Mental Health Matters

"Once my loved ones accepted the diagnosis, healing began for the entire family, but it took too long. It took years. Can't we, as a nation, begin to speed up that process? We need a national campaign to destigmatize mental illness, especially one targeted toward African Americans...It's not shameful to have a mental illness. Get treatment. Recovery is possible."

–Bebe Moore Campbell, 2005
Co-developer of Minority Mental Health Month

I’d like to take a moment to first give kudos to the individuals and groups of individuals who have made great efforts to destigmatize mental health over the past several years. Campaigns such as ‘Time to Change’, and Takethis.org have created safe spaces for individuals and their loved ones who experience mental illnesses to vent about their experiences, and connect with others who they can relate to. These sort of campaigns have been created with the purpose of destigmatizing mental health, and it seems that they have done an excellent job of educating individuals about mental health, and fostering hope for individuals by sharing venues for getting help.   

Unfortunately, it seems that many individuals still feel a sense of shame and helplessness when it comes time to getting care for themselves or for their loved ones. Statistics vary depending on the source, but between 1/5 and ¼ of all Americans are currently living with a diagnosable mental health condition. NAMI reports that individuals who are Hispanic, Black, Asian, and American Indian, are as or more likely to have a mental illness as white individuals. But when it comes to receiving care, White Americans are most likely to receive care for their mental health. African Americans and Hispanic Americans do not tend to receive the mental health services that they need and Asian Americans were found the least likely to receive care. 

So what explains this disparity between white individuals and minorities receiving mental health treatment? According to NAMI, individuals in multicultural communities receive a poorer quality of care, experience higher levels of stigma, receive services within a culturally insensitive health care system, may experience language barriers from their clinicians, and have lower rates of health insurance.  These statistics, although discouraging, serve as a sign to mental health practitioners that we need to do more to reach clients of all ethnic backgrounds, especially individuals who fall into these underserved communities. Minority Mental Health Month was developed to improve the public’s awareness of mental health among minorities and to improve access. 

What can you do to help? Educating yourself and others about mental illnesses may be the first step. You can visit www.nami.org for additional information regarding the facts and myths associated with mental health. You can connect with other individuals and families, neighbors and people who have sought help for their mental health in the past. You may also speak with your doctor to see if therapy may be a good fit for you or a loved one.

It is not always easy to talk about mental health but by just reading this blog you are already helping others. Awareness is key and by coming together we can begin to end the stigma associated with mental illness, especially for minorities.

Summer Loving

Hi all! I would like to introduce myself. My name is Bridgette, and I am a counseling student at the University of South Florida. I have been working with Mrs. Stephanie as her Administrative Assistant for the past year. Some of you may know me from our phone conversations, or by my assistance in the therapy room during my practicum experience. I am happy to share that I will be graduating next summer with my master’s degree in Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling, and will be a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor, and a registered counseling intern with the state of Florida. I enjoy writing in my spare time, as I find it to be a fun form of self-expression. Mrs. Stephanie has asked that I join her in contributing to our blog, and I am thrilled to share my first post!

Aaah, it’s sweet summertime!  Our kids are out of school, or if we don’t have children at home, perhaps we’ve decided to take some time for ourselves this summer. Whether vacationing, stay-cationing, or simply taking some time to relax when we have a moment of peace after work, summertime can be ideal for connecting with oneself again, and refocusing on what is most important to us.  

Summertime can serve as a great time to reconnect with our values, strengthen coping mechanisms, and re-center ourselves. For school aged children, teens, and young adults, summer may serve as the ideal time to begin therapy. Oftentimes when planning for summer we think of all of the most enriching possible activities out there. We register our kids for a great summer camp, and plan educational trips to museums. We plan picnics outside at the beach, and splurge on all access passes to Adventure Island, (anything to beat the scorching Florida heat). We take time to travel, and to be outdoors. What we often overlook during the summer is helping our young ones, and ourselves, to work on our mental health.

The benefits of therapy are innumerable. Research indicates that 75% of individuals who enter therapy show some benefit (APA, 2017). The following are some benefits of attending therapy over the summer as I have identified. Keep in mind that everyone is different, and as you are reading I encourage you to open yourself up to what benefits you could see for yourself of going to therapy.

  • Gain coping mechanisms In counseling we cultivate coping mechanisms that will be carried with us far beyond our time in the therapy room. Oftentimes when life throws us barriers, we develop coping mechanisms that don’t serve us. We may not even be aware of what these maladaptive mechanisms are. In therapy we learn to identify our not so helpful coping mechanisms, and to find what is healthy, and what works for us.

