The Power of Sharing Your Story, by Zachary Duty

The Power of Sharing Your Story

The Power of Sharing Your Story, by Zachary Duty

Everybody struggles. We all face adversity in some form. These are the challenges that shape us and allow us to grow. Without life’s challenges, we would never do anything. In the words of Dory in Finding Nemo when Marlon comments that he doesn’t want to let “anything happen” to his son. “Well, you can’t never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him.” One way we can better face the challenges of life is to take advantage of the benefits of sharing our story.

How Sharing Impacts Mental Health

It is valuable for anyone living with mental health conditions to know that they are not alone. Sharing a story about your mental health journey can be the catalyst to recovery. Sharing your story also helps promote understanding and empathy to those without mental illness. These challenges are necessary for our personal growth and development. Sure, some face more serious challenges than others but we all have struggles.

Unfortunately, with the advent of social media, it looks a bit like… no one has struggles. It looks a lot like everyone’s life is spectacular and ours is the only struggle, completely alone and unable to share because struggles don’t belong on the social media highlight reel.  There are of course ways to share your journey with others, and not just that awesome trip you took to Mexico to goes on your social media highlight reel. The Overt Foundation gives everyone the opportunity to share their story on their website.

Two people holding hands

What are the benefits of sharing?

Sharing can be a powerful and important part of the healing process (Rennick-Egglestone et al., 2019). Research has shown that the benefits of sharing one’s story can include:

  • increased connectedness
  • a greater sense of community
  • increased personal validation and hope
  • a sense of empowerment
  • reduced shame

The world we live in has more people than ever before, yet many of us feel isolated. It is now possible to live life with minimal interaction. The communities we once thrived in are disappearing and we no longer know our neighbors. As part of Overt’s program, participants are encouraged to share their stories publicly. If they choose they can share anonymously. This is a key part of the healing process, not only for the participant but for the greater community. Likely, someone will read your story and feel a connection because they are experiencing something similar. All of the sudden, they aren’t the only one, they aren’t alone anymore.

Person writing in a journal

The Benefits of Sharing Your Story Through Journaling

Another valuable benefit of sharing your story can come through the act of journaling. Multiple studies have shown journaling to be effective in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety (2020). Sometimes getting our thoughts out of our heads and onto paper can be incredibly healing. One study showed a significant reduction in depressive symptoms after three days of expressive writing twenty minutes a day (Krpan,, 2013). Journaling gives us the opportunity to release the emotions we have been holding in and keep a more positive mindset.

We will all struggle. This is part of life, but we don’t have to do it alone.

83 Benefits of Journaling for Depression, Anxiety, and Stress. (2020, October 12). Retrieved December 31, 2020, from

Krpan, K. M., Kross, E., Berman, M. G., Deldin, P. J., Askren, M. K., & Jonides(2013). An everyday activity as a treatment for depression: The benefits of expressive writing for people diagnosed with major depressive disorder. Journal of Affective Disorders, 150, 1148-1151. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2013.05.065

Rennick-Egglestone, S., Ramsay, A., Mcgranahan, R., Llewellyn-Beardsley, J., Hui, A., Pollock, K., . . . Slade, M. (2019). The impact of mental health recovery narratives on recipients experiencing mental health problems: Qualitative analysis and change model. Plos One, 14(12). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0226201

Zachary Duty, CSW

Zach Duty is a native Texan and a graduate of Southern Utah University with a bachelor’s degree in Outdoor Recreation. He went on to complete a master’s in social work at the University of Utah with an emphasis in child welfare. As a therapist, Zach has worked in residential treatment and for the state of Utah through the Division of Juvenile Justice. 

If you or anyone you know is facing mental health challenges and needs support, we can help you.

You can share how you’re feeling or about your experience, or apply to our subsidized therapy program.

