While we talk about the importance of prioritizing mental health year-round, Sunstone Counseling celebrates the dedication of May as Mental Health Awareness Month. This is an opportunity to not only acknowledge the struggle of the millions of Americans living with mental health issues but also to raise awareness around the importance of getting support for mental health and well-being.
We envision a world where seeing a therapist is as encouraged as seeing a primary care doctor—where people grappling with emotional and relational challenges can easily access the professional services they need to not only survive, but thrive.
At Sunstone, we’re doing our part to make access to counseling a reality by opening offices in Ashburn and Richmond, expanding our professional team of diversely trained counselors, and connecting with our community to understand their mental health needs. This May (and every month), we commit to serving our clients with compassionate counseling services and advocating for mental health.
Why is mental health counseling important?
Oftentimes, when someone hears the phrase “mental health,” their mind jumps to scenarios of life-changing diagnoses such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. And while it is absolutely critical that we talk openly about mental illness, mental health is much more expansive and pervasive than that. Everyone faces mental health challenges in their life.
Our mental health determines how we show up in the world–how we interact in relationships, handle stress, and make decisions. It encompasses our entire emotional, psychological, and social well-being and influences our cognitive functioning, our perception of the world around us, and our behavior. It can also play a role–positive or negative–in our physical health, as research on the mind-body connection has shown.
This means that paying attention to our mental health isn’t a luxury or something that only certain people should do. Attending to our mental health should be as commonplace as supporting our physical health through exercise, healthy eating, and check-ups. And just like with our physical bodies, when we’re experiencing emotional dysregulation, it’s critical that we address it with help from a professional counselor.
Recognizing climbing rates of mental illness
The COVID-19 pandemic, alongside disturbing and difficult world events, have thrust mental health into the spotlight and revealed a significant need for counseling services. Across the country, and here in Virginia, we are facing an unprecedented, yet understandable, mental health crisis.
An April 2021 report from the Kaiser Family Foundation revealed 47 percent of adults in the U.S. report that COVID-19 has negatively impacted their mental health, which translates to 2.9 million Virginians.
More recently, a March 2022 survey conducted by the American Psychological Association suggests “the vast majority of (U.S.) adults (87%) agreed it feels like there has been a constant stream of crises over the last two years, and more than seven in 10 (73%) said they are overwhelmed by the number of crises facing the world right now.”
Statistical models predict that the lingering effects of pandemic-related stress on Virginians will result in more than 1,000 deaths due to suicide or overdose, as we rebound from the pandemic. In Northern Virginia, about 8% of adults struggled with anxiety and depression before the pandemic. Last year, that number skyrocketed to 28%. And it’s even worse for young adults, half of whom are grappling with their mental health. And while data for children under 18 isn’t complete, we do know that historically, depression rates for this population have been twice that of adults.
With these numbers, we know that–now more than ever–people need professional counseling services, and it’s critical that we normalize conversations about seeing a therapist. People’s lives depend on it, the overall well-being of our community depends on it, and the young people who will inherit this world depend on it.
Sunstone is here for our community
With increased rates of anxiety and depression in our own community, we recognize that finding a therapist has become increasingly difficult, with many counselors having little or no availability. Additionally, we know that therapy can be expensive, making it out of reach for many people who need it.
That’s why at Sunstone, we’re committed to minimizing the barriers that can prevent individuals from getting the professional support they need. We’ve put our clients’ needs at the center of what we do by:
- Expanding our office locations. In addition to our Falls Church, McLean, and Alexandria offices, we recently opened locations in Ashburn and Richmond to grow alongside our community and meet their mental health needs.
- Making both virtual and in-person sessions available. We recognize that not everyone feels comfortable meeting in-person yet and may prefer the ease and convenience of virtual counseling. We continue to offer our clients the option of online/video sessions in addition to face-to-face meetings. We use a HIPAA-compliant and secure online platform to ensure our clients’ confidentiality.
- Offering different counselors for different budgets. We know that money is tight for many people and that taking care of your mental health is not a luxury – it’s a necessity. So we have a range of counselors – from graduate interns to licensed specialists – that offer different rates to fit your budget. Depending on your insurance, you may be able to get partially reimbursed for your sessions.
- Growing our team of counselors. Finding a counselor who is accepting new patients during these challenging times is its own challenge! That’s why we’re intently focused on recruiting the best and brightest counselors to serve our clients. We currently have more than 70 counselors with varied levels of training available, and we’re growing to make sure you get the support you deserve.
- Hiring diverse and specialized therapists. Speaking with a counselor is an intimate experience that requires trust, patience, and vulnerability, so we pride ourselves on our diverse group of counselors. Coming from different backgrounds, experiences, races, ethnicities, and religions, you’ll be sure to find a therapist with whom you feel comfortable and can best guide you on your journey.
Mental health awareness isn’t just for May
This May–and every month to come–we hope that you’ll take a moment to evaluate your own mental health and think about how you can better prioritize it as well as encourage the same for those around you.
If you find yourself experiencing anxiety, depression, overwhelm, or other emotional distress that is detracting from your quality of life, reach out to us for support. A mental health counselor can provide the space to face your personal challenges and chart you on a course to acceptance, positive change, and renewed fulfillment.
You are never alone. Our compassionate counselors are here to help guide you to a brighter tomorrow.