Mental health matters. Not only does it matter, but it is essential. Its importance should not be undermined. One’s mental health could be the difference between living and dying, thriving and surviving, and living in the past or looking to the future. Mental health may matter now more than ever with the changes and challenges that have affected us all in one way or another.
Confessions of a Nurse Practitioner is excited to have a guest contributor, Ms. Crystal Mullen-Johnson. Having been impacted by her mother who was a social worker, she followed in her mother’s footsteps and attended her alma mater, Alabama A & M University. She pursued social work as well. As the founder and owner of Strive Counseling Services, LLC, she was influenced by her experiences of overcoming mental health stressors. As a teenager she lost her mother and then experienced the sudden death of her father while in her twenties. She is a licensed clinical social worker and registered child play therapist, who strives to empower people to identify their strengths to overcome adversity. Her practice affirms that you are capable of “Building A Foundation for A Healthier You.“
I had the privilege of discussing mental health with Ms. Mullen-Johnson. I know her to be passionate, knowledgeable, and capable in mental health matters. I created the questions and she adeptly gave responses.
1. What is mental health and why does it matter so much?
Mental health is your psychological well-being. It is important to make mental health a priority because it impacts your thoughts, behaviors, and feelings. Mental health is equally as important as physical health. Your mental health impacts your relationships with others, your ability to bounce back from adversity, and your ability to cope with stress. Additionally, if you aren’t mentally healthy, it can cause the onset of physical health conditions. For example, chronic stress can contribute to headaches, poor sleep, a weakened immune system, and changes in your appetite. Stress is also correlated with high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
2. What are the top 5 mental health diagnoses?
-Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
3. What causes depression and what can be done to treat it?
Depression is a mood disorder that is linked to genetics, substance abuse, medical conditions, trauma, and life experiences that causes a threat to your survival. Depression can be treated by a therapist who is experienced with cognitive behavioral therapy or evidence-based treatment. A medical doctor or advanced practice professional can treat depression with anti-depressant medication. Anti-depressants are proven to be effective by reducing symptoms of depression that may interfere with your ability to carry out daily tasks.
4. What causes anxiety and what can be done to treat it?
Anxiety can be linked to physical conditions. It can also occur after prolonged periods of stress, trauma, or a phase of life change. Anxiety can be treated in counseling and by engaging in exercise and mindfulness practices. Anxiety can be treated with prescribed medications as well.
5. Outside of therapy, what other recommendations or resources do you suggest for clients?
There are alternative or adjunct options for treatment. Options include support groups, journaling, exercising, mindfulness, yoga, prayer, and developing healthier thoughts. Contact a mental health professional if your symptoms are not improving or if they cause interference with your ability to function. If you are thinking about suicide, contact a medical or mental health professional. You may also contact the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
6. Given the COVID-19 pandemic, what coping techniques can you share? What are your recommendations for dealing with this crisis?
COVID-19 has created a crisis in our lives because of uncertainties. It is a perceived threat outside of our control which impacts our mental health. The social, economic, health and financial implications of the crisis create isolation, fear, worry, and hopelessness. I would recommend a few things to cope:
-Stay connected with your family, friends, and support groups by taking advantage of virtual social outlets, chat forums, and phone apps.
-Take time for self-reflection, exercise, and create a plan of action to recover from this crisis.
-Take advantage of telehealth offerings.
-Don’t suffer in silence. You are not alone.
I would advise parents to be aware of how their children are coping. If children are showing signs of depression, anxiety, or stress, consider connecting them with a therapist.
7. What can be done to eliminate the stigma of mental illness and why do you think the stigma exists in the first place?
Mental health stigmas stem from being uneducated about mental illnesses and mental health. I would like people to understand that stigmas are totally misguided. They are harmful and create shame. Stigmas devalue the importance of mental health treatment. Treatment can improve the quality of day to day life. It’s important that we learn more about mental illnesses and strive to have compassion and respect for those who have a mental illness. It is important to offer support to those that have a mental illness.
8. What are some examples of appropriate situations in which to seek out mental health resources?
If you recognize changes in the following for more than two weeks you should seek out mental health help:
-An inability to cope with problems or daily activities
-Feelings of disconnection or withdrawal from normal activities
If you are having suicidal thoughts, you should seek help immediately.
9. What do you find the most rewarding about your profession?
I find it most rewarding to change the trajectory of mental health by raising awareness and reducing mental health stigmas through my Community Mental Health Awareness Initiative. I also find it rewarding to provide therapy to clients. It’s important for me to stay connected to people in my community that have barriers to accessing mental health treatment. It’s rewarding to see my clients overcome challenges by identifying their strengths, implement strategies learned in therapy while rediscovering themselves to live a healthier life.
10. What do you find the most challenging about your profession?
I don’t find it challenging. I see it as a new opportunity each day to create positive change in someone’s life. I would like to encourage people to start mental health wellness visits even if you don’t feel like anything is wrong. It’s a great outlet for self-expression and a great way to experience personal growth.
May is Mental Health Awareness month but I encourage you to be more mental health aware all the time. It is also important to support your loved ones who may be facing mental health challenges. Refer them to a professional and don’t discourage them from getting help. A better mental health attitude helps us all.
You may contact Strive Counseling Services, LLC for your mental health needs at (205) 721-9893 or visit www.strivebhm.com.
How has your mental health been impacted due to the pandemic? What are you doing to positively impact your mental health? What ways can you improve your mental health? What have you learned about yourself from reading this information?