Challenges in Mental Health Care: The Sickness v. Wellness Perspective (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Mental health care is a challenging, but rewarding field.  There are many positive sides of mental health care, and also areas that need improvement.  One of the biggest rewards of mental health care is observing and experiencing progress, recovery, and a return to wellness of clients.  Healing, recovery, and a return to wellness of clients in mental health settings requires patience, understanding, respect, and sensitivity.  Agency and organizational stability is also needed for clients in order that they receive optimal care.  While each agency and/or organization has its own culture, a culture in which workers live in fear of becoming a statistic in extremely high turnover is unhealthy in itself.

As an individual working toward licensure in the mental health profession, I am one whose perspective is from a position of wellness.  First and foremost, one must view a person as a person.  To perceive and treat a person with respect, kindness, nonjudgment, and impartiality are requirements in supporting and empowering the wellness, healing, and recovery of clients.  In the counseling profession, one based on a view of wellness in people, there exists a positive and supportive hope for the overall optimal health of the individual.

This view is different from many other mental health professions in which the general view of the client is one of sickness.  Certainly, approaching an individual with a perspective of what can be improved is helpful, and for insurance purposes involving payment for services rendered, a diagnosis of the client is required, however it is my perspective that viewing the client from a wellness standpoint is much more healthy for all involved rather than judging a person as being sick.

Those who view and describe an individual as a “sick person” have already negatively judged him or her.  They have not viewed the person as a person, but as an “ill person.”  Such a perspective held by such individuals causes them to treat the client differently, as one who needs more and more treatment, more and more medication, more and more confinement.  In these situations, the positive view of wellness is gone, and is replaced by a judgment that the “sick person” is unable to become well.

While clients have challenges to achieving and maintaining wellness, it becomes even more of a challenge when many in the mental health field view clients as sick, and only they as the professionals who hold those views have the power and expertise to make them well – or they have already judged that they will never become well.  A professional who approaches a client from a perspective of wellness (a perspective that is in the minority), therefore, faces even more challenges, not only for themselves but also for their clients when others view them as sick and unable to become well.  A person is still a person, regardless of their diagnosis or disorder.  A person is still a person, and has the capability of becoming well.  A hopeful perspective toward client wellness must exist in the mental health profession – rather than client sickness – in order that clients are supported and empowered to experience that wellness.

A further challenge in agencies and/or organizations in which a “sickness” perspective prevails is that experienced clinicians fall into the trap of believing that their views and judgments about clients are the best – that they are the experts.  Certainly, the experience of a veteran clinician is extremely valuable in treating clients, however experienced clinicians who believe that only their views, judgments, and culture of sickness are the most helpful approaches create a potentially dangerous situations for their clients.  Clinicians of all levels of experience must be open-minded to considering and perceiving different views – including those from a wellness perspective – so that their clients receive optimal care and so that they profession, itself, can grow and develop in a healthy way.

Clinicians who view clients from a perspective of illness and negative judgment place their clients at risk for further illness.  Clinicians who are set in their ways of expertise toward mental health treatment, and who are unable to be open-minded toward viewing different perspectives regarding it have already erected walls around themselves that are harmful for themselves, their clients, the culture of their agency/organization, and the field of mental health.

What clinicians must always place as a primary priority is that people are people.  As such, people should be treated with dignity, understanding, kindness, respect, and sensitivity.  If a perspective of client wellness is lacking or absent, clients will likely experience a more difficult road to recovery and may not achieve wellness.  What is healthier – being an “expert” clinician whose views of client illness cause him or her to be closed to considering a client’s optimal recovery, or being a clinician who treats a person as a person, and who applies a wellness perspective that supports rather than negatively judges the client?  You be the judge.

Happy Mother’s Day! (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Four Generations of my Family (My Son, Me, Lottie, Anna), 2006

Four Generations of my Family (My Son, Me, Grandma Babcia Lottie, Mom Anna), 2006

Happy Mother’s Day to all mom’s and moms-to-be, today!  Motherhood – and parenthood – are such wonderful blessings that are bestowed upon us.  We have so many wonderful opportunities as women and mothers to be the role models, protectors, guides, teachers, nurses, counselors, religious, safety officers, and coaches (and so much more) that our children and family members need in our lives.  As mothers, we wear so many hats in our lives.  Motherhood is definitely a blessing for me, and a vocation in which I always strive my best, as with everything that I do.

