Vail Daily column: Mental health matters

Dawn Nelson
Valley Voices

How would your life be different if you worked on your mental health as much as you worked on your physical health?

Mental health counseling is not solely for those with delusions, psychosis or a diagnosed mental disorder. Those who seek mental health counseling are not weak, needy, crazy or unable to contribute to their communities. Mental health encompasses your overall emotional, psychological and physical wellbeing. Mental stability can positively affect all areas of your life — career, relationships, family, leisure and even your physical performance.

Coping in today’s rapid pace, time crunched world requires strength and stamina. Conforming to the societal norm can produce unrealistic expectations, unmanageable stress and overwhelming burdens. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 26 percent of Americans ages 18 and older suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder. This rate is the No. 1 cause of disability in the United States and most go undiagnosed or untreated.

So what is mental health counseling? The World Health Organization definition of mental health is “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” It is bringing to awareness those thoughts that are preventing you from moving forward and making the cognitive choice to recalibrate your current trajectory.

Mental health counseling is also educational. Support groups are another way of healing through difficult times and can be more affordable than individual counseling. Knowing that you are not alone in your struggles can assist you in better understanding yourself as well as realizing that others struggle with the same things. Support groups are available for those suffering from substance addiction or abuse, depression, eating disorders, anxiety and stress management to name a few. Educational support groups are also available for children and teens struggling with school issues, time management, peer pressure, coping skills, divorce and loss of a loved one, self-injury and depression.

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Mental health counseling can be challenging as well as rewarding. Dealing with past traumas (a traumatic childhood, unexpected loss, abuse, etc.) can free the individual from a lifelong struggle for security, hope and purpose. Seeking a balance between work, family, leisure, exercise, self-control, love, self-esteem and stress management is crucial for surviving life’s tsunamis.

Seeking therapy for a condition that is interfering with your ability to live the life you dream of does not mean you have a mental disorder. You will not be lying on a couch in a stuffy office with the therapist gazing at you. There are traditional forms of face-to-face therapy, but there are also contemporary modes like art therapy, play therapy and role playing. The key to healing those emotional wounds is being motivated to change and finding a therapist that you are comfortable with and trust.

So how would your life be different if you were as mentally healthy as you are physically?

Dawn Nelson, MA, NCC, is a registered psychotherapist with a private practice in Eagle-Vail. She can be reached at dawn@center For more information, visit

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