Breaking the Stigma: How getting help for your mental health can help

Updated: Jun. 17, 2021 at 11:15 AM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Kelli Willis has been so busy as a behavioral health therapist at Sanford that in February of 2021, she had to stop taking new patients because she was booked into July.

“This pandemic if it did nothing else, it really I think gave people the realization that getting mental health help is no different than going to your doctor when you have a sore throat,” she said.

That’s the type of thinking Willis wants people to use.

“Because people assume that mental health is different from physical health, and it’s not. It’s part of one person, one body, and you cannot have something affected in one part of your body and not have it affect the rest,” she said. “And so people have that fear that mental health means there’s something wrong when there’s not. It’s just that you’re struggling and may need a little extra assistance.”

In the past year, she’s seen an increase in both first-time and returning patients.

“I had patients return that had transitioned out of therapy and were doing quite well, who were struggling with the pandemic,” she said.

Dakota News Now’s Vanessa Gomez spoke with a woman, who didn’t want to be identified. She had established mental health care prior to the pandemic. She said that helped her get seen quickly when the entire nation was asked to stay home in March of 2020.

“Within those first couple weeks when the schools shut down, that’s when I got pretty anxious not knowing what to do with work and child and no school or childcare,” the patient said.

The help she received in the beginning of the pandemic though helped her have one of her best years personally.

“I was happy by the end of the year. Like actual happiness. I had even canceled multiple counselor appointments because I didn’t really need it,” she said.

But the stigma is still there. That’s why she wasn’t comfortable going on camera.

Whether you’re comfortable or not, Willis wants people to understand it’s okay to reach out for help. Nobody should be doing everything on their own.

“Push through the fear of the stigma. The hardest part of therapy is coming through our front door. Everything after that, we’re walking with you hand in hand,” Willis said.

If you think you need help or have questions about seeking mental health help, reach out to your primary care physician. If you don’t think that’s a good fit, you can call Sanford at 605-312-8700 to book an appointment.

People in South Dakota can also call 211 to learn about mental health care options.

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