  • Manage our stress The summer can be an ideal time to take a break from our usual routine, and to work through out stressors with our therapist. The act of going to therapy itself may also serve to reduce stress. Therapy means having regularly scheduled appointments to look forward to for y-o-u.

  • Improve our concentration Whether we have a break from responsibilities this summer, or if we are still engaged in school and work, summer can be an excellent time to refocus, and to gain skills to help us concentrate throughout the year.

  • Cultivate self-esteem It’s the dreaded time of year again when we get to see the beautiful (beautifully photoshopped) models showing off their tans and their ‘beach bodies’. Rather than focusing on trying to look like the celebrities we see, this summer perhaps we can turn inward to work on cultivating our self-esteem.

  • Get a handle on our anxiety and depression Although we often think of wintertime as a time that individuals most often feel depressed and anxious, summertime can often bring those feelings to the forefront of our lives. The extra time off may be a relief, but it may also bring to light feelings we are coping with all year long. In therapy we can gain the skills we need to cope with feelings of anxiety and depression.

  • Gaining insight of ourselves Our modern society doesn’t often provide us with opportunity (or time) to take a step back and think about ourselves as individuals. Therapy, for some, may be the first opportunity for a higher level of introspection, and may be an opportunity to feel truly heard and understood by a compassionate listener.

If you or a loved one has been on the fence about when the right time for counseling is, I hope you consider taking time for yourself this summer to find a counselor who is a good fit for you or your loved ones needs. Whether you are reading this post this summer, or if it’s any time of the year, I encourage you to find a clinician who will work alongside you while you work on yourself.

Speak Up About Suicide

Not everyone may know, and it is not a cheery topic to talk about but September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness month. Yes, it is not as popular as National Cheeseburger Day or National Dog Day but just as, if not more important. The topic of suicide is one many people believe is taboo. We think that by not speaking about it, it simply does not happen. This is false. 

By speaking and learning about what suicide is and how to prevent it we can pass on tools to help prevent unwanted suicides. Here are some q and a's to help you spread awareness and share the message that everyone's life does matter: 

What is suicide? It is when someone feels as if they have reached their limit. They are past the point of return and want to give up on life. They may feel as if no one cares or pays them any attention. 

What can I do if a friend or family member talks about suicide? Listen. Be understanding and empathetic. Do not try to minimize their emotions or thoughts. Talk about what they think they may gain from suicide. Talk about what they will lose with suicide. Talk about the love and joy they do bring to the world. Make sure you do make them aware that their is help and things can get better. 

What if they have a suicide plan? A suicide plan and intent to act is very dangerous. This is a direct threat and should be treated as such. Do not hesitate to take your loved one to an emergency room or call 911. 

What if talking does not help? Talk about gaining a second opinion and seeking professional help. If the person is not willing to gain help, you also have the option of taking them to the nearest emergency room or calling 911. 

Can therapy help someone who is suicidal? Yes! The therapy has to be intensive and positive. It can work over time but the difficulty with suicide is that it is an immediate danger. The sooner it is addressed, the better. 

Now that you can help your loved ones, please share this with others. Spread awareness about suicide prevention by simply, talking about it. Do not be shy, talk about how you feel and what you know. Starting a conversation can help slowly reduce suicide and improve mental health for everyone. 

 

Summer Living is Easy

If you are like most families, summer has been enjoyable, relaxing and stress free. You have spent your time vacationing, watching movies and being outdoors. Now that August is back stressors may soon be surfacing. Just because summer is gone does not mean you have to let stress back into your life. 

This August take some time to:

Make a schedule and organize your daily routine. Taking the time to make a plan will help prepare you to succeed. Do not be afraid to hold yourself accountable for slipping from your daily routine.  You can also reward yourself for following plans and maintaining organization. 

Spend quality time with family and friends. This will help refocus your energy and remind you that not everything in life is meant to be stressful. Have fun, laugh and make new memories. 

Exercise and eat healthy, to keep energy levels up and a positive mood. Go for a walk, run, take a class or do some yoga. Which ever your style, it will help you clear your mind and keep calm. Eating a healthy diet will also help balance your energy and balance your mood. 

Keeping your summer calm will benefit you for the fall to come. Make sure you do spend time organizing, having fun and being physically active. This will help you maintain a positive mind and  reduce unwanted stress.