Let’s talk about your feelings and the things that affect your day-to-day. No? You do not want to talk about what’s on your mind? Ok, just listen. I will do the talking. Mental health affects everyone, no matter your age, gender or race. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) states that “A mental illness is a condition that affects a person's thinking, feeling, behavior or mood. These conditions deeply impact day-to-day living and may also affect the ability to relate to others.” Let me start off by saying that I am by no means a Therapist, Psychologist, or Psychiatrist, but I do know what it is like to have certain feelings and how to deal or not deal with them. Just know that you are not alone.
There are multiple types of mental health conditions, but the top two that have affected millions of people during this pandemic are anxiety and depression. Anxiety is the most common mental health concern in the U.S. It is estimated by NAMI that 19.1% adults and approximately 7% of children aged 3-17 experience issues with anxiety each year. People typically experience emotional and physical symptoms such as:
· Feelings of apprehension or dread
· Feeling tense or jumpy
· Restlessness or irritability
· Anticipating the worst and being watchful for signs of danger
· Pounding or racing heart and shortness of breath
· Sweating, tremors and twitches
· Headaches, fatigue and insomnia
· Upset stomach, frequent urination or diarrhea
Depression is more than just being sad or not feeling like participating in any activities. Depression affects nearly 8% of the population. Common symptoms reported by NAMI include:
· Changes in sleep
· Changes in appetite
· Lack of concentration
· Loss of energy
· Lack of interest in activities
· Hopelessness or guilty thoughts
· Changes in movement (less activity or agitation)
· Physical aches and pains
· Suicidal thoughts
There are numerous causes of depression. It is not just linked to one single cause. Depression occurs sporadically and can be caused by a life crisis, physical illness or anything else. According to NAMI, there are several scientific factors that can lead to depression such as trauma, genetics, life circumstances, brain changes, other medical conditions, and drug & alcohol misuse. Many of us have gone through many traumas or changes in medical condition over the past year and a half. If you feel as if you have been depressed for a while, seek help or find someone to talk with. Sometimes all it takes is a conversation with someone to get some things off your chest.
How can we overcome stigmas of seeking help for mental health in the black community? Most are taught that you must be strong and not show your emotions. We often do not want to show any signs of weakness whether it is around friends, family or at work. Therefore, people are constantly building up emotions from different situations inside and help is usually not sought out at all or not until it is too late. We tell ourselves not to talk about our feelings to other people or that you don’t have to see a therapist. This way of thinking is usually passed down from generation to generation, but when does it end? Sometimes you must be the one to step up and make it normal to see or speak to others about your feelings. This is something that I have recently had to tell myself. In general, I do not talk much, let alone talk to someone I do not know about what I am feeling. People would constantly ask, “What’s wrong? Are you ok?” I would always hit them back with the “I’m fine.” Until it was almost too late. Don’t wait until it is too late for you. There are only so many “I’m fine or I’m ok” replies that you can give before you have exhausted the limits on your mind or body.
There are many options for getting help with mental health concerns now. Since the pandemic started, a lot of virtual settings have become available. These sessions can be more private and convenient for anyone. You no longer have to go into an office. A session can be completed from your home with a computer or app on your phone. An easy google search can provide you with access to many available options. It is not shameful to see a therapist. You are getting the help you need to make your life better. Another option that helps greatly is exercise. You never know how a good workout or quiet walk in the park can help when you just want to clear your mind. Apps such as Shine, Calm, Breathe, or Headspace walk you through some meditation steps and are good self-care options for anxiety, stress, and depression. That along with taking time just for you.
In the end, you are ultimately going to want to do what is best for you. You are not able to fully help or care for anyone else, unless you are taking care of you first. We must get over the stigmas that may have been passed down or we have heard and start utilizing what is out here for us. There are so many options available to help you when you need it or sooner. For more information on mental health visit nami.org. Always remember, you are not alone.
As we go into the holidays, it is very important to remember that you are not alone. Cuyahoga and the surrounding counties have several mental health agencies that may help you with treating your mental health or addiction issues. The following are several agencies that take Medicaid or out of pocket pay with a sliding scale fee:
Signature Health (Cuyahoga & Lake Counties)
Ohio Guidestone (Cuyahoga, Lorain, Medina Counties)
Frontline Services (Cuyahoga County)
The Centers for Children and Families (Cuyahoga County)
Crossroads Behavioral (Lake County)
The Nord Center (Lorain County)
These following agencies see private and public insurance, along with EAP referrals:
Lifestance Health (Cuyahoga and Lake Counties)
Serenity Counseling Solutions (Cuyahoga, Lake & Summit Counties)
Behavioral Wellness Group (Lake County)
These are just a FEW agencies that can provide services. As always, if you or a loved one is in danger, please call 911 first.
In the coming weeks we will be highlighting the importance of mental health wellness and what steps you can take for you and your loved one.
Nikki Mitchell, MSW, LSW, LICDC