3 Reasons to Take Care of Your Mental Health

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Last week Kid Cudi courageously shared his struggle with depression with his fans and the world. I hope that this starts a trend that enables more people to feel comfortable opening up about their mental health struggles and and seeking help. Mental illnesses can develop from traumas that we have experienced, overwhelming stress, genetic factors, or not learning healthy ways to cope with daily stress. No matter how mental illness develops, there is no reason to feel shame about it. Mental illnesses should be thought of as symptoms on a continuum. Many of us experience symptoms of mental illnesses from time to time and sometimes those symptoms meet criteria for a mental health disorder. We all should take steps to promote our own mental health just like we work to maintain our physical health. That is one reason I started posting Daily Mental Health Tips on my Twitter and FB pages.

Today is World Mental Health Day. A day designated to raise awareness of mental health issues. In honor of this day I’m doing a brief post highlighting three reasons to take care of your mental health. Continue reading “3 Reasons to Take Care of Your Mental Health”

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Addressing Therapist Discrimination

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A couple of weeks ago two articles came out highlighting a study, which found that black and poor people seeking therapy in New York City are much less likely to be called back by therapists. These findings are disheartening and as a psychologist and advocate for black women’s mental health it is something I must address. While I am well aware of the history of racism in the field of psychology, I naively hoped that the mandates for diversity training and modest increase in racial/ethnic diversity among psychologists was doing enough to address ongoing issues of racism and discrimination among therapists. Sadly, it turns out that not nearly enough progress has been made. It is frustrating to know that after someone has the courage to acknowledge their need for therapeutic help and takes the steps to find a therapist, they may have to call a large number therapists to find someone to work with or even return their call. Continue reading “Addressing Therapist Discrimination”

On Nayla Kidd and Finding a Way Out

architecture-1391930_1920In mid-May I saw the Facebook posts about a black, female Columbia student (Nayla Kidd) who was missing. I said a prayer for her safety and hoped that she was okay. When I saw posts a few weeks later that she had been found alive and well, I was surprised and relieved because sadly that’s not how stories of missing black women usually turn out. On May 29th Nayla shared her story and decision-making in a New York Post article. While I saw a handful of Facebook posts affirming Nayla’s courage for walking away from an Ivy League school to pursue a career in music, I had a different reaction. As a therapists at a university counseling center I spend a lot of time helping young adults as they wrestle with questions about what is important to them beyond grades and academic success. I know that Nayla was not alone in her desire to escape because I have supported students who are questioning their place in a predominantly white university. I do not believe disappearing is a constructive way to get on a meaningful path. In addition to causing distress to people who cared about her and unnecessarily using resources (police department, search teams etc.) Nayla’s disappearance may have enabled her to avoid some difficult conversations that likely would have supported her personal growth. Continue reading “On Nayla Kidd and Finding a Way Out”

Black Women & Depression: Signs & Strategies

Wild_hairThe last time I was really depressed was in response to a break up; unexpected heartbreak sent me into a depressive episode that took a few months to pass. I was crying frequently, my appetite was low and I started to lose weight, I’m usually an outgoing and sociable person but I didn’t want to spend time with my friends, my energy and mood were low, and I felt sad most of the time.

Sometimes depression comes in response to a difficult experience like a break up, the loss of a friendship, or a loved one passing away. Other times, depression emerges unexpectedly and without a clear trigger. No matter what prompts depression, it seems to roll in like a heavy thundercloud, weighing on us, making the air thick and hard to move through, blocking out the sun and warmth, and causing us to question what life was like without this cloud of depression and to wonder whether whether this storm will ever pass. Continue reading “Black Women & Depression: Signs & Strategies”

4 Ways to Stop Silent Suffering

sky-1054733_1920Silent suffering wears on the soul. It starts with quieting the cry that wants to leap from your throat threatening to expose your pain and vulnerability. We tell ourselves we are protecting our loved ones from worrying about us or needing to step up and support us as we support them. Silent suffering continues with self-denial; judging and questioning ourselves for feeling upset, hurt, disappointed, because “we should have known better” than to get our hopes up for love, acceptance, and affirmation. Eventually, it becomes hard to connect with the parts of ourselves that are soft and vulnerable, the parts of ourselves that need love and tenderness. Silent suffering wears on the soul. Continue reading “4 Ways to Stop Silent Suffering”

Finding & Choosing a Therapist

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Since I spent my last post encouraging you to consider therapy, this post will help you navigate finding and choosing a therapist who is right for you. One of the first things to do when looking for a therapist is to check into the mental health benefits of your insurance coverage. There are laws that require health insurance companies to cover psychotherapy. You can learn about your mental health benefits by calling the number on the back of your insurance card. You should ask what your co-pay or co-insurance is for therapy sessions and whether you need to meet a deductible prior to the co-pay/co-insurance kicking in. A co-pay is a flat fee that you pay no matter how much the therapist charges. A co-insurance is a percentage of the therapist’s fee that you pay (e.g. 10%) and your insurance company will pay the rest. If using your insurance is affordable you can use the provider search page on your insurance company’s website to search for an in-network therapist in your area. Continue reading “Finding & Choosing a Therapist”

Why Go to Therapy?

IMG_0516It was my third year of graduate school and my occasional anxiety was becoming more pervasive. At the start of grad school I committed myself to finishing in 5 years; the pressure to meet this goal came to a head as I tried to balance my classes, clinical training, research and teaching assistance-ships, and work on my own research. My thoughts were racing, my stomach was frequently upset, and I was exhausted so I decided to go to therapy to get help. I have to admit that it was easier for me to take this step than it is for many people; I had access to low-cost therapy at my university’s counseling center, I was surrounded by clinical psychologists who affirmed the utility of going to therapy, and both of my parents are clinical psychologists (I know!). I am writing this post and doing this blog in part because I have experienced the power of therapy – as a client and a clinician – and I know that for many black women therapy does not seem like an option or something that could help.  Continue reading “Why Go to Therapy?”