Bernice (Briggs) Babcock-Sprague with Grandchildren Michele and Charles Babcock on Charles' Second Birthday, Collins, New York, November 1974

Bernice (Briggs) Babcock-Sprague with Grandchildren Michele and Charles Babcock on Charles’ Second Birthday, Collins, New York, November 1974

May all women who are mothers remember, cherish, and practice with sensitivity, responsibility, compassion, and seriousness the gift that we have been given.  Happy Mother’s Day! 🙂

“Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to All!” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Nativity Scene at Maranatha Baptist Church, Lilburn, Georgia, December 2012

Nativity Scene at Maranatha Baptist Church, Lilburn, Georgia, December 2012

Christmas and our celebration of Jesus’ birth is upon us once more as we close out yet another great year!  There is always so much for which to be thankful, particularly the coming of Jesus, and his love for us that is so great and boundless that he suffered and died for us to save us from our own sinfulness.  Though we will always be human – and have all of the mistakes, unworthiness, and errors that come with it – we must always do our best to be more like Jesus.  We must act in ways that are forgiving, understanding, sensitive, compassionate, and giving to others and each other.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from us.  St. John Neumann Church Nativity Scene, Christmas 2012, Lilburn, Georgia

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from us. St. John Neumann Church Nativity Scene, Christmas 2012, Lilburn, Georgia

While most people throughout the world are Christians, celebrating Christmas and recognizing Jesus as our wonderful savior, there are many who celebrate other religious events and holidays.  For them, I also wish a wonderful religious celebration and/or holiday. 

My Son Standing Next to the Nativity Scene at St. Oliver Plunkett Church, Feast of the Epiphany, Snellville, Georgia, January 2013

My Son Standing Next to the Nativity Scene at St. Oliver Plunkett Church, Feast of the Epiphany, Snellville, Georgia, January 2013

So, as I have been blogging on WordPress, now, for the past one year, I would like to take this opportunity to say, “Happy Birthday, Jesus!”, and reflect with this posting that I am a thankful lover of Jesus.  Though my words and actions as a Roman Catholic and Christian will always pale miserably and indescribably in comparison to our Savior, I always try to do my best to have my words and actions reflect His love.

Nativity Scene at St. John Neumann School, Lilburn, Georgia, December 2012

Nativity Scene at St. John Neumann School, Lilburn, Georgia, December 2012

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year!  May love, blessings, peace, prosperity, good health, and happiness be enjoyed by everyone!

“Success, Sacrifice, Blessings, and Thanksgiving” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Thanksgiving Roses and Pumpkin

There are so many things for which to be thankful in our lives.  In getting older, my views of what to be thankful for have expanded, and surprisingly, have gotten somewhat modified.  I believe that some of the things for which to be thankful go hand-in-hand, such as success, sacrifice, and gratitude.  While each of these areas mean something different, they ultimately embody similar qualities for me.  Perhaps with age has come greater wisdom and insight about what it is in life for which we should truly be thankful.  It being Thanksgiving Day, it is the perfect opportunity to express and share the meanings and associations between success, sacrifice, blessings, and thanksgiving in my life.

Success, sacrifice, and thanksgiving are all connected in my life.  They each have a very special meaning in my life, and have grown stronger and more intense throughout the passing years.  Firstly, my personal meaning of success has changed throughout the years.  When I was younger – say, a college student or recent college graduate – success meant getting and maintaining a great career position, along with earning a comfortable salary and benefits.  It made me feel secure, stable, and accomplished to achieve that. 

