Category Archives: Mental Health

Your Story Isn’t Over Yet

Suicide is a difficult topic, and a lot of times is one that we try to avoid. In the United States, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death, and statistics show us that somebody dies by suicide approximately every 12 minutes. Because of the severity of the issue, countless organizations are working to raise awareness and reduce stigma so that it is okay for people to talk about these kinds of issues. Suicide is one of the most preventable forms of death. By bringing these issues out into the open we can potentially save countless lives. One organization that is working to reduce stigma is Project Semicolon.

Project Semicolon was founded 2013 Amy Bleuel, in honor of her father who died by suicide when she was 18. Amy also struggled with suicidality and depression throughout her life. She chose a semicolon because it is used when the author could have ended the sentence but chose not to. It is a message to remind people to keep going because their story is not over yet, there is still more to be written. The idea is for people to get a semicolon tattooed somewhere visible (most commonly the wrist, ankle, or behind their ear). For those who are not comfortable getting a tattoo, they suggest you draw one on with a marker or eyeliner. The tattoo is supposed to serve a signal to those who are struggling. It means “I’ve been there, or I love someone who has been there; you’re not alone.” For those who do not know what the semicolon tattoo means, it is meant to start a dialogue. When people ask what the tattoo means, it opens the door to educate them about the importance of mental health. Discussing mental health issues is one of the best ways to reduce the stigma and keep those who are struggling from feeling alone.

Unfortunately, in 2017 Amy Bleuel lost her battle to depression and died by suicide, but the organization she founded lives on, bringing hope and support to thousands who struggle with depression, suicide, self-harm, addiction, and trauma. They offer encouragement and resources and invite people to share their stories. For more information about this organization and the work they do visit Project Semicolon’s website, or follow them on Facebook or Twitter.

If you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide or self-harm, please do not hesitate to call National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text the Crisis Text Line (text HELLO to 741741). Please reach out if you need help, all calls are confidential, and professionals are available 24/7. Your story isn’t over yet.

This blog was written by our intern, Hannah Shaffett

Neurofeedback: The Art of Mapping the Mind

            In many ways, neurofeedback seems like a treatment from the future. In reality, though, it made its debut in the 1950s. This treatment technique was first developed by Dr Joe Kamiya and Dr. Berry Sterman and was soon incorporated into the training used for astronauts, but had not yet attracted much widespread attention in the medical field. That has changed in the last two decades as our understanding of the brain has further developed, which is bringing neurofeedback into the mainstream treatment options.

            Neurofeedback is a relatively simple experience for the patient. It starts with creating a brain map using EEG. This is a noninvasive process. That brain map is compared to the average brain map for the person’s gender and age to see if there are any areas of the brain that are not functioning at the healthiest level. Any areas that are flagged become the focus for treatment.

            At all subsequent sessions the patient’s job becomes even easier. All they have to do is sit back, relax, and watch a DVD for approximately 30 minutes. The EEG sensors are hooked up during this time. When the patient’s brain waves are within the target range the patient receives an auditory and visual reward. It doesn’t matter what show the patient is watching, just that they are watching something. Treatment usually lasts between 20 to 40 sessions. By the end of that time, the patient’s brain has retrained itself to keep brain waves in the healthier range.

            Neurofeedback is useful for a wide range of psychological problems. Studies have shown it is successful in treating ADHD, substance abuse, anxiety and worry, depression, sleep disorders, PTSD, autism spectrum disorder, and brain injuries. In many cases, it is paired with psychological counseling. Think of it as neurofeedback giving your brain new tools to use and counseling teaching you how to use those tools.

            Hurley Counseling Center is partnered with Establish Wellness to create Magnolia Mind Mapping. This collaboration between Andrew Hurley and Bethany Brenes brings neurofeedback therapy to the Gulf Coast. For more information about the work they are doing, visit their website. If you have any questions they can be contacted by email at or by phone at (251) 272-9606

The Panic Cycle: Feeding the Monster

            Panic Disorder is something that only a small portion of the population will experience in their lifetime (about 3%). Panic attacks, however, are much more common. As many as 30% of people will have at least one panic attack during their lifetime. Panic attacks are made up of symptoms such as shortness of breath, racing heart, chest pain, shaking, sweating, dizziness, hot or cold flashes, feelings of unreality, and nausea. Add to that intense fear, usually of dying, going insane, or losing control, and a panic attack is far from a walk in the park. One of the most challenging aspects of coping with panic attacks is that, in many cases, they become a self-perpetuation experience; this is known as the panic cycle.

            Basically how the panic cycle works is that the panic causes physical symptoms, those symptoms cause fear, which causes more symptoms. So for example, say that someone (for the purpose of this example, let’s call her Jill) was experiencing a panic attack and had shortness of breath, racing heart, and chest pains. Jill might think that she was having a heart attack and about to die. The fear of dying would make Jill’s heart beat faster and her chest hurt more, which would confirm to her that she was, infact, having a heart attack. This would lead to more fear and more symptoms and it would go round and round until Jill was exhausted and the panic attack was over.

