If so many Young Adults suffer mental health issues, what’s the solution? Is there a ‘fix’ for such a widespread problem? How do individuals start to tackle an unseen issue in their communities? Professional counselor and psychotherapist Bill Mulcahy returns to talk about developing twelve key coping strategies to help any adult, young or old, and how putting emphasis on community-oriented programs might be the most important solution of them all.
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OT Ep. 6 Transcription.txt
00;00;09;00 – 00;02;15;05
Welcome to OnTopic with Empathia, I’m your host, Kelly Parbs. I’m a licensed clinical social worker with over 35 years working at Empathia, supporting individuals and organizations across the globe. Today on the show, we’re talking about common mental health issues that young adults face and how to identify them. We will also be talking about how technology, social media, COVID and cultural pressures have an overall impact on the mental health of young adults. Our guest is Bill Mulcahy. He is a practicing psychotherapist with over 20 years of experience in the field. In addition, he is the founder and president of Kids Cope Now. Kids Cope Now is a program that provides books and tools for teaching children to cope with the emerging challenges of life in the 21st century. As part of Bill’s experience in mental health, he has a great deal of knowledge in working with young adults struggling with a vast array of mental health issues. Given the prevalence of mental health challenges and the continuing demand for support, we will be providing insights as to how to identify and address mental health issues in young adults. As you might know, Bill, I work with people who have just experienced some type of very critical incident, oftentimes a trauma. And I think about the notion a lot of being a compassionate witness to what they’re going through. There’s so much value in simply walking alongside someone during a difficult time, listening without judgment. Like you said, oftentimes I can’t fix their situation, but I can walk alongside them and remind them that that they’re not alone. And there’s so much value in that and that that’s what I hear you saying that we can do for the young adults in our lives.
00;02;15;08 – 00;02;52;10
I totally agree. And Carl Rogers, the famous humanist counselor, said, you know, the greatest thing you could do for another person was, listen. And sometimes that’s all you can do, and sometimes that’s all you need to do. And listening as a compassionate companion – it’s just powerful for all age groups, but especially this age group that I feel like feels like they’re misunderstood quite a bit. And so when we provide them that, just think about, you know, the solid relationship we can build with them and the confidence they can build in themselves, which is essential for their well-being.
00;02;52;26 – 00;03;14;28
Bill I’m sure some of our listeners can really identify with having a young adult in their lives who’s struggling. We maybe also have young adult listeners who are looking for some coping strategies. What are some of the healthy coping skills and strategies for managing emotions and stress?
00;03;15;05 – 00;04;44;16
Well, I’m glad you asked it- this is one of my central things that I do with my clients. I really want my clients to leave the office with something that they can practice. I want them to have an effective, adaptive coping skill that they can use right now in the present moment when things are happening. So one thing to keep in mind with coping skills, they build muscle in two ways. They can be used as a proactive type of thing. Meaning I’m going to practice breathing before our presentation today and that’s going to help me relax. Also, they can be used for intervention. So during the presentation I might get nervous and then I can go to my breathing and it’s going to help me relax. Right? So coping skills have this amazing ability to give a short term benefit and to give us long term benefit as intervention. So let’s keep this in mind as we’re as we’re talking, because again, I’m going to be a person that’s going to say we need to be proactively teaching social, emotional learning and coping skills that are effective to children and teens so that when they hit this age group, they’re ready to go. Not that we can’t teach a young adult new tricks- we can, but the more they have as they enter this group, the more successful and the more a sense of well-being they’re going to have. Now, that said, I love coping skills, so I’m going to give you a whole bunch of them right now.