Roses in Georgia, October 2011

Roses in Georgia, October 2011

As the years have passed – such as the past 20 years or so – success for me, personally, now means doing all I can for the benefit of my family, particularly for my son.  For me, success involves “being there” for my son as much as possible, providing him with the most and best possible quality time, and being a compassionate, sensitive, nurturing, caring, and loving mom for him.  To me, that is my greatest success – “the” greatest success – raising, caring for, loving, and being there for my son.  I invest all possible social and emotional understanding, compassion, and nurturing into my son, and I am also thankful and grateful to be able to do so on a regular and consistent basis.

So, for me, success no longer necessarily means having the best job or career position or earning the most money possible.  Although it is important to have a stable and enjoyable career, as well as to earn money in order to live and provide for my family, my highest priority and greatest success is in mothering my son.  So many jobs and career positions demand that people give their lives to their employment; I have given my life to being a mom, and being a sensitive, caring, loving, and nurturing one at that.  It is my hope that in the future, my son will remember all of the time, compassion, care, love, and nurturing that was invested into him, and invest that back into his own future family, as well as to others with whom he comes into contact.

Success also involves doing what I can for my son, my family, myself, and others.  Sometimes that also involves sacrifice – sacrificing my own selfish needs or desires for the benefit of others.  As the years have passed, I have realized that I truly do not need everything that I think I do.  And, when I look around, I see that I, indeed, have more than I need, materially.  It has helped me to refrain from satisfying a compulsive impulse to buy something that I don’t really need by telling myself that I have everything already and that I don’t need it. 

It also helps to remember that my main priority is in providing an outstanding education to my son, and that is where the money must go.  Thus, a wonderful education for my son is the top priority of sacrifice for me to him.  I strongly believe that such an excellent education is the best course of action for him, considering all other circumstances.  Of course, there are also expenses for maintaining good health, well-being, and extracurricular activities, as well as for having a vehicle and driving it, however my son’s schooling helps me maintain my focus of investment in him and in his education.  This is my gift of sacrifice to and investment into him.

Sacrificing and giving to others is also important to me.  When I can, I drive my parents to where they need and/or desire to go.  For one thing, this helps save on gasoline, though it also provides company, comraderie, companionship, and fellowship, not only for me, but also for my son.  I do what I can to give back to my family for all the good that they have done for and provided to me, even in the little things that others may think are insignificant, such as buying some groceries, taking packages to be mailed at the post office, or taking items to the trash pick-up or recycling center.  That stated, I know I could never in my entire life return to my parents all that they have provided in support and assistance to me, and for that, I am also extremely thankful and blessed.

Sacrificing also means giving back to the community, serving others, and helping those who are in need.  I regularly do that as a volunteer in many capacities, including at two churches as a lector and lay minister, as a writer for a church newsletter, donating food and clothing for those in need, volunteering as a spiritual leader at my son’s school in activities that assist local families in need, assisting as a parent helper for school activities, organizing food for and delivering it to local families in need during the holiday season, volunteering my time, talents, and efforts in Cub Scouts whenever possible, and giving of my time by volunteering at the local religious-affiliated thrift store.  Though my desired, intended, and enjoyed career path in teaching has not proceeded as planned, I am rewarded by being able to give of my time and talents to help and assist others – and, in turn, it is also spiritually, socially, mentally, and emotionally fulfilling for me.

So, what I am most thankful for are God, my son, my family, my friends, and the good, competent, caring professionals who are in my life.  Without God, I would be nowhere.  With God, I have, maintain, and develop my strong faith, even when things are not going well.  I believe that there is a reason for everything, even though I may not know or understand what those reasons are.  I also believe that God has our lives mapped out for us, and knows everything that will happen in our lives long before it happens and prior to us even making a choice on what to do. 

Thanksgiving Pumpkins

Thanksgiving Pumpkins

I try my best to be thankful to God everyday and for everthing, both good and bad, because I believe there are learning experiences in everything.  Of course, it is extremely difficult and challenging to be faced with bad, trying, or traumatic situations, though with God as my strength, I know that goodness, love, and mercy will prevail in some way.  With God, for whom I am thankful, I am blessed with the hope and faith that He will guide and show me the best way in which for me to travel.

