Hollywood portrays therapy like this: a client reclining on a lavish chaise lounge while a therapist, sporting a pipe and an aura of mystery, asks vague questions. It’s uncomfortable, uninviting, and very different from what you see in a real-world therapy session.

Imagine Cindy, a single mom and parent of a teenage child, Kevin. His grades are dropping compared to his previous school years, and his teacher reaches out with concerns that he’s being bullied. When Cindy asks her son what’s wrong, he replies with “I’m fine!” and “Nothing’s wrong! Leave me alone!” Now, step into Kevin’s shoes. He’s experiencing everything from the social hierarchy of friendships to the pressure of academics for the very first time. His ability to “see the big picture” and plan for the future is unlike anything he’s experienced before.

Big emotions and “blow-ups” become routine for Cindy’s family, and no approach to conversations seems to work for her. Her once-bubbly child unexpectedly quits his extracurricular activities and isolates himself in his room. Almost every time she checks on him, he seems to be asleep in bed – no matter the hour.  Every time Cindy asks Kevin if he’s o.k., his answer is the same. “I’m fine! Go away!” Cindy is frustrated, hurt, and lost about how she can help her child.

One morning, as Kevin readies for school, Cindy enters his room and finds a small piece of paper on his bedside table. The first line of handwriting reads, “I can’t do this anymore. I want to kill myself.” In a state of confusion and panic, she searches the house for her child and is relieved to find him safe and sound in the kitchen. But she realizes she needs to take this seriously and places a call to an organization a friend told her about that offers mental health counseling services: JFCS. A friendly voice greets her on the other end and as Cindy talks, she begins to feel hope. She has taken the first step to putting her son on the path to mental wellness.

Surprisingly, situations like this one are not uncommon. Mental health professionals help parents support their children during difficult times, and they assist children in navigating emotional difficulties as well. JFCS has a team of in-house, experienced mental health professionals, allowing us to meet the diverse needs of individuals and families in Northeast Florida. Our specialties include depression, anxiety, childhood behavioral issues, life transitions, grief and loss, relationships, divorce, parenting and co-parenting, trauma, family reunification, and play therapy. We offer confidential services in our office, in schools, and even in the comfort of your home through telehealth.

Diana, who currently attends counseling services at JFCS, says her diagnosis of PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, and therapy sessions have both positively impacted her life:

I’ve been in and out of therapy since about 19 or 20 years old, but my therapist at JFCS is the best I’ve ever had. She’s helped me understand my diagnosis and truly learn how to cope.”

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 1 in 5 U.S. adults live with a mental illness, which is over 57 million people. However, the actual figure is likely to be higher due to the stigma associated with mental health. Taking the first steps to mental health care can be challenging and confusing, but it can be very beneficial for addressing life’s challenges.

Fortunately, we don’t have to endure our struggles alone. Our team of clinical social workers, mental health counselors, and marriage and family therapists has over 70 years of combined expertise, making them well-equipped to assist all those who walk through our doors. While our services may be diverse, our goal for all our clients is the same. We provide tools that empower clients to overcome life’s obstacles and make recovery a reality.

On behalf of JFCS, thank you to the following organizations and foundations for supporting our efforts in addressing mental health in our community.

Women’s Giving Alliance
The Jim Moran Foundation
Lucy Gooding Charitable Foundation Trust
United Way of Northeast Florida
The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF)
Family Support Services of North Florida
Duval County Public Schools
Kids Hope Alliance