00;04;44;16 – 00;04;44;24
00;04;44;27 – 00;10;23;03
If we had more time, I would definitely practice with them and show you them, but let’s begin. So the first one, the most simplest and the best thing that you can do, probably for your health, is just learn how to breathe properly. Right? Abdominal breathing. When you put your hand on your belly, your belly should rise because your lungs are like a balloon filling up with oxygen. So the number one thing you can do is just learn how to breathe. And sometimes all it takes is just paying attention to your breath during a meeting or during a class. It can be really helpful. It’s going to send oxygen to all parts of your body. You think clear. And again, it can be used as a proactive tool or it can be used in an intervention tool. You know, you’re just about to send a text and you think you should send it and you know, you- you’re upset or something. You know, how do you take that breath? How do you breathe? You know, slow your body down and then give yourself a chance to reread the text and figure out, is this something I really want to do? Another coping skill that I really believe in is called grounding. This is a form of mindfulness, which we’ll talk about in a little bit, but grounding is just the ability to really ground yourself to your body. And so, you know, feeling your bottom on the chair, feeling your feet on the floor, your back against the back of the chair, you know, getting a sense of- of your body safe and secure in this moment is a powerful tool, especially with anxiety and trauma impact. Another coping skill that I highly recommend is journaling. I’ve been journaling since I was 15 years old. I’ve kept all my journals. They’re full of, you know, cheesy poems and profound statements and stuff like that. But one of the things that it can really do is it can really connect me with what’s going inside and then make sense of that as I’m also dealing with the outside world. You can go back and reread and see how much you’ve grown. The only caveat with journals is you need to make sure that they’re safe and secure and that nobody else reads them. Another coping skill is exercise. We know that this group of people, like many other groups, like to exercise. I would say be gentle with your exercise. You know you don’t- again, balance is the key word, but exercise is a really good coping. Another coping plan that I often get people to utilize is what I call a coping buddy. Who do you got that you’re going to call that one time that you know is always going to be able to listen to you? And I don’t care how old they are or what they do, but there’s somebody that’s not going to judge you, somebody that’s just going to listen and is going to be there for you. And hopefully in turn, you can be somebody’s coping, buddy. But having a coping buddy is essential. I just mentioned briefly mindfulness, but, you know, the ability to be mindful, the ability to stay in the moment, to be nonjudgmental about the moment happening right now, whether it’s your thoughts, your emotions, or your behavior. Right? Being able to eat mindfully, being able to walk mindfully. By the way, all of these exercises can be found on YouTube and you can get, you know, some guru to help you process these things. The next one, I’m going to go with therapy. I’m a therapist. I’ve been doing therapy for 20 years. It’s essential for coping. It can really be good. Counselors are going to help you cope. That’s what they’re going to do. They’re not just going to listen. They’re going to help you cope. They’re going to get you better at those kind of things. Another one also kind of under the therapy realm, but something that we can do on our own. The old CBT or just being able to manage our own self-talk. Right? Our self-talk is full of a lot of negative stuff. How do we recognize that is irrational? Give ourselves the time to breathe into that and then realize, no, here’s a rational message that actually reframes what I really want to think about myself. Another one is gratitude. We know the powerful effect of gratitude. Being thankful for what we have regularly, either journaling about it or being aware of it is a powerful antidote to many, many, many mental health issues. Guided imagery is kind of like self-directed daydreaming. So basically somebody is reading a narrative or a story, or you’re listening to a narrative story, and it has to do with lots of senses that are within that. And basically what is happening is, you know, if your brain thinks about sunlight, your body will actually feel sunlight and it can really help mental health issues in regards to guiding somebody on those kind of meditations. And then the last one that I’d like to just bring up is perspective taking. What does that have to do with? Well, I think a lot of times, because this group is so involved emotionally and so involved with peers, it’s hard sometimes to stop and take that perspective. So a really great coping skills is to teach people to, okay, take the other person’s perspective. What do you think’s going on with them? You know, it’s kind of a form of empathy, but kind of a direct form where they’re trying to get different perspective so that they can see through their lens differently. Those are 11 coping skills. I mean, progressive relaxation is another one. So now you have 12. I just finished writing a book called 30 Ways to Cope, so I take this stuff very seriously and believe it really has a strong impact on people.
00;10;23;13 – 00;11;18;19
Bill, I wish you could have just seen me nodding my head in strong agreement for all of these- healthy coping strategies are in my wheelhouse as well. I make sure that when I meet with clients, they leave our meeting with something tangible and doable that they can implement right away. And like you said, there are resources easily available. You can go on YouTube like you said, or Google, y’know belly breathing, grounding, all of these things. You hit on one of my favorite, which is gratitude. I honestly believe from my soul that gratitude plants the seed for joy and that if we take time to notice what is right in life, we’ll continue noticing more of what is right in life. So thank you for having that and part of your twelve, and I do hope to see that book of yours one day!
00;11;19;10 – 00;11;27;03
Well, I do want to piggyback on this just really quick, because I think there’s an elephant in the room that I didn’t address that I really need to address.
00;11;27;04 – 00;11;27;22
00;11;28;08 – 00;12;02;03
I just wanted to be said that for this age group and for all age groups, really, but this age group in particular, because they’re going out and experimenting and learning, there are plenty of ways to cope that work, that are not adaptive, that are maladaptive, right? That are ineffective in the long run. But they work. And this group has the potential to delve into this pretty heavily. And I’m talking about alcohol and weed and vaping and things like that. And I think the little dirty secret that, you know, we’re all afraid to admit is these things work- in the moment they work.
00;12;02;03 – 00;12;02;18
00;12;02;22 – 00;12;35;07
But I think addressing the elephant in the room is, again, what does it do in the long run? And really, does it fulfill what I call the nature of a true adaptive, effective coping, which is that it helps in the long run and in the short run/ Also that it has to connect with the mind, body, spirit and impact the mind, body spirit in a positive way. So I think it’s just important to keep that in mind that people do cope in unhealthy ways dramatically during this age group. So let’s keep that in mind.
00;12;35;10 – 00;13;43;27
Thank you. Yes, that’s so important. And, you know, when we’re talking about coping in unhealthy ways, this conversation is it’s bringing me back to a memory of a crisis at a university that I responded to a few years back. Tragically, a student died as a result of of hanging herself. She left a note that referenced feeling like she didn’t have a voice. She didn’t know who to go to. She didn’t know what to do. And she couldn’t imagine living life in this world after college. And I- I held that girl’s sobbing mom in my arms and wished so desperately that she had been able to reach out to the resources or have some of these coping strategies that that you’re mentioning. Can you spend some time talking about what resources are available for young adults seeking help for mental health issues?
00;13;44;16 – 00;14;07;14
Sure. So, first of all, we talked about this earlier under social media and tech, right? The first real thing that all people this age are going to do is they’re going to get on their phone, They’re going to do a Google search and they’re going to look for what kind of counseling or therapy or help can I get? I mean, that’s just standard. That’s what they’re going to do.
00;14;07;14 – 00;14;08;08
00;14;08;08 – 00;15;58;20
That’s what this group is made of. That’s what they’re- they’re looking to do. Will it be a good situation? I don’t know. But we know that there are lots of opportunities for counseling out there. We know that there’s a lot of counselors around colleges and universities. We know that there are now apps such as Betterhelp and other things like that that provide services for people. The trouble is, getting people connected to these things like that young lady that you spoke about, when you’re depressed, especially, it’s hard to get up. And we remember we used to say it back in the day and pick up the phone and call the EAP. So we need more of a global response. We need more of an all hands on deck kind of response to let people know that services are available, that there are adults out there. We need to educate about depression and suicide and helping people to understand that these are temporary feelings and temporary situations, not a permanent thing, and that help is available. I think socially we have an obligation to guess its teach and educate and show friends because this group is so connected to friends, they’re going to go to their friends first. That’s what they’re going to do that in Google Search. And how do friends help people? How do they know the right things to do? How do they connect them with the college counselor on site at the university? How do they connect them with their parents’ EAP? It’s still mystical to me that, you know, there’s about 75 million people under EAP’s in this country, and it feels like only 10 million or less people know about it. And so really making sure people understand those platforms is really going to be important.
00;15;58;26 – 00;16;02;00
Back to your point of educate, educate, educate.
