’t about the “counselling” theories, practice, etc. It was about “me”
That is, the two years that I spent learning and studying and practicing and writing didn’t so much help me to become a counsellor or develop my skills as a practitioner as it was about me simply becoming a better person, developing my interpersonal skills and expanding my introspective analysis and intrapersonal acumen.
I had no idea that this would be a by-product of my time, effort and money. (Isn’t serendipity wonderful?) I fully expected that I would gain a background in psychology and psychotherapy and develop skills that would help me to help others. What I didn’t expect was how intimate I would become with those aspects of my personality that were, how shall I put it, “less than satisfactory”. I thought I had people skills! I actually didn’t! It was a very humbling realization. I thought I was a good listener. I was in fact a pretty good talker. I thought I was doing a Masters in Counselling to get job skills. What I found was that I needed to work on my people skills. This was incredibly important, life-changing information for me to have as a 30-year-old “professional.” (At that point, I was 5 years into a career as a professional educator.)
So, “Why should you do a degree in Counselling?” Do it for yourself! You will become a better person. You will develop better interpersonal skills. You will develop a better understanding of who you are, what makes you “tick” and the ability to step back, analyze your feelings and behaviours and, ultimately, make better choices. These choices are fundamental to living a fulfilled, satisfying life. You will like yourself more and the people around you will like you more. You will establish and maintain better, more fulfilling relationships because you will have a better understanding of yourself. And really, how can any of us expect to have better relationships with others if we haven’t developed that most important of relationships? With ourselves?
In Part Two of this Blog I will explore the unintended benefits of having a counselling degree in my day-to-day work life. *The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA