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Sushama Kirtikar



Flying out of Long Island, N.Y., gave me a bird's eye-view of the magnificent East Coast of USA. Long stretches of beach hugged the land with unstinting devotion creating a distinct white border that yawned all the way down to Florida. It was as if someone had taken a thick white marker and etched the outline separating the brown - green land from the turquoise blue sea. No amount of cloud cover could obliterate or smudge that border. It is remarkable how nature knows where one ends and the other begins.

We do not know where self-help ends and reaching out for help begins. Where is this white line when we need it to tell us that it is time to stop trying to solve our problems on our own and to seek help by going for psychotherapy? For most people, such a line does not exist. For some, it is faintly visible or at best blurred and fuzzy. There is no marker telling us we have reached the end of our endurance.

First, you ask yourself if there are changes to your daily routine. Are you unable to get out of bed or shower and brush your teeth? Are you tossing and turning and unable to fall asleep? Are you crying jaggedly and hysterically on and off? Are you crying more often and for longer periods of time? Are you sitting around brooding and staring off into space? Have you lost your appetite or are tearing into food ravenously? Do you find your heart beating so rapidly sometimes you think it might jump out of your throat? Are you dragging your feet walking through molasses and cannot get any task accomplished? Are you losing your temper and find yourself irritated at the smallest provocations? Have you lost your comfort zone and cannot find it even in the darkest nook of the room?

Essentially, you surmise your daily mood and activity pattern and see if there are dramatic changes in either direction: too less or too much. If you are experiencing any discomfort that feels unbearable in its intensity or too prolonged in its duration, it is a red flag or warning sign. When your distress level keeps increasing and your coping level keeps decreasing or is stuck, when the two are inversely proportionate negatively, that becomes your cue that you are no longer functioning in a healthy manner. It is time to re-examine your coping strategy and get help.

Help comes in different forms and colors. You can talk to your spouse, neighbor, co-worker, friend or relative about what is ailing you. This is by far the best first step. You reach out to the network that is already available to you and you are comfortable talking to this person because you trust his/her loyalty and intentions. If this enhances your sense of well-being and you begin to see progress, you are well on your way to recovery. Be cautious though, as sometimes this only serves as a stop-gap measure. It might be inadequate to meet the challenges of the situation you face. Then again, for some people this support network is non existent. Some more shy away from disclosing their inner turmoil to others because of fear of censure, of being judged harshly, of being gossiped about or being given advice they do not want to hear. All these pose as barriers.

At this point, you can revert to self-help books and streams of literature available at the library, book store or the Internet on the subject of your discomfort. If this gives you an 'aha' experience and you gain insights as well as useful recommendations, you are well set. However, often reading a 'how to' book is sterile and only intellectually stimulating to most. There are a bunch of words and elegant aphorisms swimming in front of your eyes that do not seem to apply to you or appear futile to read. This may not transform into effective change in behavior/attitude/feelings. You may start to experience another dead end. Pay heed to this roadblock.

It is now time to talk to professionals. Please bear in mind that this is not your cue to hyperventilate. Clinicians trained in psychology and psychiatry are placed in the community to help you and not to add to your level of anxiety or depression. Please do not recoil as if you are sentenced to walk into a black hole never to come out again when you seek psychotherapy. All right, some of you are not fearful but distrustful of the therapeutic community. Why not speak to your primary care physician, obstetrician or pediatrician and see what they recommend? Then, if it appears you might benefit by going to a specialist such as a counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist, it would be incumbent upon you to do so. The white line is now drawn for you: it is crisp, sharp and crystal-clear.

Sushama Kirtikar, a licensed mental health counselor in private practice, can be reached at (813) 264-7114 or e-mail at

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Dr. Ram P. Ramcharran

There are many organizations in the Tampa Bay area that focus on helping special needs children but the one organization that everyone should know about it is STAND (Statewide Advocacy Network on Disabilities Inc.) This not-for-profit organization, which has been around since December 1996, was organized by a group of parents and attorneys to help educate people on their rights.

STAND's purpose it to inform the families of children with disabilities of their rights. It is dedicated to getting a child with a disability the right education that they are entitled to under the law. The three main laws that STAND is concerned with are: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation act of 1973. It focuses on three topics: advocacy, legal rights, and above all, education.

This year, STAND will be hosting SPARC 2007 – Stand Pinellas Accessing Resource Conference. The organization’s goal is to provide parents, teachers, therapist and other professionals with resources that help children with disabilities make achievements in their life. STAND focuses on children with Special Needs and they take this mission very seriously.

This year SPARC 2007 will be held at Morgan Fitzgerald Middle School in Pinellas Park, on Saturday, Sept. 29, from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Morgan Fitzgerald is at 6410 118 Ave. N., Largo, FL 33773. Cost for the conference is $25 for pre-registration. That will include one entry to the conference, a lunch ticket and a program.

(Dr. Ram Ramcharran will be a guest speaker at the STAND event. He will be discussing how to better understand and deal with children with special needs. If you have any questions regarding this event, contact Melissa Tremblay, SPARC chairperson at (727) 784-8493 or visit

Dr. Ram P. Ramcharran can be reached at

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