00;16;02;15 – 00;16;02;26
00;16;03;08 – 00;16;29;20
And by the way, just for our listeners who may not know what EAP stands for, that is Employee Assistance Program. Many organizations have this benefit available to anyone who works for their organization as well as those people’s dependents. And as Bill is saying, the benefit is there and it’s available. And many, many people have no idea that that benefit exists.
00;16;30;09 – 00;18;09;21
Right. Like they you know, they don’t know that there’s also resources on every college university for counseling and that it’s usually free. Obviously, people can utilize their parents insurance and go through somebody. That can be really difficult if you’re in college or if you’re living alone somewhere away from your parents. I’d like to see more mentoring programs being developed in high school so that, you know, people can go into college having a sense of that. Let’s be honest, A lot of these people are seeing ads on social media platforms, and that’s how they’re finding out about these things, which is great. And also, there’s community organizations that are out there designed to support specific people who don’t have sort of traditional access to things. So how do we get the news to people? So, for instance, I know in the city of Milwaukee, there’s an organization called Pathways that helps, you know, culturally diverse people as well as people on the LGBTQ+. So it’s out there. It’s just how do we get the word out to people? I always felt that one of my jobs as a counselor- maybe this goes back to working at an EAP and working on phones for so long was to just get resources to people- this is what you can do. This is what we can do. And we need to get better at just word to word to mouth. And people to people, Hey, this is what you can do. Get help here. Call somebody. The most important thing when somebody is really struggling is to get somebody who really knows what they’re doing, to get eyes on that person and ears on that person so they can start the helping process. So there’s lots of resources out there, but it’s on some level. We’ve got to take an active approach in it.
00;18;10;05 – 00;18;17;17
Bill, What are some of the challenges for young adults in seeking mental health treatment or finding those resources?
00;18;18;06 – 00;21;00;26
Unfortunately, we have a lot of young adults who don’t have a straight line to services for mental health, right? It could be due to location or just not knowing where to get them. So, for instance, I think there’s a group of people that people rarely talk about. It’s mind blowing to me, and that’s the people in rural America. So if you live in rural America, where are you going to get some counseling? Where are you going to get some help for mental health? You know, we’re talking about counties that don’t have much money. You know, they don’t have much service organizations. So how do you get help for someone? That’s why social media and online platforms are so important. There’s also a group of young people and young adults that are struggling to meet the basic needs. If you have problems with basic needs of food and shelter, it’s really going to take immediacy over any mental health concern. And we know that there’s a high proportion of LGBTQ+- folks within this group, as well as brown and black folk and think about it, the majority of therapists are white people. And where does that leave people of brown and black descendant? You know, struggle for good mental health, can’t be separated from the need for more services for minorities, including those individuals living in rural America. So how do we help people get affordable services and free counseling? Are there programs available for that? Yes. Are there some in cities? Yes. Like Pathfinders I was talking about, rural America, though, they don’t have many services for people like this. You know, we also need to be advocates. We need to advocate for people who, for instance, need counseling. Maybe you have people who have had low level of crime and we need to be dealing with these folks with culturally effective and appropriate counseling, as well as just sticking them in jails and just hoping they’re going to improve. A lot of mental health to me, comes down to people to people contact in a context that’s respectful and compassionate. And so what can we do to bridge that as much as possible? Again, I really want to emphasize this. A lot of mental health comes down to people to people contact in a context that’s respectable and compassionate. And what do we do to get that happening more and more? That’s essential, whether it’s from police to individuals or mental health people to individuals, teachers, nurses, religious people, parents, obviously, and peer to peers.
00;21;01;10 – 00;21;06;03
And how can young adults advocate for their own mental health needs?