Thanksgiving is also important in association with my son.  I am thankful for my son because he provides me with the greatest meaning in my life, he gives me the strength and fortitude that I need to live and enjoy each day, he fulfills that place within my soul that has the innate need to mother, nurture, care for, and love him.  I am thankful for my son because I often believe that he is my reason for being, for living, and for sharing and enjoying the most in life that is possible.  I am so moved and thankful to God for my son; he is my heart.

My family are also those for whom I am thankful.  Without my family – my parents in particular – I would not be where I am today.  When I was in need, it was my parents who were there for me and my son.  My parents have been that strong, stable, unyielding rock of strength and persistence throughout my life, showing me that nothing is too great to overcome, that nothing is too great to bear, that nothing is too severe to integrate positively into my life in some way.  Having been married now for nearly 50 years, my parents are wonderful role models for me, and for them, I am extremely thankful and indebted.

I have a few wonderful, close friends, and for them, I am also very thankful.  One is lucky and blessed in their lifetime to find, acquire, and maintain friendships with those who are kindred spirits, sharing similar values, beliefs, and backgrounds, and I am blessed and thankful to have found such friends as these.  Typically, I gravitate toward friends who are slightly older than me because I believe that they are more mature, experienced in the world and in their lives, and can also be wonderful mentors for me.  In fact, there have been a couple of colleagues in my life who have also become wonderful friends, particularly for those reasons.  It is such a blessing to be able to share an understanding, flexibility, and sensitivity with friends who hold similar outlooks, philosophies, and perspectives, and I am thankful for those people in my life.

Also of great importance in my life are those professionals who have been helpful and supportive of me and my family, and who have made our lives easier and more enjoyable.  For these folks, I am extremely thankful and grateful, and for some, I will also never be able to fully express or show my gratitude if it takes me the rest of my life.  Currently, a few of these people in particular include my attorney, a school superintendent, and physicians and healthcare professionals who doctor and/or otherwise assist me and my son.  In the past, such professionals have also included college professors, instructors, mentors, and coaches; and professional peers and colleagues.

Of course, I am also thankful for nature, the environment, animals, flowers, plants, food to eat, shelter, safety, freedom and democracy, diversity, and different peoples, cultures, religions, languages, and customs.  I am also thankful for opportunities, growth, development, life experiences, and being able to live my life.  I am thankful to travel freely and to where I choose.  I am thankful for having sight, hearing, touch, taste, intelligence, honesty, persistence, and a whole host of other qualities and characteristics.  I am also thankful for being female – being a woman, for with that has come pregnancy and giving birth to my son, and enjoying experiences and intimacies that are understood only by women.  Even so with all of these things for which I am thankful, I am most thankful for people and God.

My son and children, in general, are those people in my life for whom I am most thankful because they bring so much joy, happiness, innocence, and fulfillment into my life.  Had I an enjoyable, stable, and loving relationship with a partner, I would also find great fulfillment in sharing such thankfulness and love with him, as well.  I know, however, that a relationship of that nature is in God’s hands, and if such a relationship never presents itself, then I will know and accept that it was not meant to be, however discouraging and disappointing, perhaps it would be for the best.  My love and compassion for children, children’s rights, and children’s welfare would also be high priorities for me to share with an intimate partner, as I am sure he would find similar enjoyment and fulfillment in this, as well.

Westward View of North Carolina Toward Tennessee from Cherokee, North Carolina, October 2010

Westward View of North Carolina Toward Tennessee from Cherokee, North Carolina, October 2010

While this post will end up being published and dated in the day following Thanksgiving this year, it was on my agenda to accomplish on Thanksgiving Day, though other things came up that needed attention.  I hope that you who are reading my article will be able to reflect upon what it is that you are thankful for, and perhaps, also find some correlations between success, sacrifice, gratitude, and blessings in your life. 

