A World at War….Mental Health ….Where Do We Begin? 

Bernadette Joy Graham,
Licensed Mental Health Therapist

A Mental Health Moment

By Bernadette Joy Graham, MA, LPCC, NCC, CCHt, Licensed Mental Health Therapist
The Truth Contributor

In the state of Massachusetts, sits McLean, a Harvard Medical School affiliate.  There is a large focus of serving the African-American community and they even addressed an historical fact on their website that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had severe depression during many portions of his life yet refused psychiatric treatment due to the stigma attached; a stigma still attached today on societal mental health issues.

The front page of their website asks the question “How can we break mental health barriers in communities of color?”  The website offers countless programs that address many mental health issues such as treatment by conditions (anxiety, depression, bi-polar, schizophrenia, trauma, PTSD and much more), as well as treatment broken down into for children and adolescents, treatment for young adults and treatment for older adults. 

Toledo offers a number of mental health programs and facilities so I do not believe it is a matter of lack of program.  We are dealing with an historical beast – stigma which no program seems to be able to resolve.  I recently read on a billboard that “Mental Health is Health.”  I could not agree more but it does not help for example when an employer offers medical coverage but delineates mental health meaning the employer has to pay out of pocket for mental health care or has to meet a high deductible or co-pay.

On any given day when you ask someone “how are you today?”  They respond with the typical “Oh I’m okay.”  Firstly, no one wants to be seen as not okay and secondly the person asking would probably prefer not to hear someone’s life’s problems on how depressed they feel or how their anxiety is consuming their job performance.   We have all at some point put on a mask just to get through the day or the situation and we continue to do so because it works…. for a while.  By the time someone “loses it or snaps,”  the damage has already been done.

I applaud the individual(s) who developed the concept that mental health is health as it is a significant start to rid our world of this stigma.  McLean’s website is https://www.mcleanhospital.org/essential/how-can-we-break-mental-health-barriers-communities-color.  It provides quite a bit of information for individuals needing care, for families, providers and educational institutions needing information.  It is a non-profit organization that accepts donations like many non-profit organizations here in Toledo.  Maybe, it has pieces we are missing here or just does things differently and/or better.  I did not see outcome potentials for success rates so I do not feel it fair to comment on better or worse in comparison.

All of us came into this world with our own set of genetics based on family history and then there is the unfortunate reality of drug/alcohol abuse of pregnant women and disparities among again minority health care of pregnant mothers and babies who do not live past a year.  If you come from a family line of high blood pressure, chances are you are more likely to develop it at some point in your life.  The same goes for if one of your parents are diagnosed with schizophrenia, bi-polar or attention deficit disorder you will be at a greater risk of being diagnosed.  The difference lays in a range of factors of what one views as health.  An individual is more likely to get an early diagnosis of high blood pressure yet ignore the signs and symptoms of the mental health issues.  Both are inevitable yet only one seems to be taken seriously and affordable than the other.

Take a mental health moment and ask yourself where do we begin? where do you begin in assessing and caring for your health – physical and mental.  While Ohio seems to have much better gun laws than Texas, we still need much improvement with healthcare especially mental healthcare.  For starters, individuals who are offered healthcare through, say, a new employer, please take the time to ask the questions about mental healthcare…is it included, how much is the deductible and co-pay, how many visits do I get and even further, what would be my prescription cost if medication management is needed for a specific mental health diagnosis short or long term?

We cannot change the fact that the world is at war in many capacities but until we come together, stand together to remove the stigma of mental health and costs, we may all need a new mask to wear to cover what we are so fearful others may see.  War causes much stress, trauma, defeat and death.  Innocent children do not need to die, suicide and drug overdose rates do not need to continue to rise.

We need to rise together, take off the masks and realize none of us are perfect and start with the people and places who can change to meet our needs.  Let’s focus on the solutions not all the problems.   Dr. King may have suffered with depression but it surely did not stop him from acting on changing the world.

Bernadette Graham is a Licensed Professional Mental Health Counselor, National Certified Counselor and Certified Grief Recovery Specialist. She is also a Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist. Provide feedback or reach out at graham.bernadette@gmail.com  For appointment information please call 419.409.4929  Available for team building, employee empowerment in motivation and better understanding mental health in the work place.  Accepting new clients ages 13 and older.