Mental Health Awareness Can Help with Vision Loss
Written by Jeremy Morak and Jocelyn Tapia
Mental health awareness and management are vital to a healthy lifestyle and influence thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Some people who experience vision loss later in life are more vulnerable to mental health struggles but are unaware of them.
Mental health awareness is the ability to understand and recognize the signs and symptoms of mental illness, seek help and offer support to those who need it. But for Mental Health Awareness Month, this month, the message from one mental health professional is clear – mental health awareness is a good thing.
Jocelyn Tapia is a Clinical Social Worker in Lighthouse Guild’s Behavioral Health Clinic, the only center in the U.S. for people who are blind, visually impaired or at risk for vision loss. She cares for many people who are coping with this change. “When anyone receives a diagnosis of vision loss it can be a shock to the system,” Tapia explained. “A lot of people are concerned about their future and living independently.” Knowing what resources and support are available can bring positivity and optimism during this journey.
She outlined the key pillars of mental health awareness that can help a person not only recognize signs of mental illness, but learn strategies to overcome it.
Becoming familiar with the signs and symptoms of mental illness, and just as importantly, learning about the available help to address them, is the first step to positive mental health awareness. Many different forms of treatment can be as personal as one-on-one counseling and as communal as support groups that specifically help people dealing with vision loss.
Find The Right Approach
There is no generic formula for the perfect support system. Some find personal psychotherapy sessions with a trained professional more beneficial, while others find strength in hearing from people with similar experiences. Some people find value in a balanced approach utilizing one-on-one sessions and support groups.
Consider The Benefits
There can be a stigma associated with mental health maintenance and counseling, but the truth is, there are real benefits a person experiences during their journey.
Speaking with a professional in a supportive environment can allow you to be vulnerable and emotional in ways that can be difficult, even around close friends and family.
This process allows a person to be reflective and often leads to finding the inner strength they didn’t know they possessed. Plus, in a support group, speaking and listening to others who have also experienced vision loss can lead to friendships and other support systems.
It is important to understand that support and therapy are not magical cures. A trained professional can be an excellent resource, but it is only one factor in strengthening mental health. Ms. Tapia stressed the importance of trust and honesty.
“An experience with a counselor is a journey that you take, and allows you to be vulnerable with another human being who can provide a supportive environment,” she said. “If someone has a strong rapport with their counselor, it is much easier to address fears, concerns, anger and answer questions. The sessions will help a person cope with grief and anger and give them hope that they can still live a happy life.”
Jeremy Morak is a Marketing Manager at Lighthouse Guild. Jocelyn Tapia is a Clinical Social Worker at Lighthouse Guild.