What is Trauma? How to Move Forward, by Matthew Montano

What is Trauma? How to Move Forward

What is Trauma? How to Move Forward, by Matthew Montano

Trauma much like everything else, including things that say “one size fits all” is not a one size fits all. Traumatic experiences come in many different shapes and sizes and for many different reasons.  When most people think of trauma, they think of a war zone or a trauma unit in a hospital. While those examples are true and valid, trauma can also include getting straight a’s, getting fired from a job, a bad breakup, hearing the phrase “I’m disappointed in you” or something as simple as an unpleasant look from a loved one.

To simplify: trauma is how you define it.

Healing from Trauma

Once we identify our trauma, we must begin working on our own healing. With it being so personal, one thing that we shouldn’t do is compare our trauma to others. Rather, we should empathize with others when their traumatic experiences are shared with us. This can be something as simple as just sitting with them and listening while they share their story. Believe it or not, this can be a very positive and bonding experience both for you and the one sharing their trauma.

Two people embracing while looking at an ocean sunset

Adopting a Positive Outlook

When we think of a traumatic experience, the last thing we think about is how it can be viewed positively. While this idea may seem farfetched, it can be more realistic than we think! With a positive outlook on our individual traumatic experiences, we begin to recognize just how strong we truly are because we are living past our trauma. We no longer define ourselves by our traumatic experiences, rather by how we overcame them! Realizing that we are so much more than a traumatic experience, we become empowered to not only share our experiences with others but to realize that no matter what happens, we truly are never alone.

Matthew Montano, CFLE, LMFT

Matthew Montano • Utah Family Therapy Mental Health Clinic | Trauma | Anxiety | Intensive Outpatient Program

Matthew understands how important it is for clients to be in charge of their own process towards healing, love, and empowerment. His passion for therapy began early on in his life when he worked through his own trauma at a young age. Matthew now works side-by-side with clients throughout the healing process, in their timeframe. 

If you or anyone you know is facing mental health challenges and needs support, we can help you.

You can share how you’re feeling or about your experience, or apply to our subsidized therapy program.

Symptoms and Treatments of PTSD

Symptoms and Treatment of PTSD, by Curtis Duty

Post-traumatic stress disorder is among the most well-known mental health conditions in modern society. Our collective understanding of PTSD and its treatment has developed since the post-WWI era when military veterans returned home suffering from ‘shell shock’ and the enlightened public of today has achieved at least a certain awareness of the toll that the trauma of warfare can have on physiological wellness. The debilitating effects of warfare-induced PTSD are numerous and serious. As such, support and awareness for military veterans are increasing, as they should. What is often lost in the modern conception of PTSD is that the effects or symptoms of the illness are far more widespread than often portrayed in cinema and the media, and many, many sufferers live undiagnosed and perhaps unaware that the non-combat related trauma they have experienced is causing them suffering.

Non-Military Can Suffer from PTSD Too

Combat-related PTSD is so correlated with the illness that a quick google search of ‘NON-combat PTSD’ will return a list of resources for military veterans to prove that their trauma unrelated to warfare should qualify for VA disability status. I do not make this point as any statement about the VA and what should and should not be covered, but to say that non-military folks suffering from PTSD are far from the forefront of public awareness on mental health (even the APA website barely makes page 3 of a google search on the topic).

Understanding Symptoms and Treatments of PTSD

It is important that we understand the causes and symptoms of PTSD for all sufferers. The truth behind mental health usually requires some investment to understand, and PTSD is no exception. A formal PTSD diagnosis usually requires extended and severe symptoms (not everyone who experiences trauma will experience PTSD), though experiencing some degree of the disease is not a pass/fail test, it is a spectrum that can be caused by an event, series of events, relationship, situation, or any other stimulus that results in any degree of trauma. It is also closely related to other anxiety disorders such as acute stress disorder, adjustment disorder, disinhibited social engagement disorder, and reactive attachment disorder. The effects of PTSD vary from mild annoyance to crippling debilitation. 