00;21;07;05 – 00;23;00;21
I think advocacy for this group, oftentimes as far as mental health gets wrapped up into so many other issues that it’s hard to distinguish sometimes. I think that’s the problem that I’m having with this topic. So, for instance, say there’s a group of young people who are concerned about gun violence. You know, on the same token, they’re concerned about mental health as a result of that, or they’re concerned about climate change. Right? And so they’re focusing on climate change, but they’re really focusing in on the hopelessness that the young people feel and the depression and the sadness they feel because of climate change. So perhaps the one way that this group could advocate for themselves is to really, really make mental health crystal clear and to say to people, what’s their needs? It should be led by people like myself and other therapists that are in a different age group to really support these people and to really start organizations that are going to be advocating for them. Unfortunately, it takes money and it takes different ways to promote it to get that going. On an individual basis, people really need to be taught how to be assertive, right? Sticking up for themselves without stepping on the rights of other people, which is really difficult if you’re having a mental health issue. Think about it. One of the characteristics of somebody having anxiety or depression is they’re going to be struggling with self-worth and self-esteem and their abilities to be self-efficacy, you know, the ability to know, hey, I can do this. Well, think about how hard it must be to go in and advocate for yourself, for mental health when you’re really unsure about yourself. So they need partners in it. They need people who are going to respond to them and are going to go out on the front lines and get things done for them.
00;23;01;07 – 00;23;34;06
So young adults should try to find a trusted friend, a trusted advocate. What term did you use before- a coping partner? Sure. That they can go to and- and ask for help in finding resources. Young adults, if they’re comfortable talking to their parents about seeking counseling through their health insurance or ask the question to your parents. Am I covered by an employee assistance program? These are some practical ways that they can start the process of finding resources.
00;23;34;16 – 00;24;11;18
Yep. That’s for sure. You know, it’s so ironic. We talk about the EAP. We’ve worked in the employer system programs for 20 years, and it’s still like the first or second question. I always ask people, Hey, do you have an EAP by any chance? Because then I know I can get them some services, even if it’s five sessions. I know that I can get them some help. I can get them some resources in their hands. And then also they’re going to be assisted down the road in saying, Hey, you can do this, you can do that, you can do this. Employee assistance programs are really beneficial in that are and do an exceptional job with that.
00;24;13;00 – 00;24;41;10
And for any young adults who are listening to this idea of reaching out to an employee assistance program, I do want to share with you that if you are age 18 or over, it is entirely confidential service and you don’t have to worry about whether or not the people who hold the benefit – maybe your parents – have access to all of your information. It’s confidential. And and when you reach out, you can be assured of that confidentiality.
00;24;42;07 – 00;25;01;10
Just to piggyback on that, the same thing holds true for any private counselor or any counselor at a university. You’re an adult, you’re a young adult, and at 18 or so that onfidentiality rules. No one can find out what you’re talking about or what’s going on. So it’s a really important factor here.
00;25;01;26 – 00;25;38;19
For all of you young adults listening. Please know that there are resources out there to help you during this phase of life. I truly hope this podcast is helpful to you in finding and accessing them. Bill, thank you for joining us again today and sharing your insights on ways that we can support young adults. I’d like to end with the quote that you, Bill, have in your email signature by Virginia Satir. “Life is not what it’s supposed to be. It is what it is, and the way that you cope with it is what makes the difference.”
00;25;38;27 – 00;25;43;08
Thanks. I love that quote. It was great being here and good luck to everyone.
00;25;43;19 – 00;26;56;14
Bill, thank you again for joining us today. We covered a really important topic. And regardless of whether your own children are young adults or you work with young adults or you simply just have young adults in your life, this information is very valuable. Thank you so much for your time. Next time on OnTopic, we will be talking about trauma informed care with Scott Webb. Trauma Informed Care uses a strength based approach to providing support. It’s grounded in an understanding of and responsiveness to the impact of trauma in one’s life. I’m really looking forward to this conversation. Scott is incredibly knowledgeable on this topic, and I think we will all take something away from it! To hear that episode and other episodes of OnTopic with Empathia, visit our website, empathia.com. Follow us on social media @empathia, and subscribe to OnTopic with Empathia to hear new episodes as they go live. I’m Kelly Parbs – thanks for listening to OnTopic with Empathia.