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Dr. Tracy Knighton is the owner of NOVA Counseling and Consulting Services.

ALBANY — One by one, people are starting to eliminate the stigma placed on mental illness. However, officials in the field admit there is still progress to be made.

In the southwest Georgia region alone, NOVA Counseling and Consulting Services owner Tracy Knighton said that the increase in mental illnesses has led to an increase in the need of licensed professional counselors.

“The good thing is, the increase (in mental illnesses) shows that there is a need for LPCs,” Knighton said.

According to Knighton, people’s reaction to mental illnesses is one of the reasons a stigma remains. She said it a traumatic history surrounds mental health.

“(Counselors and doctors) got started in pretty dark places,” Knighton said. “When you would send people to an asylum, they would get shock treatment. If somebody was walking down the street with no clothes on, then you would send them away. When you went to visit them, it was scary in those places.”

When studying mental health and its history at a master’s and doctorate level, Knighton said in the past people would view mental illnesses as satanic or caused by possession. Society, she notes, has come a long way from those days.

“As society has evolved, we have a better understanding of (mental health), but you still have that mental thought of how we got started,” she said.

A mental illness does not always come dressed in black and white, Knighton noted. There can be gray areas that sometimes are disguised or even hidden when experienced from the outside. Knighton said sometimes it is harder to bring recognition to an illness when all you have around you are the triggers.

“Sometimes you need someone who is outside of your family and not attached to you to be able to step in and go ‘There’s a different way of looking at what you’ve experienced,’” she said.

Even though medicine helps with treatment of many mental illnesses, Knighton said that placing a pill in someone’s hands is not going to help if he or she is not aware or properly educated on his or her state of mind. Plus, natural remedies can be equally as effective as medication.

“One thing I like to give all my clients are journals; every night I make my clients just brain dump,” she said. “During the day, my clients like to brain dump, too. (The journal) helps me to see what they’re thinking when they are not with me.”

Knighton said she likes to tell people to look at mental health the same way you would look at diabetes or high blood pressure because mental health is no different and is just as serious.

“These are diseases that do not go away, and the key thing here is that you learn how to manage it,” she said.

For more information about NOVA Counseling and Consulting Services, visit www.novacc.net or call at (229) 589-8873.

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