In these times, individuals of all walks of life are afraid. The recognition and discussion of mental health trauma coupled with the constellation of fear inducing events is becoming more and more prevalent in society due to terrorism, political instability, domestic acts of violence, increasing suicide rates, and an overall increase in psychosocial stressors. With all of these areas gaining more media attention and May being Mental Health Month, I think it is imperative to educate and inform individuals about their options for healing.
There is still a stigma present as it relates to seeking support for mental health stressors. As a mental health counselor, I am here to serve as an advocate and inform the public on what daily mental health management really is and really looks like. Overall, there needs to be more sensitivity and less judgement and generalization when it comes to mental health support to encourage the utilization of the much-needed professional services, such as counseling, that are available.
One of my guiding principles is a quote from Zig Ziglar that states, “It’s not what happens to you that matters. It’s how you respond to what happens to you that makes a difference.” Mental health is the one thing we all wrestle with or strive to maintain on a daily basis. This often dictates our decision making and actions. A community that hears, sees, and accesses options for maintaining mental health balance becomes a safer and less fearful community. That is a value proposition we should be ready to embrace.
It’s not what happens to you that matters. It’s how you respond to what happens to you that makes a difference.
– Zig Ziglar
I am a young, African-American woman. Statistically, my voice as a mental health counselor is underrepresented due to the fact that my profession is typically dominated by Caucasians (83.6%). Their voice has predominately set the standard of care for my field. According to the American Psychological Association, in 2013 African-Americans accounted for 5.3% of individuals with a professional or doctorate degree in the psychology workforce, yet psychotherapists are serving a rapidly growing population of minority children and families, especially in our urban settings. African Americans are gradually becoming more open to seeking additional resources such as counseling to obtain mental health balance. I am able to view this underserved population’s concerns through a culturally competent lens. There is an immediate sense of safety, security and relief when I work with clients in this culture because I look like them and share in some of the same customs that are found in the African American culture.
Furthermore, my profession in mental health counseling, in general, is one that is not fully understood by the average person. When I tell people that I am a mental health counselor, I consistently get, “Oh that’s great. Good for you. That’s a tough job. We need more people like you.” While the same person’s body language becomes increasingly closed as if I am a mind reader. I have been asked by many people if I am conducting some sort of mental health assessment on them when we have only exchanged superficial salutations. Also, I find the vast majority of individuals believe you need a PhD to be considered as a credible voice. I am here to let people know that with a Master’s degree and the successful completion of post graduate requirements (1500 clinical hours and a state licensure exam that not everyone passes on the first attempt), I am just as qualified to have clinical conversations related to mental health concerns and treatment as someone with a doctorate degree. I offer an educational and palatable perspective to “the tough topics.” My purpose in using my voice is to promote awareness, increase understanding and help people to do the best they can, where they are and with what they currently have each and every day until they ultimately find themselves exactly where they want to be.
My clients describe my balanced, non-judgmental, and reality-based therapeutic interventions as eye-opening and calming. In a world filled with chaos and confusion, we can all use a calming and reassuring voice (verbal and written) to remind us that things will get better and that chaos does not have to last. My voice will help people not feel judged or ashamed of what is happening in their lives, but supported. My voice will educate people on “the reality” of the situation while providing them with practical tools to move beyond their current situation. My voice is honest, yet compassionate. My voice is soft, but my words make an impact. My voice was created to be heard as it is consistently promoting wellness and personal development. My voice was created to help others and for that sole reason, it is my desire for my voice to be a public voice for transformation.
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Mental Health Matters…