Humans are built resilient, but that doesn't mean our struggles don't come up in other forms. Dr. Michelle Cook has seen resiliency following pain all throughout her work as a therapist and social worker.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Michelle, a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Her passion is to help kids through trauma via therapy. But, becoming a social worker was a role that fell into her
lap. She currently works with the Institute for Children's Aid/International Christian Adoptions as the Regional Director. Working with mental health is a huge component in how she was wired and she will often be asking the question, "How do we extend this field to help give life to kids and families?".
When mentioning to Michelle the idea of discussing mental health, she instantly conveyed her excitement and passion for helping others through what can be some of the toughest battles in life. In the interview, so much was shared, but the ultimate goal of this conversation is to help bring insight and wisdom into how to encourage vulnerable kids battling mental health struggles.
In response to what she notices when working with mental health struggles in today's world, Michelle explained that there are the same problems from years ago, only they are called different names and are slightly more drastic (i.e. depression, anxiety, higher suicide rates, and intense bullying). She said, "It's always stuff that's been there. It's the heart of humanity. There are both sides; the heart of humanity that's the hurting and the heart of humanity that is the healing. You can choose to let the hurt overwhelm you, or try to find the helping and the healing." We can so often get burdened by the pain that we get stuck in the hurt.
But, Michelle explained so beautifully that these two sides have to coexist. It's a part of life and there truly is magnificent beauty within the pain.
When asked how everyday people can help youth in this area, Michelle stressed the importance of community. She said, "Sit in community and do life skills. We live in a society that's so individualized that we forget we need community to heal. And, there is unity that happens in the healing".
Her other tips were to:
Listen; active listening is different than listening; so learn to actively listen
Be okay with not being ready to fix things right away; be ready to help them maneuver out of their situation, but let them fix it themselves
Allow them room to make little mistakes so that they do not make big mistakes
Kids need the power of presence! Just simply be there for them.
Toward the end of our conversation, Michelle shared a story of one young man who was struggling with different social systems and the way things were falling into place in his life. When she met up with him, he was reeling in frustration but Michelle simply stood in the public parking lot with him, calm and collected, while he let all of his hurt flow out. Once he had calmed down a little, she helped put some action steps into place and then asked him, "Did we get everything you are asking for?". This boy said, "Yeah, I feel like someone finally listened now".
This is the power of community. This is the power of presence. Let's fight to find healing within the hurting.