Sometimes, we just need to stop and smell the roses, or – before you know it – those roses are gone and we are left wondering what happened.  I took a few moments this evening to cut some roses from the backyard garden and to smell and enjoy them.  Please also take time to be thankful and share all wonderful things on this Thanksgiving.  Take time to “smell the roses;” enjoy all that is good; share with family, friends, and loved ones; and be thankful for all that our wonderful Creator has bestowed upon us.  Give extra hugs and more quality time to your children and family.  Take a moment to appreciate everything, and not take it for granted.  Enjoy it now – it doesn’t last forever!

“What is a True Friend?” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

What is a true friend?  What makes a person be a true friend to another?  There are many qualities of a friend that people may categorize as causing someone to be a true friend, and some people’s characteristics of a true friend may differ from others.  There are many qualities of what makes a true friend for me that I would like to share.

Firstly, a true friend likes, respects, and appreciates you for who you are.  A true friend is supportive, understanding, encouraging, and honest, and is not unnecessarily led or influenced by others in their opinions, decisions, and judgments about you.  A true friend sees the whole picture, not just what’s on the surface.  A true friend seeks to know and understand you, to be sensitive to you.  A true friend is there for you, encouraging you to be true to yourself, to help and protect yourself, to be your best, to improve yourself – your inner self.  A true friend knows you, seeks to know you, and appreciates what they know about you.  A true friend is always a friend, regardless of the issue or situation.

Next, true friends are those who can listen to and hear you out on any subject.  Sometimes, in providing others with certain information about ourselves, we are seeking to know whether or not we can fully trust and confide in another person.  Most people are uncomfortable with information with which they cannot cope, whether it is information about a topic that causes discomfort to them, or whether it is just plain a topic that they cannot handle or put up a wall against.  A true friend can take in all information and remain supportive and understanding because such information may lead to something better, a deeper relationship and more trusting relationship, a confidence in the other person that one can share anything with them, any issue, any detail, without them shutting you out or turning you away.

Sometimes, just when you believe you have found a true friend, someone on whom you can count, confide, and trust, you discover completely the opposite about that person.  It is particularly painful in those for whom one cares or loves, such as family members, close friends, or those others with whom one has a close emotional and/or spiritual connection to discover that they are not a true friend.  One may discover that they are led or blinded by their own discomforts, biases, judgments, beliefs, and/or the pressures of others and even the institutions that they may represent.  They are incapable of being a true friend when they have sight, but cannot see; when they have eyes, but no vision; when they are bound to their own discomforts, and are unable and unwilling to see the bigger picture; when they are a puppet to the rules and policies of the institutions that they represent, yet they don’t realize it, and are being led astray.

At other times, however, one may discover that they indeed, have found and maintained a true friend.  There are at least a half-dozen people throughout my life whom I would consider as true friends, those with whom I can share anything, and time and time again, they have responded to me positively, supportively, and encouragingly.  They appreciate and support me for who I am.  They reflect the care about me that I would like to think that I similarly do for them.  They help me to realize and be myself.  They open doors for me rather than shut them.  They break down walls and barriers for me rather than create them.  They are those whose actions have continually and regularly surpassed those of others in wanting, doing, and assisting in the best for others.  They are true friends.

I am so appreciative of those people in my life who are true friends!  It seems that those people, similarly to myself, who are true friends and whom I consider to be true friends, have the same characteristics.  We are warm, kind, understanding, sensitive, honest, supportive, encouraging, intelligent, confident, and assertive.  We want the best for ourselves and others, and to bring out the best in ourselves and others.  We are people who are helpful, rather than harmful or destructive.  

True friends also bring and seek to bring important issues to others’ attention and awareness in order to effect positive change, improvement, and enhancement in our lives and those of others.  We are concerned for the welfare and well-being of ourselves and others, and we always seek and strive to achieve and accomplish that with our honesty, sincerity, and genuineness.  Leaders and public figures such as Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Mahatma Gandhi are those whom I would consider to be a true friend to others on an even greater level than a close, personal true friend.

Sadly, too often, however, many people feel threatened by those positive qualities and characteristics that I previously described.  They may feel threatened due to their own insecurities and/or discomforts, shut us out, and refuse to listen to or hear us.  There may be something much greater at stake for the good of many others, yet when we are shut out, overlooked, denied, disrespected, discredited, or worse, it is they who have shown themselves of being untrustworthy and perhaps lacking in character. 