            This self-feeding cycle is also what can change panic attacks into a panic disorder. Panic disorder is when an individual both has panic attacks and is afraid of having more, so they avoid situations or places that they think could trigger a panic attack. This leads to what is known as the “fear of fear.” So Jill had her panic attack where she was afraid she was going to die of a heart attack. She may come to believe that even though she didn’t die last time, next time she just might. This fear of having a panic attack can actually trigger the panic attack. That can then lead to more fear around having a panic attack and, consequently, more panic attacks. 

            Often, one of the first steps when helping someone cope with panic attacks is education. By realising that the symptoms are caused by panic and not by, say, a heart attack, one can stop feeding the panic and break the cycle. Say Jill is going about her day and starts to feel her chest tighten and her heart rate pick up. In the past, Jill might have worried that she was going to die. Now, however, Jill is working to break the panic cycle and instead reminds herself that panic cannot hurt her and the symptoms are harmless. This, in addition to using other techniques that she has learned helps Jill calm down and prevents her panic from getting worse.

Having panic attacks can be a difficult and frightening experience, but help is available. If you or someone you love is struggling with panic attacks, it might be a good idea for you to seek the help of a licensed counselor, who can help break the cycle of panic as well as teach you other coping skills. Hurley Counseling has a range of therapists and appointments available. Give us a call at 251-222-8880.

Does Gratitude Lead to a Happier Brain?

According to a study done in 2015, genuine forms of gratitude can lead to being truly happier. Neuroscientists found that if you were genuine when saying things like “thank you” or “have a great day,” you could actually feel happier and experience some physical health benefits. Often times, we say these things out of obligation to be polite, but what would happen if we truly meant it when we said it?

Hurley Counseling challenges you to a day of gratitude. Make your “thank you’s” heartfelt. Go out of your way to say a kindness to a stranger, whether it be complimenting someone’s outfit or offering them well-wishes. Write down a few things you are grateful for. Show some gratitude to yourself. Comment below to tell us about your day of gratitude!

Read about the physical health benefits of gratitude in this short article:

This blog post was written by Haley Thomas, our intern from Spring Hill College.

988: A Proposed Suicide Prevention Hotline

September was National Suicide Prevention Month. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Every 10 hours in Alabama, a person dies by suicide. In an effort to prevent loss of life by suicide, a new 3-digit emergency hotline number has been proposed; 988. Currently, a ten digit phone number will connect someone in need with assistance but in the middle of a crisis, recalling that number is not so easy to do. Although staffing enough people to answer calls would be costly, this is a big step towards saving lives. This new number was proposed by the Federal Communications Commission. The hotline would be there for anyone contemplating suicide or going through any type of mental health crisis.

This proposed hotline is not the first attempt in making help-by-phone available to more people. In 2017, a song titled 1-800-273-8255 (the official phone number of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) was released by American rapper Logic. In the weeks following the songs release, calls to the hotline increased by 27%.

In 2013, a crisis text line was launched for those who prefer texting to calling. The goal of the crisis text line is to guide the texter to make a plan to remain safe and healthy. When you text HOME to 741741, you will be connected with a trained crisis counselor.

While we cannot predict all suicide attempts, we can be aware of risk factors and warning signs.
Risk factors include: mental disorders (specifically mood disorders), substance abuse disorders, hopelessness, impulsive tendencies, history of trauma or abuse, major physical illness, previous suicide attempt, family history of suicide, job or financial loss, loss of relationship, easy access to lethal means, local clusters of suicide, lack of social support, sense of isolation, stigma associated with asking for help, lack of healthcare access, cultural and religious beliefs, and exposure to others who have died by suicide.
Warning signs include: talking about wanting to die or kill themselves, looking for a way to kill themselves (such as purchasing a gun), talking about feelings of hopelessness, talking about having no reason to live, talking about being trapped or being in unbearable pain, talking about being a burden for others, increasing the use of alcohol or drugs, acting anxious or agitated, having recklessly, sleeping too little or too much, withdrawing or isolating themselves, showing rage, talking about seeking revenge, and extreme mood swings.
To read more on risk factors or warning sides, visit

In the following months, we hope to see progress made towards having 988 be an official crisis support line. Until then, read more about the text line or the proposed hotline below.

If you are currently in a crisis and need to reach a counselor, call 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or text the word HOME to 741741. In an emergency, please dial 911.

This blog post was written by Haley Thomas, our intern. She is a fourth year psychology student at Spring Hill College. Her internship here at Hurley will provide valuable experience that she can take with her on her path to becoming a mental health counselor.