A sad woman covering her face with her hands

PTSD Symptoms

  • Intrusion: Have you ever been lying in bed becoming sleepy when all of a sudden, once again, your brain involuntarily recalls to your mind a very specific, very embarrassing moment from junior high school? That is a symptom of PTSD called intrusion. For those of us who have not experienced serious trauma these may be easily dismissed, fleeting thoughts. However, for individuals who have experienced serious or repeated trauma, these thoughts are not simple to disregard and can even result in waking visions of past scenes of intense pain.
  • Avoidance: Have you ever skipped past a song on the radio because of its association with a former partner, or because it was played on repeat at the fry shack where you worked 3 summers ago? This is another symptom of PTSD called avoidance. More serious examples include refusing to go to certain places, see certain people, or participate in certain activities because of their association with traumatic events. When I was young I had a teacher in a middle-aged man, a genius whom I respected very much. Years later I learned that this man had not driven on the interstate for the last 20 years to avoid driving on the road where his spouse had been killed in an auto accident. The possibilities for avoidance following trauma are endless.
  • Changes in Mood and Cognition: Most of us have, at one time or another, snapped undeservedly at a friend or family member after a long day. That’s because stress affects our mood. For those of us with a normal amount of stress and a lack of trauma, a few moments of relaxation or a good meal is enough to restore our usual temperament to equilibrium and we move on. For those still suffering from past trauma, that relief does not come. After an extended period without relief, the mood change seems permanent. This another symptom of PTSD. The inability to remove the stress from past trauma removes the joy from activities the sufferer once enjoyed.
  • Sensitivity to Environment or Surroundings: Have you ever been driving to a place you’ve never been, and as you struggle to concentrate on navigating, you find yourself turning down your radio? This is an example of how stress reduces cognition. Turning down your radio will not allow you to see the road better, but sound can be a form of stress, and by removing the stimulus of your radio, you can think better and your cognition improves. Now imagine that same scenario, except your radio is at full volume as you search for a location in your car, and you are not capable of turning the music down. This is similar to the loss of cognition a PTSD victim can experience as they are engulfed by the aftershocks of their traumatic experiences.  
  • Changes in Arousal and Reactivity: One of the most severe symptoms of PTSD, angry outbursts, and extreme irritability with seeming little provocation can occur. These episodes are the result of a PTSD sufferer running out of options. To continue our car radio example: If you were driving to an unfamiliar place and couldn’t turn your radio down to help focus, one option, an extreme option, might be to destroy the radio. Without any other option, this decision could seem rational. However, a passenger in the same car who was not feeling the stress would view the action of destroying the radio as completely rash and totally irrational. This is the same reaction many people in our society, without the context of a PTSD diagnosis, view mental health episodes associated with PTSD.

PTSD Treatments

“Time heals” is an adage that can be true for PTSD treatment. It is not uncommon for the lasting effects of trauma to fade with time and without the help of other treatments. A support structure can also be helpful. When the sufferer has a network of family and friends willing to provide latitude for recovery the odds of said recovery are increased.

A sad woman looking down while another woman looks at her with arms folded

In some cases though, further treatment is necessary for PTSD recovery. As a result, several types of therapy, researched and proven, have been developed:

  • Cognitive processing therapy: This form of therapy helps sufferers work through mood and cognition changes by addressing negative emotions and beliefs stemming from the trauma. For example, the victim of a crime suffering PTSD may develop the belief: “a person hurt me, so all people might hurt me.” As a treatment of PTSD, Cognitive processing therapy helps to walk that belief back, and thus undo the psychological damage caused by the trauma.
  • Prolonged Exposure Therapy: This commonsense form of therapy helps victims directly address the trauma causing their symptoms. To reference my friend who would not drive on the freeway after he lost his wife to an auto accident: Under prolonged exposure therapy he may have utilized a driving simulator for longer and longer durations until the act of driving on the freeway in a controlled and safe environment removed the stress from the activity.
  • Stress Inoculation: This form of therapy focuses on coping mechanisms. Earlier, I mentioned skipping a song that reminds me of an unpleasant time of my life.  Stress inoculation teaches ways to avoid many more types of stress triggers.
  • Medication: For those suffering from the most serious symptoms of PTSD, medication may be necessary to allow the sufferer to heal and return to a normal condition. Some antidepressants such as SSRIs and SNRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors) are commonly used as a treatment for the core symptoms of PTSD. They are used either alone or in combination with psychotherapy or other treatments. These decisions should always be made by professional and licensed mental health professionals.