In those situations, one cannot count on that person to be a true friend, and must either seek the support and consult of someone else or rely on oneself.  I think this reflects that many people see only what they want to see, and not necessarily what is reality.  Too often, people are content to see only what is on the surface, and not ask questions, not dig deeper, and thus, they miss out on enjoying more meaningful and satisfying relationships with each other.

By being followers, such people are also not being leaders.  Leaders must be open to all information, all sides of an issue, all sides of a situation that they may not have even considered.  They must ask questions and seek to discover, not necessarily believing all that they see on the surface as deeper issues may be discovered that end up being for everyone’s benefit.  It is so sad to me that so many shut themselves out to the deeper issues, close themselves off due to their own discomforts and insecurities, fall short of potentially making situations, policies, and understandings of issues better for others rather than potentially worse. 

It is especially sad and disappointing to me when individuals who represent organizations or institutions shut out others, particularly when it is part of their job to be open to others.  One cannot speak with others who will not listen.  One cannot convince others of a different perspective when they have already made a decision to shut you out.  If you cannot trust a person to be open about hearing or considering one serious issue, there is no sense in presenting other important issues.  They think they are right and you are wrong; they think their way is perfect and your way is flawed.  This situation is potentially damaging and diminishing for everyone, and they may not even realize it. 

For how many years, decades, and lifetimes do people maintain sensitive or personal information all due to the fact that someone shut them out and would not listen to them due to the discomforts and/or insecurities of the other?  This is a perfect example of how individuals such as Jerry Sandusky are able to continue their damage and destruction upon others, when people don’t ask enough questions, when too many people don’t listen, when people shut each other out, when people choose to be blind rather than use their vision, regardless of the consequences. 

There are other situations in which red flags appeared prior to particular tragedies, yet those individuals who may have potentially stopped the situations from occurring either did not act or did not behave in a way that protected and saved others from harm.  Regarding the recent tragedy of senseless killings and injuries at the Aurora, Colorado movie theater by James Holmes, here is another situation when potential blindness of others failed to protect and save lives.  And, further, in situations in which child sexual abuse – or similar abuses of power – by Catholic clergy is covered up by male church leaders such as Msgr. William Lynn of Philadelphia, one wonders what male leaders, if any, within the Catholic Church can be trusted?

A true friend, therefore, is also someone in whom one can confide their most sensitive issues (of course, as long as those issues are all legal, moral, and ethical), and will find that the friend keeps their confidence.  One finds that another is not a true friend in confiding their most sensitive and painful issues to another when that person shares those issues with others, especially to those who thereby unnecessarily misunderstand, misconstrue, and misjudge them because of it.

Someone is definitely your enemy if they do not have your best interests at heart.  Someone who incorrectly shares sensitive or confidential information without knowing the whole picture or all the facts, thereby damaging you, is definitely not a friend, but an enemy.  Those who are very direct about it are easy to identify, however there are also those whom I characterize as wolves in sheep’s clothing who take in sensitive information, twist it around, and use it to harm you.  We must all be especially cautious and aware of the wolves in sheep’s clothing.  Throughout my life, there have been many of those, from whom I still feel and experience some of the damaging effects today.

There are few people in one’s life, therefore, whom they may consider to be a true friend.  A true friend, after all, is extremely hard to find.  A true friend is even harder to maintain.  Even more difficult to experience is the friend who turns into an enemy, a friend who by their own discomforts, insecurities, or feelings of being threatened by information that they don’t want to hear – or which information may be biased or incorrect to begin with – puts up a wall against you and shuts you out.  I feel sympathy and pray for those people who are missing out on developing a richer and more full relationship with others, simply by refusing to be more open to and honest with others. 

Importantly therefore, one must be very thankful for those people in their lives who have truly shown themselves to be true friends.  It is also important to remember to show one’s appreciation for their true friends.  Don’t take them for granted as they may be few and far between.  Are you a true friend?  And, how have you behaved as a true friend toward someone lately?