FRAZIER: Journeying from stigma to support in mental health care

Published 4:00 am Saturday, September 9, 2023

It’s been almost three decades since I first walked through the door of a counselor’s office.

I remember being scared and a bit apprehensive when I showed up for my appointment. I was not sure what to expect. But because my life was falling apart, I was willing to try anything.

The experience didn’t go as I had expected, and in all honesty, this counselor was not a good fit for me.

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However, I was not yet willing to throw in the towel on the possible effectiveness a mental health professional could provide. Therefore, after confiding my situation to a dear friend, she gave me the number of a counselor that she knew.

I set up an appointment with Waudine Nelson. This woman saved my life.

For so long mental health issues have been taboo, and certainly admitting that you were seeking out professional help was unheard of, but our society is beginning to come around to the importance of taking care of our mental well-being just as we take care of our physical well-being.

And while strides are being made, hurdles remain, one of which is money.

When I began seeing a counselor all those years ago, having insurance to provide for the sessions was non-existent, but I was fortunate to have the resources to pay outright. Many people were not.

But in 2008, a law was passed that required health insurance companies to cover mental health, behavioral health and substance use disorder services. This has made somewhat of a difference for people seeking mental health care — at least for people who have insurance.

Many people can’t afford health insurance and there are also some insurance companies that limit coverage, which means there are still obstacles to overcome.

Knowing barriers existed, in 1998 three churches in Vicksburg came together with the goal of providing professional and accessible counseling services, and this year the Grace Christian Counseling Center, a non-profit organization that provides mental health support regardless of income or insurance coverage, is celebrating its 25th anniversary with a progressive dinner fundraiser, which will be held on Sept. 21 from 6 to 9 p.m.

The three-course meal will be served at the three founding churches, starting with appetizers at First Presbyterian Church. The main course will be served at Crawford Street United Methodist Church and dessert and wine at the Church of the Holy Trinity, Episcopal. There will also be entertainment provided at Holy Trinity.

In addition to the progressive dinner, festivities for the evening include a silent auction, and one of the premier items up for bid is an original Blues@Home painting by local artist H.C. Porter. The painting is valued at $5,000.

Tickets for the event are $60 for individuals or $100 for a couple.

Many of you know, my husband is the executive director of the Grace Christian Counseling Center, and while I would love for all of you to support him in his endeavors, the main objective of my column is to encourage all who believe in the power and importance of mental health services to support the event.

Like me, someday you or someone close to you may need this life-altering support.

About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

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