Overcoming the Effects of PTSD

If any of the symptoms mentioned in this article resonate with you, consider taking steps to fortify your mental health. If you see these symptoms in others, I recommend advocating for anyone who may be suffering in the shadow of the trauma they have endured. Whether Henry David Thoreau’s statement “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation” is true or not, I have found that treating everyone you meet as if they are in need of help is the best practice.

Curtis Duty

Curtis grew up in Texas and graduated from Southern Utah University with a master’s degree in Public Administration. He has spent the majority of his career working in field operations and currently works as a talent acquisition manager. His passion for mental health comes from personally witnessing the struggles of individuals experiencing mental health challenges and their suffering from the social stigma with which such illnesses are often met. 

If you or anyone you know is facing mental health challenges and needs support, we can help you.

You can share how you’re feeling or about your experience, or apply to our subsidized therapy program.

Navigating Mental Health Medication, by Zachary Duty

Navigating Mental Health Medication

Navigating Mental Health Medication, by Zachary Duty

Navigating medication for mental health can sometimes be a challenge. Imagine feeling overwhelmed with feelings of anxiety and/or depression. For some, that may not be difficult to imagine because it is your reality. So, how do you handle those feelings? You may find yourself at your primary care doctor’s office to discuss your options. It is possible that this doctor knows you very well and has experience with mental health. The doctor may even advise you to speak with a clinical social worker to further discuss your mental health. Your doctor may prescribe the perfect combination of medication for your needs and it could be life-altering in the most positive way.

Common Challenges

Unfortunately, many experiences are much less positive. What if your doctor doesn’t know you at all and only has 15 minutes to meet with you? The doctor quickly writes a prescription for an anti-depressant and doesn’t give it a second thought. Many individuals take prescribed mental health medications for years with little to no benefit and may be experiencing subtle negative effects. Despite the lack of any positive change, you continue taking the medication as prescribed, simply because the doctor told you to, and doctors know best. Rather than continuing to take a medication that isn’t serving you, take some time to re-evaluate.

Doctors do not want you to be in this scenario of taking a medication that isn’t working. Any doctor would rather you come back to the office and discuss your needs further to manage your medication in a way that better serves you. However, many doctors have difficulty finding time for more than a quick 15-minute appointment and it is possible that your situation cannot be fully expressed in that time period.

A pile of various medication tablets and pills

Alternative Ways to Get the Right Mental Health Medication

There are other options to address your mental health struggles in regards to medications. There are other professionals that can consult with you on the topic of mental health and prescribe helpful medication. A Psychiatrist is a medical professional who specializes in mental health. Psychiatrists are required to complete medical school just like primary care doctors. They have a deep understanding of medication and mental health issues. Meeting with a psychiatrist is an option for getting a thorough analysis of your needs and being prescribed appropriate medication.

Another option is a Nurse Practitioner. In most states, Nurse Practitioners can prescribe medications and many specialize in mental health. Some therapists consult with Nurse Practitioners and/or Psychiatrists, to help their clients get necessary, life-changing medications.

Even when working with someone who understands your needs and makes their best judgment regarding a medication that could be helpful, sometimes a medication just isn’t the right fit for you. Follow-up appointments are required to determine whether the medication is working or not. It may even be a good idea to consult with family or friends who interact with you regularly to ask if they have noticed any changes in your behavior or mental health while taking a new medication.

