Spindletop Center hosts mental health talk

Published 10:34 am Friday, July 14, 2017

Spindletop Center presented “Let’s Talk About It” Mental Health Symposium Tuesday afternoon at the Port Arthur Public Library.

The event aimed to raise awareness for mental health treatment and to educate the public on mental illness and dispell some common myths surrounding it.

Leah Durain from KBMT hosted the event and prompted the panel of mental health experts with a list of prepared questions before opening the floor to the general audience.

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Durain opened the session with a question about whether or not mental issues were common in America.

Director of Crisis Services for Spindletop Center Amber Woods said mental illness was common in daily life, citing data that suggests one in every five adults experiences a mental health issue at some point in his or her life.

In addition, according to her, one in 10 young people suffer major depression and one in 25 Americans have had serious mental illness either in their families or experience it themselves.

When the public conversation moved to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Military Veteran Peer Network Peer Coordinator for Spindletop Tim Winberg said that people suffering from PTSD can function normally but many troops are afraid to seek treatment because they may disclose top-secret information during therapy sessions.

“On the contrary,” Winberg said. “Treatment helps people focus on the mission and look out for other people.”

Winberg spoke on the stigma that many veterans with PTSD face, likening the stigma to the military equivalent of “going postal.”

“We can function and there are high-functioning individuals who do just that,” he said.

Winberg supported his statement with anecdotes about individuals who worked through their PTSD and earned masters degrees and others who became social workers.

“With PTSD, we do not need to be labeled as ‘postal’,” Mary Williams, a veteran with Spindletop, said. “I have PTSD and it’s OK to say that. I can lend a helping hand to people. We just have to deal.”

Williams said PTSD does not have to come exclusively from one’s time in the military either. She developed it in her civilian life when her husband suffered a stroke in front of her and went code blue.

“That traumatized me forever,” she said.

“PTSD can’t be cured. PTSD is not a disease,” Winberg said. “PTSD is a mental injury.”

Winberg said the hardest part of dealing with it is seeking professional treatment because many individuals who battle it do so in isolation — and isolation is very dangerous for someone with PTSD.

“With good support and good treatment, a person can learn to control the triggers,” Winberg said. “PTSD can be treated, but it can never, never be (cured) until the nails are in the coffin.”

Both Winberg and Williams said speaking with fellow veterans helps a lot when it comes to working through issues specific to the military and/or PTSD. They made certain to say that Spindletop Center has veterans on its staff that offer counseling services to those in need.

“I spent 21 years in the army and home is very different,” Williams said. “I thank Tim Winberg and the organization. It’s been a great thing personally.”

Other topics of discussion included housing, children’s services, violence and alcohol and substance abuse.

One in the audience inquired about services offered to minors with mental issues who have committed a crime.

Licensed professional counselor with Spindletop Rita Drake responded that probationary officers often refer children to them and Spindletop staff helps the young people integrate back into society.

Another question involved after-hour counseling for individuals who work during the day. Spindletop officials said they were looking into it while veteran services also included evening hours.

Durain asked about the cost of counseling. Drake responded that Spindletop sessions are $5 and that they accept individuals with or without insurance.

“We want to make it very affordable,” Drake said.