with your health in mind

Dr. Glenda Newell-Harris in white coat

Let’s Demystify Mental Health:
It’s Time to Change

Dear friends,

When it comes to our physical health, we’re quick to heed the signals our bodies send when something feels off. We have an ache here, a cough there, and we take the steps to get better: see a health care provider, describe our symptoms, undergo an examination, and follow the treatment plan. So why not offer the same level of attention to our mental well-being?

Recognizing that mental health challenges are universal is the first step in breaking down barriers.

We owe it to ourselves to approach mental health with the same determination and commitment that we give to chronic conditions like hypertension and diabetes. After all, over 50 million Americans grapple with mental illness. Anxiety is the most common disorder, but diagnoses such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are all common mental health conditions that merit professional support.

Unfortunately, more than half of those who are challenged with mental health problems aren’t getting the treatment they need, and the stigma associated with treatment remains a heavy barrier. Moreover, racial and ethnic minority groups may experience challenges that require unique support.

Historically, misinterpretations and stereotypes have fueled misconceptions about mental health, leading to discrimination and fear, and leaving many to suffer in silence. The notion to “tough it out” or “snap out of it” only perpetuates feelings of shame or inadequacy.

In addition, systemic barriers in the health care system exist, such as limited access to mental health services and inadequate insurance coverage, that contribute to disparities in treatment options. Distrust in the system, the fear of judgment, and concerns about confidentiality further impact decisions around seeking mental health care.

But here’s the truth: mental health disorders are not a reflection of weakness or failure. They are legitimate medical conditions that deserve attention, treatment, compassion and support.

Change the Narrative

Recognizing that mental health challenges are universal is the first step in breaking down barriers. We all go through it, regardless of age, gender or background. It’s time to destigmatize mental health struggles and embrace seeking help without fear of judgment.

I’ll admit, I’ve sought the guidance of a mental health professional, and I know countless others who have done the same. Consider these proactive steps to advocate for your mental health awareness:

  • Normalize Conversations: Encourage open dialogue about mental health within your sister or men’s circle. Create a safe space to seek solace from trusted confidants who can empathize, understand and foster an environment of support.

  • Educate Yourself: Learn about mental health disorders and treatment options. Spotting the signs and symptoms is crucial for timely intervention and support.

  • Access Resources: Utilize resources available in your community and online, such as support groups, hotlines, and educational materials for people struggling with mental health issues and their families.

  • Seek Professional Help: Treat mental health with the same gravity as any chronic condition – with prevention, treatment and maintenance. Just as you would consult a doctor for a physical ailment, you should also consult mental health professionals for guidance and support tailored to your needs.

If your mental health isn’t right, it’s difficult for your physical health to be. This May as we observe Mental Health Awareness Month, let’s commit to demystifying mental health and treat it with the same importance as any other medical condition. It’s time we change the narrative and get the help we need to prioritize our well-being in body, mind and spirit.

With your health in mind,

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