A man wearing a backpack runs along a trail in the woods

Consider All Your Options

The right medication can help you become more balanced throughout your life, but medication isn’t a silver bullet that will fix everything for everyone. One individual may take a medication that works great for their mental health and no further action is needed. Others may need medication and clinical counseling from a therapist. Most still may further benefit from a lifestyle change like a new exercise routine and alteration in diet. There are many ways to become a more healthy individual following a mental health struggle. The medications available to us today are truly miraculous and there are teams of people ready to help you find the necessary balance in your life. Take the time to explore all of your options with a professional rather than accepting the status quo of a quick doctor visit and subsequent prescription.

Zachary Duty, CSW

Zach Duty is a native Texan and a graduate of Southern Utah University with a bachelor’s degree in Outdoor Recreation. He went on to complete a master’s in social work at the University of Utah with an emphasis in child welfare. As a therapist, Zach has worked in residential treatment and for the state of Utah through the Division of Juvenile Justice. 

If you or anyone you know is facing mental health challenges and needs support, we can help you.

You can share how you’re feeling or about your experience, or apply to our subsidized therapy program.

6 Ways to Handle Your Mental Health Crisis, by Zachary Duty

6 Ways to Handle Your Mental Health Crisis

6 Ways to Handle Your Mental Health Crisis, by Zachary Duty

Taking care of yourself during a mental health crisis is just as important as taking care of your physical health.

When I was 7 my brothers and I built a rope swing. We took a couple of test runs and our childhood handiwork seemed to be functional. I was a little nervous to try it out so my older brother decided to give me a tutorial. He showed me where to put my hands so I could hang on, and then he took a swing to show me how safe it was. Well… the swing broke and my brother fell off, breaking his arm.

We sounded the parental alarm and adults were soon at his side. They whisked him away to the hospital where his arm was set by an experienced physician. A week later he went back and the doctors put on a hard cast, which he wore for 6 weeks until his arm was healed. Even after the removal of his hard cast, he was advised to “take it easy,” working back towards normal full use. He fully recovered from the injury and has had no lasting effects of a broken arm.

The system we, as a society, have in place for physical health is fully operational. Anyone who suffers a physical injury knows they can go to a doctor and get the help they need. There is no shaming or stigma attached to visiting a doctor when you are experiencing some form of ailment. So why then are we so hesitant to visit a mental health professional?

Start by Acknowledging Your Mental Health Crisis

I have personally experienced trauma, addiction, and chemical imbalances that have caused real emotional suffering. Yet, for years I was hesitant to visit a therapist. My justification was that I was strong enough to handle my struggles on my own. After finally meeting with a therapist I came to the conclusion that it took more strength to ask for help.

Sad woman with person's arms on her shoulders

Like physical health, your mental health can be attacked from many different angles. You may get sick with a virus, appearing pale, sweaty, and vomiting. You may break your arm, walking around in a bright-colored cast. You may suffer a concussion, dilated pupils, blurred vision, vomiting, etc. Mental health is similar in variety, but the attacks are less apparent, at least on the surface. Most people won’t know you are struggling with depression, anxiety, trauma, etc. You may not even realize the extent of your own ailment. You may simply feel alone and afraid because everyone else seems to be enjoying life with ease while you are fighting for every moment. Without any knowledge of how to handle the pain, you may be looking for a way out.

Get Help with Your Mental Health Crisis

So how do you handle an imbalance of your mental health? When the path isn’t clear and you are suffering, options can seem very limited. Perhaps you feel like you can’t share your struggle because of what others may think about you. Just like you would go see a doctor if you broke your arm, you can visit a therapist for your mental health needs. A good therapist will listen judgment-free and provide you with some guidance on how to proceed.

