Mental health maze: Finding the right therapist

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Mental health disorders come in many forms and feature emotions including anger, anxiety, sadness or psychosis. Erasing stigmas surrounding mental health begins with empowering people to prioritize theirs. 

While people are far more likely to seek help these days than in the past, old perceptions are hard to break. For some, admitting they or someone else might have trouble processing their feelings or are having experiences that require outside help is a sign of weakness or failure.

Dr. Nadia Richardson, who is a founder of the Black Women’s Health Institute, is working on changing that way of thinking. That’s why she’s not shy about admitting she’s among those with a mental health disorder.

“I am a Black woman who is diagnosed with high functioning rapid cycling bipolar 2,” said Richardson. “When you think of what mental health looks like, you can use my face, that’s completely fine. I think that dispels what people think mental health looks like.”

Mental health needs the same consideration as physical health, Richardson said, meaning getting a checkup should be as common as an annual physical or a trip to the dentist.

But things are moving in that direction.

“What I found and am encouraged by is that when you do go for a physical, a part of what is present now is a mental health check-in,” she said. “They may ask about your mood, about your mental health. That’s a positive step in the right direction because it helps people understand it is part of wellness.” 

Meanwhile, our ever-increasing reliance on technology isn’t making things better. Basic group chats are better than not talking at all, but they’re no substitute for quality communication with friends or loved ones.

Even asking someone how they are can be a basic, superficial interaction or something a lot more profound.

It’s the South, so “How are you doing?” is asked by everyone from co-workers and strangers passing in a hallway to best friends, children or spouses sitting across from each other at dinner.

For the former, a “good, how are you?” is the expected and most often received reply. But, Richardson said, it’s important to dig deeper sometimes and say, “No, how are you really doing?”

That simple question has a tendency to open the floodgates if someone has something on their mind but is lacking a reason to speak up.

“You feel seen,” Richardson said. “That (question) makes people pause, but it also makes them feel seen. If they feel seen they can’t hide.”

She’s got a message for anyone struggling alone with managing their feelings.

“Acknowledge it,” Richardson said. “Don’t be afraid to tap into support. You have to be brave enough to share and let someone know that something is going on.” 

Sharing those feelings can spur friends or family to ensure help is found.

But in addition to mental help resources, people in need can do a few things to work with or through their emotions, including:

  • Spending quality time with family or friends
  • Expressing feelings through journaling or art
  • Getting out of daily life and taking a trip

One major challenge, Richardson said, is knowing you need help but being unable to get it right away.

“It’s going to take you a little bit of time to find a clinician you feel comfortable with, who you feel like you can build rapport with, who you feel safe to be open with,” Richardson said. “Once you find that person it will completely change your life.” 

In our first segment, we introduced you to Haley Snell, a teen with suicidal thoughts who had a tough time finding a doctor. You can read her story right here.

WVUA23 will continue to highlight issues surrounding mental health throughout May, which is Mental Health Awareness Month. If you or someone you know needs help, a new nationwide hotline has been established. Anyone can call 988 to get help. 

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Categories: Featured, Local News