When most of us think of mental illness, it takes us to a deep, dark place in both one's life and brain.
Whether you suffer from a mental illness as a result self-destructive behavior, or you love someone who is suffering, it's imperative to seek help; no matter how scary taking that first step can be.
Dr. Lisa Ferentz, a nationally-recognized Psychotherapist, Clinical Consultant, Educator and author of Letting Go of Self-Destructive Behaviors: A Workbook of Hope and Healing, shares how it’s time we remove the stigma and shed some light on the darkness of mental health.
Ferentz also explains the urgency of obtaining professional help when you first realize there may be an issue with your mental stability.
RadioMD Presents: Wellness for Life Radio | Original Air Date: May 1, 2015
Host: Susanne Bennett, DC
Guest: Lisa Ferentz, LCSW-C, DAPA
This is it. The ultimate wellness show just for you. Welcome to Wellness for Life Radio with Dr. Susanne Bennett.
DR SUSANNE: Mental illness is a global issue that most of us have trouble understanding. Whether you or someone you love suffer from self-destructive behaviors and other mental issues, then you will want to listen in. My next guest is here to share how it's time to shed some light on mental health.
Welcome to the show, Lisa Ferentz, nationally recognized psychotherapist, clinical consultant and educator, and author of Letting Go of Self-Destructive Behaviors: A Workbook of Hope and Healing. Lisa, we have so much to cover, but let's go ahead and get started on some stats. How many people today are suffering from mental illness?
LISA: Well, believe it or not, the estimates are that one in five people are grappling with some mental health issue, and we know that one in twenty Americans suffer from very serious mental illness. I would tell you that for all of those who suffer, there are family members, there are colleagues, loved ones who suffer as well. So, it's very hard to find somebody who has not been either directly or indirectly touched by mental illness.
DR SUSANNE: You know, when you say mental illness, does that include the psychological issues as well?
LISA: Oh, absolutely. Yes, I think it does. Sure.
DR SUSANNE: Okay. Is there a difference between mental illness issues and psychological issues?
LISA: No, because when we talk about mental illness, whether we talk about depression, or anxiety, or bipolar disorder, there's always, in addition to a cognitive component, an emotional component, and sometimes a physical component. There's always a psychological component to that as well. So, I think that they're very intertwined.
DR SUSANNE: Yes, I believe the same. I believe that you really cannot separate between the different types of--I say, layers--of who we are.
DR SUSANNE: Whenever I find, let's say a liver issue--a physical liver issue--you always find some emotional or mental burden on that individual, right?
LISA: You're exactly right. You know in the old days in the medical and mental health field, we did this crazy thing where we literally separated the mind from the body. So, unfortunately, now what we understand is, of course, that they are totally interconnected, and that one acts and reacts in concert with the other. So, you're exactly right in what you're suggesting there.
DR SUSANNE: Yes. I always find that it's at least a third of it is actually biochemistry and the genetics that I call Epigenetics. It's been around and we worked with Epigenetics, and there's some genetic component. What about the most common causes of these mental illnesses? What do you see in your practice?
LISA: So, what I see in my practice, Susanne, is that it often relates to very profound and chronic experiences of trauma, abuse, and neglect in childhood and throughout adolescence. So, in my work, because I'm a trauma specialist, I have a skewed population. So, that's what I'm seeing and that's what I'm working with. So, we know that children who grow up in families where they're not getting the kind of secure attachment that they need, or they're growing up with a parent who has an addiction issue, or a parent who has a mental health issue--untreated depression or anxiety. As those children evolve and they're not getting their emotional needs, they're psychological needs met, they, in turn, become very vulnerable to developing their own struggles and their own issues with mental illness. There's also a very strong correlation between substance abuse and mental illness, so we see a lot of that. In fact, you could even make the case that people use alcohol and other self-destructive behavior as a way to try to self-medicate and manage the undiagnosed, untreated mental health issues that they may be struggling with. You're also certainly right to point out that there's a very strong genetic component. There are certain illnesses, certainly like depression and anxiety, which absolutely run in families. You can trace back for generations a family cycle of depression, or anxiety, or even substance abuse. So, that's a factor, and then you have external stressors. You have people who are growing up in unsafe neighborhoods, and growing up in an environment where there's this constant stress, so that can certainly be a trigger for a mental health issue as well.
DR SUSANNE: That's so great that you're sharing all the different layers of these traumas. When we think about it, you said something really important: that it has to do with the way we were raised when we're young; which means, then, speaking to all of the parents or people who want to be parents, what can we do to help so that our children -- so that it's not passed down generationally, or how can we -- what are the solutions for our young people?
LISA: I think it's a two-fold process. I think part of it, and I see this a lot in my work is, we really need to have more support and more resources for grown-ups who are parenting or want to be parents, because without their own personal healing, what's going to happen is just what you suggested. That is, that the same dysfunctional dynamics are going to be passed on to the next generation. So, believe it or not, when people come in with an adolescent who they are wanting to get therapy for, I always find it's just as important that the adults, that the parents are doing their own therapy, getting their own support, and learning better ways to parent. So, I think we have to address that generation by giving them the resources and the support that they need and deserve, as well as certainly trying to give younger people strategies for self-soothing and coping. Strategies that can enhance self-worth and self-esteem, so that at least they can break the generational cycle. In some instances, parents don't get better, but I've certainly seen many times in my career, young kids break that cycle by making different choices. You know, taking better care of themselves, choosing to not turn to drugs or alcohol, learning to love themselves, making decisions to graduate from high school and college, so that they have a better future than their parents did. So, it's working with both generations in order to accomplish what you're talking about.
DR SUSANNE: Often I have young children, because I have a pediatric allergy practice, and often I actually talk to the little ones. If they are old enough, I talk to them about actual mentors that they can find whether it's school, a counselor, or a coach. That's what helped me my whole life growing up in an alcoholic -- my father was a manic-depressive alcoholic and it was so disruptive and traumatic growing up, but what I did was I actually really connected to my coaches at a very young age. You’ve got to have better role models, just like you said, parents may not change.
LISA: Yes, what you're saying is so wise, Susanne. It's a concept that I call finding surrogate parents. So, you're exactly right. We don't get to choose who our family members are. We don't get to pick our parents, but what you're saying makes so much sense. It's about empowering kids to seek out surrogate parents and really healthy, positive role models, because that can be such a mitigating factor that can totally turn around a child's life in a positive way when they can have those mentors and those role models. I love what you're saying, and I think, they can make all the difference in a child's life. It doesn't have to be that you had fabulous parents, because not everybody gets to have fabulous parents.
DR SUSANNE: I know that with parents, we all want to be the best we can for our kids, and even for the parents, asking them to look up and be -- look at different mentors to help them parent better. I think that's really important, don't you think? Parents need to do it, too.
LISA: Exactly right. What I say to the parents I work with all the time is that it's not your fault that you don't have the proper tools in your toolbox, and it is your responsibility to get those tools.
DR SUSANNE: That's right. As an adult it is all of our responsibility. Then, of course, the fact that you teach both adults and children in this area is fantastic. What is your website?
LISA: It's www.lisaferentz.com. F as in Frank E-R-E-N-T-Z.
DR SUSANNE: Wonderful, thank you so much. I know this is going to be awesome for people. Alright, everyone, you can go to my Wellness for Life radio page for more information.
This is Dr. Susanne, sharing natural strategies for ultimate health and wellness.