There are people out there right now who are suffering silently. You may be one of them. You may be in need of something you can do right now to get through this mental health crisis. You may be looking for a way out. First off, if you or a loved one is considering suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number (1-800-273-8255). They are well trained and can provide you with local resources. They may even discuss some of these steps with you.

These are some things you can do right now and moving forward to work through this difficult moment:


Stay present in this moment. Is anything hurting you at this moment? Look around you. Notice your feet on the ground, feel your toes in your shoes, notice the wind on your face or the humming of an appliance in the background. These are things constantly going on around us that we may not notice if we aren’t being present. An exercise like this can ground you to the moment. You may experience intrusive thoughts, those are not part of the moment, watch them go by like leaves floating down a stream. Only focus on what is right here and right now. The past is over and the future hasn’t arrived. All there is, is right now.

A man meditates in a field

Take some deep breaths, grounding has a calming effect that will help you think more clearly.

Anchor Points

There are people who care about you and/or people who need you. Your work isn’t finished and the effect you will have on the world is extraordinary. What do you love? What would you say is your passion? If you can’t answer that, take some time to ponder and try to land on something you absolutely love to do. Who are the people in your life that love you? Don’t say no one. Instead, dig deep and be truthful. When was a time that you didn’t feel like this? Focus on that time and ask yourself what was different. If you are trying to support a loved one, ask lots of open-ended questions. The goal here is to open awareness that there is more in your life than this mental health crisis or pain and things can be different.

Building the Future

Look forward. The future has the potential to be a blank slate. What do you want to do with it? The painful thoughts you are experiencing can go away if you let them, and the future can be completely different. You may feel like nothing is in your control, but that isn’t true. You always have choices. And, depending on how you decide to make those choices, your world could open up to a wonderful variety of choices.

What do you want?

Are you reaching out? Is this a cry for help and support? Do you want/need to make some major life changes because your current life is not manageable? Is your mental health crisis plaguing you and keeping you from seeing the light in the world? What is it you truly want, and is your current course of action getting you what you want? So often our desires don’t match our actions. We may want someone to love, yet we constantly argue and fight against the people around us, who are likely trying to love us. So ask yourself what your deepest desire is and check to make sure your actions are building towards that desire.

Safety Plan

Make a list of things that work and help towards a more balanced and healthy future. Then make a list of things that are not helpful. You could come up with a specific plan, like calling someone specific when you are feeling down. Safety plans are as good as you make them and only work if you’re willing to follow them.

Access to Lethal Means

I always say that avoidance is the lowest level of overcoming a problem, but in many ways, it can also be a good first step. If you don’t want to drink alcohol, it’s probably a good idea to empty the liquor cabinet down the sink and skip the after-work trip to the bar. If you don’t want to end your life in an unstable moment, it is a good idea to get rid of lethal means from your house. Also, if you or a loved one have thought about a specific plan and has the means to carry it out please reach out immediately.

A man sitting on a bed with alcohol bottles on the floor

What to Do Post-Mental Health Crisis

Once you’re out of the crisis, you can work towards getting the help you need to stabilize and balance your mental health. This can be done through therapy and medication management. It is difficult, if not impossible to find that balance when you are in crisis. This can be done on your own but works even better with the support of a loved one and mental health professional.

We are working towards shining a more positive light on the very serious need for regular mental health care. Hopefully, it will become a familiar process like setting a broken arm. Unfortunately, a broken arm can’t be set if you never go to the hospital. So, please reach out

By the way, I never ended up taking my turn on that rope swing.

Zachary Duty, CSW

Zach Duty is a native Texan and a graduate of Southern Utah University with a bachelor’s degree in Outdoor Recreation. He went on to complete a master’s in social work at the University of Utah with an emphasis in child welfare. As a therapist, Zach has worked in residential treatment and for the state of Utah through the Division of Juvenile Justice. 

If you or anyone you know is facing mental health challenges and needs support, we can help you.

You can share how you’re feeling or about your experience, or apply to our subsidized therapy program.